Tuesday was a pretty good day for the Penguins all around. game win streak with a home-and-home sweep of the hosting Toronto Maple Leafs.
Yesterday began with the Penguins seeming to have zeroed in on what is exactly wrong with superstar captain Sidney Crosby. The club announced that the former Hart Trophy winner has a soft tissue injury in his neck with no evidence of a past or present neck fracture according to an independent specialist. That ailment could be what is causing the 24-year-old his neurological symptoms, as they are similar to that of a concussion.
Crosby missed 61 straight games after suffering a concussion last January and returned to action in late November for eight games before again getting shut down due to the return of his symptoms. He has missed Pittsburgh's last 22 games, but found Tuesday's news to be encouraging.
"I think the biggest thing to take from it is that it's something I can work on. I can come in and get my neck worked on," Crosby said. "There's a pretty big possibility that could be causing some of the issues. So I really hope that's the case and hope with some treatment that it'll improve and that's hopefully the end of it. But I think being able to work on that and not sitting around hoping to get rid of the symptoms, it's nice to kind of have some information and go with it."
The rest of the Pittsburgh organization probably agrees and the players on the ice continued to play well without Crosby, posting a 5-4 shootout win over visiting Toronto in last night's opener of this home-and-home.
The Penguins carried a season-best seven-game win streak into the meeting, one that comes on the heels of six straight losses from Dec. 29-Jan. 11, and looked as if the run would come to an end when goals by the Maple Leafs' Tyler Bozak and Clarke MacArthur scored 19-seconds apart in the third staked Toronto to a 4-1 lead.
However, Pittsburgh countered with goals from Steve Sullivan and Joe Vitale to close the gap and got the game-tying score when James Neal's shot deflected off Evgeni Malkin's shoulder and in with 6.6 ticks left in regulation.
Malkin was credited with his 27th goal of the season -- tied for the second- most in the league -- and his NHL-leading 59th point before scoring the only goal of the shootout. The sniper now has nine goals and 29 assists in 18 career games versus the Maple Leafs.
Neal, meanwhile, has three goals and eight points over a five-game point streak.
Marc-Andre Fleury, in his career-high 23rd straight start, made 35 saves and closed the door in the shootout. He has been in net for each contest of the eight-game win streak, Pittsburgh's longest since a 12-game run last year, and has posted a 2.27 goals-against average and .916 save percentage.
"I guess you got to win a lot of different ways, but I'm not sure we deserved the fate we got tonight," Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma said. "We'll take the win."
Pittsburgh sits fifth in the East, two points behind Philadelphia, and begins a four-game swing tonight looking to extend a season-high four-game road winning streak.
Toronto, meanwhile, had won two straight and three of four before the All-Star break and is holding onto the eighth spot in the East by one point over Florida.
"Tough loss," said Maple Leafs forward Joffrey Lupul. "We had the game and then we let them back in."
The Penguins and Maple Leafs have now split two meetings so far this year after Toronto notched a 4-3 home win back on Oct. 29. Pittsburgh has lost two straight and five of its last eight as the guest in this series.