PITTSBURGH, PA - NOVEMBER 21: Sidney Crosby #87 of the Pittsburgh Penguins shares a laugh with teammate Chris Kunitz #14 after his first goal of the season in the first period against Anders Nilsson #45 of the New York Islanders during the game on November 21, 2011 at CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Crosby has not played a game since January 5th after sustaining a concussion. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Sidney Crosby's return highlighted the night, but there was plenty of action around the NHL on Monday. Rally balloons in Washington, missing defensemen in Philadelphia, a wild comeback in Florida and a brawl in the stands in Montreal, all in one evening.
"Sidney Crosby is a movie" was probably the most accurate statement I read on Twitter last night, as the Pittsburgh Penguins star returned from injury, scored on just his third shift and wound up with four points in a 5-0 victory.
Yes, indeed, it was a Hollywood-like night at the CONSOL Energy Center from the moment Sid stepped on the ice in warmups -- to a standing ovation (in warmups!) -- to the moment he scored that first goal to the moment he stepped away from the podium after the game. He proved exactly what we should be thankful for as hockey fans this Thanksgiving: the best hockey player in the world is back in action, and damn, he's fun to watch.
But Crosby's (literally) unbelievable return wasn't the only crazy that happened in hockey last night. Crosby's return overshadowed six other games in the NHL on Monday night, and most of them came with their own dose of crazy as well.
Let's start in South Florida. New Jersey Devils coach Peter DeBoer returned to face the team that fired him just a few months back, quickly took a 3-0 lead over that team, and then wound up blowing that lead in a stunning 4-3 loss. Even crazier than the first three-goal regulation comeback in Florida Panthers history is this note, from Litter Box Cats:
How about that top line? Is there a better line in the league right now? I know, you can't believe you're reading that, and I can't believe I'm typing it, but numbers don't lie: Versteeg now has 25 points, Weiss has 21, and Butters has 20. That line has compiled 66 points in 20 games, which puts them near the top of the NHL. They are no joke.
It's true. It's really true. The Florida Panthers might just have the best line in hockey right now.
Chris Pronger was suffering from some sort of virus -- forgot to install Norton, apparently -- and Braydon Coburn has an undisclosed upper-body injury. Even more perplexing was that Coburn skated in the morning before the game, but according to general manager Paul Holmgren, he could skate, just not take contact.
In the absense of two of their best defensemen, the Flyers were forced to call up the services of two guys who havenever played in the NHL before in their lives: AHL defensemen Marc-Andre Bourdon and Kevin Marshall. In about two hours, the Flyers defense went from one of the best in the NHL to a unit of Kimmo Timonen, Matt Carle, the struggling Andrej Meszaros, Bourdon, Marshall, and Andreas Lilja. Yikes.
If that's not crazy enough, the Flyers had to clear a spot on their 23-man roster, so they sent rookie Harry Zolnierczyk not to Adirondack of the AHL, but all the way to Trenton of the ECHL. You've probably never heard of the first-year kid from Brown University, but he's been playing so well that the Flyers had him replace the injured Jaromir Jagr on their top line this past Saturday in Winnipeg.
There's an explanation for all of this, of course, but that doesn't make it any less absurd.
There is no music choice I would have picked over whatever that was that played as this fight broke out. (Tetris, was it?)
Finally, in Washington: the Most Crazy. Alexander Semin was a healthy scratch on Monday night for the Caps, as pressure has mounted on him and his coach to, basically, stop performing like absolute crap. Semin has been awful this season, and as his ice time and scoring have decreased, his penalty minutes have ballooned. He's been bad in every sense of the word.
Semin's time in the box isn't the only thing that's ballooned in Washington lately. With No. 28 looking on from the press box, a literal balloon hovered over the ice at Verizon Center on Monday night as the Caps were trying to fight their way back from a 2-1 deficit against Phoenix.
Cody Eakin scored two minutes later to tie the game at 2-2, and from there, the Capitals would get two more goals en route to a 4-3 win over Phoenix. It was Bruce Bourdreau's 200th win as an NHL coach, and now #rallyballoon is an actual thing. Like, it's on Twitter and on t-shirts and everything.
What a night.
Morning Skate is a daily NHL column. It runs Monday through Friday. Check the archives.