Welcome back Sidney Crosby- Matt Cooke and the Pens (rick)-roll the Rangers 5-2.

Mar. 15, 2012; New York, NY, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby (87) reacts after a goal is scored by left wing Matt Cooke (not pictured) during the first period against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Debby Wong-US PRESSWIRE
For this big-time matchup between the New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins, you kind of felt like the game just meant more to the Pens. Maybe it was Sidney Crosby, Kris Letang and Paul Martin's return to the lineup, giving Pittsburgh their healthiest total lineup in virtually years. Or maybe it was that superstar Ranger goalie Henrik Lundqvist has been ill and was unable to play. But from John Tortorella's early dismissive comments about the Pens, one just got the feeling this game meant a little more to Pittsburgh.

And it showed on the ice. The Pens jumped out to an early lead, and continued to pour it on for a 5-2 walloping of New York in their rink. Scary potential for this team once everyone is clicking on all cylinders.

Some more thoughts on the game:

-The night obviously starts and ends with the Sidney Crosby experience and the captain looked pretty good in his re-return. It wasn't as sensational as his 4 point performance from his first comeback, but this time the team seemed a little more measured to slot him in on the usual 3rd line and kept true to the word to limit his minutes.

-Kris Letang, on the other hand was thrown right back into the deep end. In his first game in almost 3 weeks with concussion-type symptoms (but never a confirmed concussion officially from the team) Letang only lead the team in ice time with 24:22, as usual. And he was also a +5. Even for those that don't put much faith in that stat, it's still noteworthy to be on the ice for all 5 of the team's goals, and none against.

-How many times has Jordan Staal been hit with errant sticks/pucks just in recent months? Staal got another inadvertant high stick to the near eyeball, drawing blood. Staal got patched up and returned to the game, but yet another time he's taken some possibly preventable damage of a visor. Not to harp that warning, but how many bullets is he going to dodge before something really bad happens?

-The Pens were unable to score on any of the power plays they generated (though a Chris Kunitz goal came shortly after PP time expired) and the new combination with Crosby replacing Steve Sullivan on the point earned mixed reviews. On one hand, they moved the puck well and all parties- Sid, Letang, Malkin, Kunitz and James Neal certainly showcased some skill. On the other hand the "pretty pass to shot" ratio was on the high side, and sooner or later the team will miss Sullivan's ability to rush the puck through the zone.

-Random thought I've had all year: Carl Hagelin is a fun player to watch and an offensive threat out there. He's a pretty nifty player out there. He fits right in with Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik on the Rangers super-skilled 1st line (that produced both goals and most the offensive chances that NYR had).

-Finally, how funny is it on all Sid all the time night, Matt Cooke ends up scoring two goals and being named the game's first star. Matt Cooke: troll of the year. What a guy.

A big win for the Pens, who now jump up to within four points of these Rangers (with Pittsburgh owning 1 game in hand). The race for the division lead is very much on, and it'll take another intense turn as the team travels this weekend to Philadelphia and New Jersey. Buckle up, it's gonna be a crazy ride, but at least now the team has all their players finally back in the lineup and ready to go.

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