PITTSBURGH — Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby has missed his share of games because of injuries the past few years.
He even sat out 25 percent of the games in this strike-shortened 48-game regular-season with a broken jaw.
That injury also forced Crosby to miss Game 1 of the Penguins’ first-round Eastern Conference playoff series against the New York Islanders.
Sid the Kid made his long-anticipated return in Game 2 on May 3 and rifled in two goals in the first 7:22 of the game, but the Islanders spoiled his return by rallying for a 4-3 victory.
Since then, Crosby’s golden touch has returned and all kind of honors have come his way.
Crosby carried a four-game point-scoring streak into Game 6 against the Islanders Saturday night. He and the top-seeded Penguins put the finishing touches on their best-of-seven playoff series with a 4-3 overtime win.
Make no mistake, last week certainly was a big one for Crosby, both on and off the ice.
• A week ago today, he dished out three assists and set up Chris Kunitz's game-winning goal in overtime as the Penguins beat the Islanders 5-4 in Game 3.
• On Tuesday, Sports Illustrated announced that Crosby would be the cover boy on the May 13 issue of its regional magazine. It was the sixth time the 25-year-old Crosby has appeared on the cover of the magazine.
• On Thursday, despite missing the final 12 games of the regular season, Crosby was named one of three finalists for the Ted Lindsay Award, which goes to the most outstanding player in the NHL as voted by the players. He was joined by Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals and Martin St. Louis of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
• On Thursday, Crosby netted a highlight-reel goal in the second period of the Penguins’ 4-0 home win over the Islanders in Game 5.
He split New York defensemen Lubomir Visnovsky and Thomas Hickey, then beat goaltender Evgeni Nabokov with a quick wrist shot in the second period.
Crosby's tally drew instant comparisons to the famous goal scored by Penguins Hall of Famer player and current co-owner Mario Lemieux against the Islanders on Dec. 20, 1988.
Lemieux also knifed between defensemen - Rich Pilon and Jeff Norton - and beat Islanders goaltender Kelly Hrudey on breakaway in the third period.
“(Lemieux)’s was much nicer than mine,” Crosby said, shooting down any comparisons of the two goals. “He went through guys, stickhandled through them and stickhandled around the goalie, too.
“I had a few less moves and a pretty basic shot. I’ll take the goal no matter how it goes in.”
However, Penguins coach Dan Bylsma called Crosby’s effort “a pretty amazing goal, pretty spectacular. Not only did he display the speed you can see from him, the move going through, underneath the stick then breaking in and still coming out on the other side for a big goal for us. I thought that goal really propelled our team in dramatic fashion.”
Lemieux’s electrifying goal was immortalized with the moniker “Le Magnifique,” and inspired a larger-than life bronze statue honoring Lemieux’s career and achievements outside Consol Energy Center.
A photo of Lemieux’s goal also appeared in Sports Illustrated, and is now part of the Hockey Hall of Fame’s collection.
Meanwhile, Crosby’s signature moment came when he scored the game-winning goal in overtime against Team USA in the 2010 Olympics to lead Canada to the goal medal.
On Friday, Crosby found himself back in competition with Ovechkin once again.
Crosby, Ovechkin and Islanders center John Tavares were named the three finalists for the Hart Trophy, which goes to the NHL's most valuable player. Votes are cast by members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association.
Crosby finished tied for third in scoring with Ovechkin in the regular season with 56 points. But Crosby was running away with the NHL’s scoring title when he suffered a broken jaw March 30 in a game against the Islanders.
This is the third time Crosby has been an MVP finalist. He won the Hart Trophy in 2007 at age 19, when he captured his lone scoring title with a career-high 120 points; and was a finalist in 2010, when Henrik Sedin of the Vancouver Canucks captured the hardware.
Crosby’s teammate, Evgeni Malkin, took the Hart Trophy last year.
Ovechkin, on the other hand, is attempting to become the first player since Lemieux to win three MVP awards. Wayne Gretzky is the all-time leader with nine Hart trophies.
Tavares is an MVP finalist for the first time. He led his team with 47 points in 48 games to help the Islanders secure their first playoff spot in six years.
It will be interesting to see if the dozen games Crosby missed down the stretch will cost him a shot at winning his second Hart Trophy.
Ron Musselman is a freelance writer. Follow him on Twitter@ronmusselman8.