PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh Penguins superstar Sidney Crosby made his long-anticipated return to the ice Friday night, but it wasn’t enough to secure a victory.
His return from a 33-day layoff because of a fractured jaw was met with thunderous applause from the sellout crowd at the Consol Energy Center.
Crosby didn’t waste any time scoring, netting two goals in the first 7:22 of play as the Pens built an early 3-1 lead.
But the Islanders tallied the game’s final three goals for a 4-3 win to even the series at 1-1.
Crosby was minus-1 for the game. He had eight shots and played 23:21, a total of 26 shifts.
“We weren’t managing the puck very well,” Crosby said after the loss. “We’ve got to make sure we learn from this quickly. That’s not the way we want to play. We kind of struggled after our quick start.”
Crosby wore a facemask attached to his helmet to protect his surgically-repaired jaw.
He has now scored 77 points - 22 goals, 55 assists - in 42 career games against the Islanders.
“We don’t feel like we did enough to deserve that one,” Crosby said.
Until Friday, he had not played in a game since March 30 – also against the Islanders at the Consol Energy Center.
He was knocked out of that regular-season game on his first shift, just 1:28 into the game, when a slap shot off the stick of teammate Brooks Orpik deflected off the Islanders’ Brad Boyes and hit Crosby in the face.
“I don’t think he missed a beat,” coach Dan Bylsma said after Friday’s game.
Crosby, who finished third in the NHL in scoring with 56 points in 36 games, missed the Penguins’ final 12 regular-season games and he sat in the press box for their 5-0 Game 1 victory Wednesday over the Islanders.
“I think every time you play in the playoffs there’s always a little bit extra, especially coming back after missing some time,” Crosby said. “I think you just want to make sure you’re ready, but we’re all excited to play in those kinds of games, you welcome that, these are the ones you want to be in.”
Crosby, the Penguins’ 25-year-old captain, returned to practice April 26, a day after having extensive dental work. He said he received medical clearance to return to game action Thursday after meeting with his doctor.
After the morning skate, Crosby announced he had finally been cleared to resume playing again.
“(The doctor) was around and I wasn’t sure he would give me the OK or even consider it,” Crosby said. “I’m happy he did and happy to be back.
“He’s comfortable with me getting hit at this point. He has to be comfortable putting me out there. To hear him say that allows me to be comfortable, too.”
The Penguins played without James Neal and Orpik Friday night, but defending Crosby was bothering Islanders coach Jack Capuano before Game 2.
“When you have an elite player like Sidney Crosby, he’s going to get his chances throughout the course of the game. We have to try to make sure we contain him and limit his opportunities,” Capuano said.