PITTSBURGH -- To put Sidney Crosby's rookie season into perspective, consider this: Only Wayne Gretzky had a season this good at so young an age, and he wasn't playing in the NHL.
Crosby became the youngest player in NHL history to score 100 points in a season, setting up three goals Monday night in a 6-1 Pittsburgh victory over the New York Islanders that may prevent the Penguins from finishing as the league's worst team for the second season in a row.
Crosby's three-point night gave him 62 assists, to go with 38 goals, and tied Mario Lemieux (1984-85) for the team rookie scoring record of 100 points. Crosby also joined Hall of Fame forward Dale Hawerchuk of the Winnipeg Jets (103 points, 1981-82) as the only 18-year-olds to score 100 points in an NHL season.
However, Hawerchuk was three-plus months older than Crosby when he did it, and was only a few days short of 19. Crosby's season might be more comparable to Gretzky's first when, in the year in which The Great One turned 18, he scored 104 points for the WHA's Edmonton Oilers in 1978-79. The Oilers moved into the NHL a season later.
"It's a great accomplishment, and I'm definitely proud of it," Crosby said. "By no means, coming into the season, did I think about getting 100 points. But as it became near, it was something I thought would be a nice feat, and I tried to have the best finish to the season -- and have no regrets."
He's had that finish, too, with 20 points in nine games and 13 in his last six.
"One hundred points? At 18?" teammate Colby Armstrong said. "This kid's doing something most people can't imagine or dream of."
Playing before a noisy, T-shirt-twirling crowd of 17,084 that reacted to his every shift as it were the playoffs and not an almost meaningless late-season game, Crosby gave the fans exactly what they wanted to see.
Three points - and his name in the record book.
Crosby, shut out two nights before by the Islanders, also became the seventh NHL rookie to reach the 100-point mark, joining Teemu Selanne, Hawerchuk, Lemieux, Joe Juneau, Peter Stastny and Washington's Alexander Ovechkin, who reached the mark last week.
"You're only a rookie once, and this is the only opportunity you have to achieve something like that," Crosby said. "It was nice to be able to do that here -- I scored my first goal here, and this was a very similar feeling to that."
Crosby, honored in a pregame ceremony as the Penguins' most valuable player, didn't take long to get his first point, executing a 2-on-1 break for Andy Hilbert's 12th goal at 1:04 of the first.
Then, midway through the second period, Crosby needed only 25 seconds to get points No. 99 and 100.
Crosby got his 99th at 15:19, passing to Armstrong along the right wing boards before cutting to the net, taking the return pass and feeding it ahead for Tomas Surovy's 12th goal.
After the Islanders' Jason Blake drew a five-minute charging penalty, Crosby grabbed the puck off John LeClair's faceoff win and passed it up ice to Ryan Malone, who beat goalie Garth Snow for his 21st goal and second of the game, at 15:44.
Play was stopped for nearly five minutes as the crowd showered the ice with hats and T-shirts given away to support the Penguins' efforts to get a new arena. Several fans held up signs reading "Crosby 100" -- some teenage fans had it painted on their chests -- and teammates crowded to congratulate Crosby as he returned to the bench.
"When he started to get around 80 points, you really started to believe he could do it," coach Michel Therrien said. "But I didn't want to take away from the team concept. He did it within a team concept, and he deserves a lot of credit."
By winning for only the 22nd time in 81 games, the Penguins moved ahead of St. Louis in the overall NHL standings, 58 points to 56 points.
Crosby's 100 points provide a glimmer of hope for the Penguins' future during a disappointing season.
Their playoff hopes faded quickly during a season-opening nine-game losing streak, and Mario Lemieux later retired for the second time in his Hall of Fame career because of a heart problem.
|Sidney Crosby gets some love from teammates after attaining 100 points (62 assists, 38 goals). (AP)|
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|01:04||Andy Hilbert (12), Slap Shot - Assists: Sidney Crosby and Ryan Whitney|
|10:31||Ryan Malone (20), Wrist Shot - Assist: John LeClair|
|03:24||Miroslav Satan (35), Tip-In - Assists: Shawn Bates and Chris Campoli|
|15:19||Tomas Surovy (12), Tip-In - Assists: Sidney Crosby and Colby Armstrong|
|15:44||Power Play - Ryan Malone (21), Slap Shot - Assists: Sidney Crosby and John LeClair|
|11:34||Short - Josef Melichar (3), Slap Shot - Assist: Konstantin Koltsov|
|15:09||Ryan Whitney (6), Backhand Shot - Assists: Colby Armstrong and Brooks Orpik|
|06:14||Yashin: Hooking - 2 min.|
|15:12||Orpik: Interference - 2 min.|
|16:26||Hilbert: Hooking - 2 min.|
|08:35||Erskine: Fighting - 5 min.|
|08:35||Cairns: Fighting - 5 min.|
|10:22||Caldwell: Hooking - 2 min.|
|15:38||Blake: Charging - 5 min.|
|18:42||Welch: Holding - 2 min.|
|02:53||Melichar: Holding the stick - 2 min.|
|06:32||Melichar: Boarding - 2 min.|
|10:15||Roy: Holding - 2 min.|
|15:55||Nordgren: High sticking - 2 min.|
|19:54||Orpik: Hooking - 2 min.|
|SHOTS ON GOAL|