MT. LEBANON, Pa. -- It will be a few years wait before Sidney Crosby can be fairly compared to Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux, but the kid could do one better than both superstars tonight.
Neither of the aforementioned scored in their debut against the Maple Leafs, nor played the vintage game that would cause the Leafs and their fans so much grief in later years.
Gretzky's Edmonton Oilers were on the losing end of a 6-3 result at Northlands Coliseum on Remembrance Day 1979. The Great One's first point against Toronto was a second assist on a Stan Weir goal, after Toronto had roared to a 4-0 lead.
Gretzky also assisted on a Brett Callighen goal, but the Edmonton squad booed off the ice.
Playing in Maple Leaf Gardens 10 days later would be a different story for the history conscious Gretzky.
He had two goals and two assists in a 4-4 tie, though he was almost a footnote when Lanny McDonald was benched late in the game as a precursor to a trade.
Gretzky would back up his impressive display with six points in his next visit to the Gardens.
The Crosby game tonight comes almost 21 years to the day that Lemieux first faced the Leafs as the visiting Penguins won 5-2. Lemieux had 30 points at that stage of his rookie season after missing seven games with injury, but that night contributed only one assist -- and one comment about how he never expected the Gardens to be so quiet.
Those 1984-85 Leafs would emulate the Pens from the previous season and finish last in the league. Though Wendel Clark would prove to be a great draft table consolation prize, Lemieux would go on to score 1,723 NHL points, including 71 in 33 games against the Leafs. Lemieux had his last five-assist game in the NHL against the Leafs in a 12-1 home win on Dec. 26, 1991.
Crosby was raised a Montreal Canadiens fan in Cole Harbour, N.S., but couldn't help following the Leafs.
"I always watched them on Hockey Night In Canada, so it's going to be pretty cool," Crosby said yesterday. "I think the game is nationwide on Hockey Night (allowing his family in Nova Scotia to watch), so that will maybe put something extra into it."