(SportsNetwork.com) - Thanks to the play of Sidney Crosby, the Pittsburgh Penguins don't need to rush Evgeni Malkin back from his current injury.
Malkin is expected to miss his second straight game on Saturday night when the streaking Penguins visit the Boston Bruins for the final time this season.
Most teams would be left scrambling when a player like Malkin went down late with an injury, but most teams don't have Crosby. The superstar forward leads the NHL with 41 points (Malkin is second with 37) and notched three assists in Thursday's 5-1 victory over the San Jose Sharks.
Chris Kunitz scored twice during a four-goal second period for the Pens and praised the play of Crosby afterwards.
"He did so many things, little things people don't always see," Kunitz said of Crosby. "He just dominated."
Malkin missed the game with a lower-body injury that caused him to leave the morning skate early. He is day-to-day, but did not travel to Boston.
In his absence, Crosby ran his assist total to 26 on the season in his 500th career game. It was a long-awaited milestone for the 26-year-old, who had dealt with injury during his career. That includes a right ankle ailment early in his career and serious concussion that caused him to miss the last 41 games of the 2010-11 campaign and limited him to just 22 contests the following season.
Still, Crosby has notched 253 goals and 453 assists for 706 points in his eight-plus seasons.
"Looking back I probably think about how many I've missed more than playing 500," Crosby said prior to the game. "But it's been great. It's gone by quick, that's for sure. But to get to 500 is definitely a nice number."
Crosby wasn't the only star of Thursday's game as Marc-Andre Fleury made a season-high 44 saves. Pascal Dupuis, Jayson Megna and Kris Letang also scored, though Dupuis suffered an undisclosed injury in the victory over one of the top teams of the Western Conference.
Andrew Ebbett has also been placed on injured reserve due to a broken ankle, so the Pens recalled forward Harry Zolnierczyk from the American Hockey League on Friday. He has notched a team-leading nine goals in 18 games with Wilkes- Barre/Scranton this season.
Pittsburgh has now won a season-high five straight games since an overtime loss to Boston on Nov. 25. The Bruins saw first-hand just how dangerous Crosby can be as he netted a game-tying goal with just 0.3 seconds left in the third period.
However, the Bruins rebounded on Torey Krug's tally 34 seconds into the bonus frame for a 4-3 win that snapped the Penguins' seven-game series winning streak.
Pittsburgh also lost for the first time in its last seven trips to Boston.
This is the third and final meeting of the regular season between the clubs. Fleury and Boston's Tuukka Rask have split the first two contests, with Fleury going 11-5-3 with a 2.28 goals against average in his career versus the Bruins.
Rask is 2-5-0 with a 2.74 GAA in his career against the Penguins. He made 25 saves in Thursday's 2-1 loss to the Montreal Canadiens.
Gregory Campbell scored the only goal for the Bruins, who were 6-1-1 in their previous eight games and fell a point behind the Canadiens for first place in the Atlantic Division.
Already without defenseman Adam McQuaid due to a nagging lower-body issue, fellow blueliner Johnny Boychuk left the game early in the contest. He was hurt while battling at the left-corner boards with Montreal's Max Pacioretty, who pushed Boychuk into the boards head first.
Boychuk laid on the ice for several minutes with trainers attending to him. He was conscious the whole time and his whole body was immobilized before he was carted off the ice on a stretcher and taken to a local hospital.
Head coach Claude Julien said after the game that Boychuk was cleared to fly back to Boston with the team and did not know the severity of the injury.
He wouldn't blame the setback on the loss of the defenseman either.
"You've got to take the blame for what you did and didn't do," said Julien. "We didn't show up for the second period and allowed them to score two goals on us. That's the only place that cost us the game."
Boston begins a four-game road trip with a stop in Toronto on Sunday.