Crosby dazzles

MIKE ULMER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 1:11 PM ET

RALEIGH -- Things are getting substantially better for Sidney Crosby.

The Pittsburgh Penguins, not so much.

The Penguins have a loss and a penalty shot defeat to show for their first two outings of the season after last night's 3-2 defeat in Carolina in the lightning round.

Crosby now has two assists in as many games. His spectacular pass from the corner found Ziggy Palffy for the Penguins' second goal with less than two minutes to play. The play was a dazzling example of what the kid can do and it was one of a handful of similar moments he furnished.

"I thought he played exceptionally well in the second period," Penguins coach Ed Olczyk said. "Just because a guy gets a point (in New Jersey) doesn't mean jack to me. He was called upon and I was happy with the way he rose his game after the first period."

Three Penguins, Mario Lemieux, Palffy and then Crosby could not beat Cam Ward, Carolina's fine rookie goalie.

Cory Stillman had the only overtime goal in the shootout.

Crosby had no complaint about the penalty shot format, which players tend to find grating whenever they lose.

"No one likes ties, I don't like ties. You want to have a winner at the end and if that's what it takes, great."

The Penguins shook off a miserable first period and a 2-0 lead.

"In the second and third we were a whole different team," Crosby said. "We just have to keep on doing that."

It wasn't enough, however, against Ward, a 21-year-old Albertan who raced through the American Hockey League last season with a league-leading .937 save percentage.

The Penguins drew a near sellout crowd 18,787 to the RBC Arena last night and that's not bad, even if the average ticket price is a laughably low $25.

Some measure of the gate has to attributed the pent-up desire for hockey from hockey fans in the triangle area. Say 1%.

Credit the walking birds for the rest, starring Lemieux as himself and Crosby as The Tenant.

The Penguins got their only goal on a power play early in the third when a shot ricocheted off the foot of referee Paul Devorski and on to the stick of Ryan Malone, who powered a shot past Ward.

One of Crosby's attempt at Ward bounced off the skate of John LeClair. A quick pass found Stillman at the Penguins blue line, who then dashed in to score easily. This was not the kind of offence, you should know, Crosby was being counted on to provide.

Crosby earned some power-play time in the second when he was paired up with Lemieux and Sergei Gonchar. Crosby played the entire man advantage but couldn't garner a shot.

Later he delivered a nifty drop pass to linemate LeClair. The veteran winger beat Ward but his shot ricocheted off the goalpost.

Crosby showcased his strength along the boards when he drew a hook from defenceman Oleg Tverdovsky with just over three minutes to go.

Crosby played 20:09 in ice time and lost 14 of 22 draws. He garnered three shots.

You know, of course, the Penguins will come out of it. Crosby will score his first NHL goal. Gonchar and LeClair will prove themselves something more than a rumour.

Maybe tonight, in Pittsbugh, as the Penguins open at home against the Boston Bruins. Crosby is skewing upwards but it was the Penguins who were supposed to be lifting the rookie, not the other way around.


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