PITTSBURGH (AP) — Sidney Crosby ended his march to 1,000 career points in typically unselfish fashion. The Pittsburgh Penguins star wasted little time before starting his quest for the next thousand.
The Pittsburgh captain fed Chris Kunitz for a first-period goal against Winnipeg on Thursday to become the 86th player in NHL history to reach the 1,000-point plateau, added an assist on Phil Kessel’s game-tying goal in the third and then put the winner past Connor Hellebuyck with 21 seconds left in overtime as the Penguins escaped with a 4-3 victory.
Crosby finished with three points to push his total 1,002. Evgeni Malkin also scored for Pittsburgh, while Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 44 shots for the Penguins, who improved to 6-0-2 since the All-Star break.
Patrik Laine scored his 27th for Winnipeg. Paul Postma collected his first and Dustin Byfuglien his eighth for the Jets. Hellebuyck made 35 saves, but couldn’t get a handle on Crosby’s 31st of the season and 369th goal of his career.
Crosby insisted as the milestone approached that he’d be happy once it was out of the way so the focus could swing back to Pittsburgh’s chase of first-place Washington in the relentlessly competitive Metropolitan Division. His sprint to the mark turned into a slow jog during a rare two-game scoreless drought and inched closer with an assist in a victory over Vancouver on Tuesday to give him 999.
History came in typically symbolic fashion for one of the game’s best playmakers.
Crosby reached it in his 757th game – the quickest among active players – not with some breathtaking move, but by simply outworking an opponent. The Penguins were already up 1-0 on Malkin’s goal 59 seconds into the game when Crosby beat Winnipeg’s Blake Wheeler to a loose puck in the left circle. Crosby collected himself, then slipped a pass to Kunitz wide open in the spot. Kunitz powered it into the open net, the 186th time the longtime teammates have factored in a goal together.
The 461st consecutive sellout at PPG Paints Arena – a streak that overlaps Crosby’s rise to one of hockey’s biggest stars – roared its approval when the red goal light came on. Officials stopped the game briefly while equipment manager Dana Heinze grabbed the keepsake puck, one that will go to Crosby’s father Troy for safekeeping.
As celebratory as the moment was, it also served as a wakeup call to the Jets.
Winnipeg slowly turned the momentum by stretching the ice and getting the Penguins into the kind of up-and-down game that Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan wants his high-powered but only so-so defensive team to avoid.
Laine brought the Jets within one 17:10 into the second off a pretty cross-ice feed by Mathieu Perreault. Postma tied it 4:22 into the third with a slap shot from the point that beat Fleury. Byfuglien put Winnipeg in front with a wraparound that saw the puck duck in between Fleury’s legs 8:24 into the third.
Kessel forced overtime when he beat Hellebuyck on the power play with 6:05 left in regulation, setting the stage for Crosby to deliver when he sprinted to the Winnipeg crease and slipped it by Hellebuyck.
NOTES: Primanti Bros., a Pittsburgh-based restaurant chain, released a sandwich in Crosby’s honor on reaching 1,000 points. The sandwich, called “The Captain,” contains capicola, turkey and roast beef and is topped with cheese, cole slaw, tomato and french fries. … Winnipeg went 0 for 4 on the power play. The Penguins were 1 for 2. … Pittsburgh played the third period and overtime with four defenseman after Justin Schultz and Olli Maatta left with injuries.
Jets: Continue four-game road trip on Saturday in Montreal. The Canadiens won 7-4 in Winnipeg on Jan. 11.
Penguins: Visit Metropolitan Division rival Columbus on Thursday. The teams have split their first two meetings this season, each team winning on home ice.
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