CALGARY – Sidney Crosby didn’t wait long Wednesday night to show off for his fans in Western Canada.
The Pittsburgh superstar scored a spectacular goal 3:52 into the game and Marc-Andre Fleury made 37 saves as the Penguins kicked off their three-game tour of Calgary, Edmonton, and Vancouver with a 3-1 victory over the Flames.
Bursting down the right wing, Crosby cut to the middle splitting the defence duo of Jay Bouwmeester and Mark Giordano, then cut across the face off the net jamming the puck behind Miikka Kiprusoff for his 30th goal of the season.
It was just the second appearance at the Pengrowth Saddledome in five seasons for Crosby, who said he enjoyed performing in a charged atmosphere.
“It’s what I do every night. Maybe a little higher expectations in front of a full house, especially only once every two or three years,” Crosby said.
Standing out amongst the abundance of fans outfitted in Crosby jerseys was a young woman in a wedding dress with a “Marry Me Sidney” sign.
“I don’t usually see stuff in the stands but I did see that,” Crosby said. “It was interesting. I haven’t seen that before.”
Crosby has scored in four straight games, piling up six goals during that span. He ranks second in the league in goals, one back of San Jose’s Patrick Marleau.
“You don’t get sick of them, I know that,” said coach Dan Bylsma when asked about the sensational goal from his captain. “It’s good execution, it’s going north hard, it’s getting to the net and then it’s power going to the net. It was pretty nice to see, we’ve seen it a couple times on this trip and I’d be happy to see it again.”
Hanging onto a 2-1 lead, Fleury was especially sharp in the third period turning aside all 16 shots as the Flames threatened numerous times.
“It was fun. It was pretty intense-traffic both ways. Our defence was blocking a lot of shots, they were diving to make saves in front of me. It’s a big two points for us,” said Fleury.
Calgary had piled up 11 third-period shots before the Penguins got their first shot at the halfway mark.
“Fleury stole that for us,” Crosby said. “Fleury made some big saves, one really late a great chance on a one timer, and through the whole game made some great saves. We owe that one to him for sure.”
Bill Guerin and Tyler Kennedy, with 1:40 remaining, also scored for Pittsburgh (28-18-1).
Mark Giordano scored the lone goal for Calgary (26-15-6), which blew an opportunity to move into sole possession of first place in the Northwest Division. The Flames remain tied with Colorado, two points up on Vancouver, which lost to Minnesota on Wednesday.
Pittsburgh regained a 2-1 lead when its 29th ranked power play connected at 10:52 of the second period, just over a minute after Giordano’s power play goal had tied it.
The eventual winner was scored by Guerin when he tipped in Alex Goligoski’s point shot.
“Our power play’s been a concern but as long as it comes through at the right time, that’s the most important thing,” Guerin said. “Tonight was one our better nights on the power play. We got the goal and that was big for our team.”
Calgary, which entered the night 0-for-14 with the extra man over the previous five games, tied the game 1-1 at 9:39 on a power-play goal as Dawes sent a cross-ice pass to Giordano who put a perfect shot from a sharp angle over Fleury’s shoulder.
However, that was all the offence they could muster.
Calgary’s inability to finish off scoring chances has become too familiar. Saturday night in Vancouver the Flames scored just twice on 40 shots against Roberto Luongo before winning in a shootout. On Monday, they fired 46 shots at Colorado’s Craig Anderson but again only scored twice in a 3-2 shootout loss to the Avalanche.
“Their goalie did play well tonight but we had 18 or 19 quality scoring chances here tonight and were only able to capitalize on one of them. We’re doing the right things to create the opportunities but we’re not getting the job done when it’s there for us,” said Flames coach Brent Sutter.
The Flames offence has dried up as of late, having scored more than three goals in a game just once in the past 21 games.
“Our team game has been pretty good. We’ve been getting 35 to 40, to 45 shots per night. We’re getting some high quality scoring chances, we’re just not capitalizing on them,” Sutter said. “So, we all of a sudden can’t go the other way. That’s where you have to be really careful. There’s such a fine line.”
Iginla is one of the slumping Flames having gone five games without a point.
“Our line is a scoring line, and we’ve got to produce. We’re not producing,” said Iginla. “It’s tough to take. Guys are playing hard, we’re doing a lot of good things, but in a one goal game, you’re on the scoring line and you’re not producing, you definitely feel it. I take a lot of responsibility.”
One of the night’s referees was Stephane Auger, the target of Alex Burrows much-publicized accusations after the Vancouver Canucks lost 3-2 to Nashville on Saturday night.
As video replays of the call were repeatedly shown, the booing from the incensed crowd steadily grew in volume.
Notes: In an effort to try and get C Evgeni Malkin (no goals in previous nine games) going, Penguins coach Dan Bylsma tried Maxime Talbot on right wing on Malkin’s line with Ruslan Fedotenko. …calgary C Craig Conroy (lower body) returned after missing five games. …When Calgary D Staffan Kronwall cleared waivers and was sent to Abbotsford (AHL) Wednesday, the Flames recalled Jamie Lundmark. Lundmark was sent to Abbotsford the previous day, temporarily, a move necessitated by Conroy’s activation from the IR. …