Crosby steals the show

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:31 AM ET

PITTSBURGH -- Standing in the crumbling bowels of the decaying Mellon Arena two hours before game time, Alexander Ovechkin pondered the question everyone in the hockey world seems to be asking these days.

Who is better -- you or Sidney Crosby? The answer may surprise you.

"He is," Ovechkin said of his fellow rookie.

After a moment, Ovechkin refined his response.

"Some games he's better, some games I'm better."

On this night, Ovechkin was right the first time. Barely.

Billed as the inaugural NHL meeting between Sid the Kid and Alexander the Great, the Pittsburgh Penguins flashy freshman turned the event into The Crosby Show with a collection of spectacular plays that had the standing room-only crowd of 16,978 reminiscing of the Mario Lemieux-Jaromir Jagr glory years.

The coup de grace came at 13:30 of the second period when the Halifax native completed a nifty 360-degree spinarama on one knee before directing a perfect feed to Ziggy Palffy, who drained the two-foot putt.

The goal was the eventual game-winner in a riveting 5-4 Penguins victory over Ovechkin's Washington Capitals.

"I was just trying to put it at the net. I saw Ziggy driving for the net and just threw it over there," said Crosby, quickly becoming a master of the understatement.

There were plenty of other magical moments for Crosby.

Like the one midway through the first period in which he split helpless Caps defencemen Brendan Witt and Steve Eminger, then humiliated goalie Olaf Kolzig for his 11th goal of the season.

"It was fun tonight," Crosby said. "It's another first."

Ovechkin, 20, had his highlight reel moments as well.

On two different occasions, the left winger stickhandled the puck between his legs in order to beat Penguins defencemen, who were left grasping at air.

The moral of this story?

If these are the freshed-faced foundations of the new NHL, the league has emerged from the dark ages of the lockout era with an extremely bright future.

"He showed he's a great player," Crosby said.

"He has great hands and is a powerful skater."

Down the hallway, a subdued Ovechkin was found riding the stationary bike. Alone, with none of his teammates to be seen, he didn't seem like the same kid who had been so upbeat while dealing with reporters five hours earlier.

"I thought I scored twice, but they were great saves," he said of his two premature celebrations in the second period.

As reporters walked away, his frustrations finally bubbled over.

"#@%&*&!" he yelled, the curse echoing through the hallways.

Obviously for the competitive Ovechkin, the rivalry with Crosby cuts deep.


Photos