By DAN SCIFO
PITTSBURGH (AP) — It was one special day for Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby — from the beginning to the very end.
Crosby had two assists in his 1,000th NHL game, and the Penguins beat the New York Islanders 3-2 on Saturday night.
“Different experiences (in the past), I’ve tried to treat like a regular day, but that was pretty much impossible today,” Crosby said. “The game itself, it was great that we won, but the way I was treated all day was pretty unique.”
Kris Letang scored twice, including a tiebreaking goal in the third period, as Pittsburgh won for the fourth time in five games. Mike Matheson also scored, and Tristan Jarry made 33 saves.
Letang was drafted by Pittsburgh in 2005, the same year as Crosby.
“We have so many memories and I think this one can add up to the bunch of them,” Letang said. “It was pretty cool to have those kinds of moments together on his 1,000th game.”
Jordan Eberle and Brock Nelson scored for New York, which has dropped two straight following a season-high eight-game point streak. Semyon Varlamov stopped 15 shots.
“Life’s not fair sometimes,” Islanders coach Barry Trotz said. “I think the guys in the room know that we probably deserved a point tonight, at least. Maybe two.”
Nelson gave the Islanders a 2-1 lead with his fifth goal just 53 seconds into the third period, but the Penguins responded.
Matheson tied it with his first goal for Pittsburgh at 7:35. He started the rush and eventually finished the play with a wrist shot from the slot.
Letang put the Penguins ahead for good at 13:34. His center-point wrist shot beat Varlamov over the shoulder to the blocker side.
“Every win is good, but to get it for (Crosby) on his 1,000th game is special,” Letang said. “He has given so much to all of his teammates throughout the years.”
Crosby became the 25th active skater to play in his 1,000th game. He’s also the first player in Penguins history to play 1,000 games with the team. Crosby entered his 1,000th game with the eighth-most points in NHL history through 1,000 games.
“I’m real happy for Sid,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. “Obviously, it’s a big night for him, so to come out on the right side of the score makes that memory that much more fond. It certainly wasn’t how we drew it up, but fortunately, we found a way to win.”
Pittsburgh handed New York its first regulation loss in nine games on Thursday. It was the first time the Penguins won a game all season without trailing at any point.
But the Islanders took it to Pittsburgh in the first period Saturday, building a 16-4 advantage in shots. Jarry stepped up, and the game was scoreless after one.
Shots were 23-10 in favor of the Islanders when Letang opened the scoring 12:36 into the second. Letang scored 12 seconds into a power play with a blocker-side slap shot from Malkin and Crosby.
“We didn’t have a lot going on and that power play certainly gave us a spark,” Sullivan said.
MALKIN MISSES TIME
Malkin briefly departed with a little more than five minutes to play in the first period. He returned to the bench four minutes into the second.
Malkin gingerly flexed his right leg and left for the dressing room in the first after slamming awkwardly into the boards when Islanders forward Matthew Barzal spun away from a defensive-zone check attempt.
“We were chasing the game a little bit, so it was huge for (Malkin) to come back,” Crosby said. “It was a big boost.”
PENGUINS HONOR CROSBY
The Penguins all took warmups in Crosby’s No. 87 jersey to recognize their captain before his 1,000th NHL game. At one point during warmups, his teammates knelt down in unison and replicated Crosby’s routine of re-tying his skates.
“The guys in the 87 jerseys, I didn’t see that coming,” Crosby said. “It’s a little odd when you first see it, but it reminds you how special the night is. To see them tying their skates at the same time, I had a good laugh. I didn’t expect that.”
The Penguins honored Crosby on the ice with a pregame video. The video featured career highlights and a message from his family and teammates in addition to comments from Mario Lemieux, Crosby’s childhood idol Steve Yzerman, Steven Stamkos, Patrick Kane, John Tavares and others.
Malkin and Letang presented an emotional Crosby with a silver hockey stick, a watch, and a framed mosaic celebrating 1,000 games. Recorded messages of congratulations were also played from others during stoppages in play, including former teammate Phil Kessel and longtime rival Alex Ovechkin.
“Everything from the guys and the ceremony in the room, and on the ice … I was just completely spoiled today,” Crosby said. “It was a pretty awesome experience and a day I will always remember. It was even sweeter that we were able to win.”
The Islanders begin a four-game homestand Monday against Buffalo.
Pittsburgh will visit Washington on Tuesday. The Penguins close February with four road games against the Capitals or Islanders.
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Pittsburgh Penguins’ Jake Guentzel (59) is greeted by Cody Ceci (4) and other teammates on the bench after scoring against the New York Islanders during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021, in Pittsburgh.