With the hockey tournament at the Sochi Olympics set to start in a week, Pittsburgh superstar and NHL scoring leader Sidney Crosby sent his usual messages to Ryan Miller on Wednesday night.
Crosby flat-out owns the Sabres and he’s dogged Miller his entire career. No. 87 scored a highlight-reel goal and added an assist to continue his red-hot play against Buffalo in an easy 5-1 victory for the Penguins at First Niagara Center.
“It’s nice to score. You try to go out there and do the same thing every night,” said Crosby, who has 28 goals and 77 points this season. “Work hard and hope you get rewarded. It’s nice when they go in.”
Crosby extended his personal point streak against the Sabres dating to 2007 to 17 games (10 goals, 18 assists). And he has points in all 14 of his career games in the FNC (9-13-22).
Crosby entered the game pointless in back-to-back contests for just the second time this year. That little issue ended with his assist on Harry Zolnierczyk’s goal at 4:59 left in the first period.
Crosby had no goals in his previous five games, his second-longest run of the year, and that ended at 2:08 of the second with a power-play laser under the crossbar. Crosby took a pass from defenseman Matt Niskanen and busted between the flat-footed duo of Mike Weber and Brian Flynn on the play to get a clear shot at Miller, who had no chance.
“I was able to come back and get some speed,” Crosby said. “Nisky made a nice hard pass and gave me a lot of time to get through there. It’s not always pretty sometimes on those breakouts but that one worked out well. You can’t blame Miller, he held his team in it. We scored some nice goals tonight.”
Crosby and Miller, of course, will be connected forever by Crosby’s Golden Goal in overtime that won the gold-medal match for Canada against Team USA in the 2010 Vancouver Games, and for his shootout winner at Ralph Wilson Stadium in the 2008 Winter Classic.
“Both those players are going to be on opposite sides again in a couple weeks,” said Pens coach and Team USA boss Dan Bylsma. “So it did dawn on me as Sid was going in. He scores the goal and I was cheering the goal this time.”
Oddly enough, Crosby and Miller have been among a group of players working out in California the last two summers and had several talks during the lockout last year at players association meetings.
“The games are not something I’ve every really talked about with him,” Crosby said. “I’ve skated with him for a couple summers now. He’s a good guy, works hard. He loves to play and loves to compete. As far as the situations we’ve been in, it’s not a hot discussion topic but everybody tries to link those situations together.
“It’s in the past. We’re days away from the Olympics in Russia. Maybe after our careers, it’s something we talk about. There are other things we both want to accomplish.”
With the Olympic roster freeze coming Friday at 3 and creating a pseudo trade deadline, Sabres General Manager Tim Murray said his phone is ringing pretty steadily these days. And he confirmed Miller is one of the main topics.
“His status at this point is that he’s a Buffalo Sabre,” Murray said Wednesday during his weekly appearance on WGR Radio. “I’ve had talks with a couple of teams. They’ve showed some interest. They haven’t done anything yet to change that scenario. Talks are going on for a lot of players. There’s a lot of ideas being thrown about here the last few days. As of right now, nothing has changed with Ryan.”
Scouts from 16 teams were on hand in the press box Wednesday. Many of them are Southern Ontario residents who are regulars in the building but Detroit had two representatives who are not. The Red Wings are believed to be interested in Steve Ott and Henrik Tallinder.
The Sabres staged a pregame tribute for players and coaches from both teams heading to the Olympics. Miller, Tallinder, Jhonas Enroth and Zemgus Girgensons were honored in a video and were presented with their jerseys by children.
The Pittsburgh contingent, including Bylsma, was honored on the public-address system and Jumbotron. Miller, Crosby and East Amherst native Brooks Orpik got the biggest cheers.
The Sabres are 0-5-3 in their last eight home games – after going 6-0-1 in the seven before this skid. They don’t have a win downtown since beating New Jersey, 2-1, on Jan. 4. The next home game is Feb. 25 against Carolina in a makeup of the Jan. 7 postponement. … Tyler Myers’ lower-body injury suffered Monday against Edmonton, believed to be to his knee, kept him out of the lineup. Chad Ruhwedel played in place of Myers, who Nolan said could play tonight.