How did Crosby fare in his return to the ice?

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How did Crosby fare in his return to the ice?

From Comcast SportsNet
NEW YORK (AP) -- The questions surrounding the Pittsburgh Penguins are quickly being answered. Questions such as: How good would the Penguins be if Sidney Crosby and the rest of their injured players were healthy in time for the NHL playoffs? Will the return of Crosby to a club surging without him disrupt the mojo that had the Penguins storming toward the top of the Eastern Conference? On Thursday, under the glare of intense media attention in the heart of New York, Crosby returned from a three-month absence caused by recurring concussion symptoms and helped the Penguins thoroughly beat the New York Rangers 5-2 for Pittsburgh's 10th straight victory. Not only didn't the Penguins skip a beat as they welcomed their captain back into the lineup, they thrived. Crosby earned only one assist on the score sheet, but he was on the ice for three of Pittsburgh's goals. Now the questions gaining lots of steam throughout the NHL: Are the Penguins the new threat to come out of the East, and can anyone stop them? "I don't like to say stuff like that," said Marc-Andre Fleury, who was overshadowed despite making 29 saves in his 38th win of the season, and ninth in the streak. "We're playing pretty solid hockey these days. It's a long season and nothing is over. We have to keep going, trying to get points, trying to catch the Rangers. Everybody feels pretty confident." The Penguins are suddenly the picture of health, and the NHL's hottest team is making the playoff race a fight to the finish. Crosby returned from a 40-game absence along with defenseman Kris Letang, who missed the past five because of concussion issues. That gave the Penguins their most complete lineup in months, and Pittsburgh responded by thumping the slumping and beat-up Rangers. The Penguins have beaten the Rangers twice during their spurt and now trail them by four points. Pittsburgh has 13 games left, compared to 12 for New York. Crosby was hoping he wouldn't mess up any chemistry created by his teammates while he was out. "I didn't want to be that guy," said the center, who got rare playing time at wing. "I obviously knew we were playing really well. There was a little bit of adjustment, playing wing, things like that. I thought everyone played great, and I'm happy we got the win." Crosby played for the first time since he was forced to the sidelines on Dec. 5. His presence was felt way beyond what can be analyzed by numbers. He took 18 shifts, and the Penguins scored on three without allowing any. "I think he played a great game," said Matt Cooke, who scored twice while playing on a new third line with Crosby. "He draws so much attention when he is on the ice. People are worried about how good he is. That makes the players on the ice with him that much better." That showed throughout as the Penguins became the first team this season to score five goals against the Rangers. Crosby joined Cooke and Tyler Kennedy on a line. Kennedy had two assists, and NHL points leader Evgeni Malkin added a goal for the Penguins, who haven't lost since Feb. 19 at Buffalo. Pittsburgh's winning streak started two days later with a 2-0 home victory against the Rangers. "That was the only way we could catch them, by beating them because they were winning a lot," Fleury said. Crosby is expected to play in each of Pittsburgh's remaining games -- including two this weekend at New Jersey and Philadelphia to complete a span of three games in four days against divisional foes.

Shots don't fall for Celtics in frustrating 114-98 loss to Hawks

Shots don't fall for Celtics in frustrating 114-98 loss to Hawks

BOSTON – You hear coaches and players often refer to the NBA as a make-miss league.

When summing up what happened in Boston’s 114-98 loss to the Atlanta Hawks, sadly it was that simple.

Dennis Schroder led the six double-figure scorers for the Hawks with 21 points on 9-for-14 shooting.

Boston got many of the shots that they have been getting throughout this run in which they came into Monday’s game having won 11 of their previous 14 games.

The Celtics (38-22) have now lost three of their last four games. Life won’t get any easier for them with defending NBA champion Cleveland coming into town on Wednesday.

We have seen the Celtics make some miraculous comebacks under fourth-year coach Brad Stevens, but Celtics fans understandably began hitting the exits with more than three minutes to play and Boston looking up at a 108-84 deficit.

Credit the Hawks defense which played with a greater sense of urgency, the kind you would expect from a team that had come in riding a three-game losing streak.

Meanwhile, Boston looked like the team that we have seen most of this season which relies heavily on their perimeter shooting to win games.

That’s not all that surprising against the Hawks whose interior defense is anchored by Dwight Howard.

Howard, who had 17 points and 12 rebounds, also had a pair of blocked shots and altered many others.

But the Celtics spent a good chunk of the second half with Howard out of the game.

Howard, an absolute unstoppable force for the Hawks all game, picked up his second technical foul (an automatic ejection) for hanging on the rim following a put-back dunk with 4:03 to play in the third and Atlanta ahead 74-65.

He had picked up his first technical foul for shoving Al Horford earlier in the game.

But with Howard out, the Celtics still couldn’t take advantage of an Atlanta team that was much more vulnerable to dribble-drive penetration.

In fact, Atlanta began to pull away and took their biggest lead up to that point of the game, 84-69, following a 3-pointer by Tim Hardaway Jr. late in the third quarter which ended with the Hawks ahead 84-71.

And Boston’s struggles stemmed from their inability to make open shots.

For the game, the Celtics shot 39.1 percent from field which is a somewhat inflated figure considering the mini-run Boston's backups went on in the final minute or two of play.

Not even the usual high-scoring exploits of Isaiah Thomas could save the day.

The NBA’s leading scorer in the fourth quarter, Thomas had another sub-par night in the game’s final quarter of play.

He led the Celtics with 19 points, but only two came in the fourth quarter. And by failing to reach 20 points, Thomas’ franchise-record of consecutive games with 20 or more comes to an end at 43 straight.  

Reports: Blues trade Kevin Shattenkirk to Capitals

Reports: Blues trade Kevin Shattenkirk to Capitals

The Kevin Shattenkirk-to-Bruins rumblings are done for the remainder of the season.

Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Dispatch is reporting that the Blues have traded defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk to the Washington Capitals.

According to TSN’s Pierre LeBrun, the “main parts” the Blues will receive in the deal are 2017 first-rounder, a second-rounder in 2018 and Zach Sanford 

More to come. . .