Sidney Crosby is one goal away from another very impressive personal accomplishment. Leading the Pittsburgh Penguins to a second Atlantic Division title in three years would be yet another achievement for the superstar center.
Crosby seeks his first 50-goal season while trying to keep the Penguins in the race for the division title Saturday night when they visit the Atlanta Thrashers.
In a five-year career that already includes a Stanley Cup, a scoring title, a league MVP and an Olympic gold medal, the 22-year old Crosby has yet to reach the 50-goal plateau. His best total entering this season was 39 in his 2005-06 rookie campaign, but he has shattered that mark with 49 in 2009-10.
Crosby appeared to score his 50th in Thursday's 7-3 victory over the Islanders but the goal was eventually given to Bill Guerin, leaving the Pittsburgh captain with a goal and three assists in the final regular-season game at Mellon Arena.
"It's one of those numbers," Crosby said. "It's a nice accomplishment. You don't think about those things a lot."
The four points gave Crosby 501, making him the third-youngest player in NHL history to reach 500 behind Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux.
"It's fate that in the last regular-season game, there's another story to tell about a Mellon Arena game and Sidney Crosby getting four points," coach Dan Bylsma told the Penguins' official Web site.
Crosby also has a chance to lead the league in goals. He fell one behind Alex Ovechkin for the lead after the Washington superstar scored twice Friday. Crosby is one goal from becoming the first Penguin with 50 since Jaromir Jagr in 2000-01.
Almost overshadowed by Crosby and the Mellon Arena celebration was the return of Evgeni Malkin, who scored on a breakaway following a six-game absence with a bruised right foot and an undisclosed illness. Malkin, who's tallied goals in three straight games overall, has scored six with 12 assists during an eight-game point streak against Atlanta.
"I wasn't thinking about trying to score before the game," Malkin said. "I want to play good every game because the playoffs are starting soon."
Pittsburgh (46-27-7) is tied with New Jersey atop the Atlantic, but the Devils own the tiebreaker. After this game, the Penguins close the regular season Sunday at the Islanders while New Jersey is home Saturday against the Islanders and Sunday versus Buffalo.
The Penguins will be without forward Alexei Ponikarovsky for their final two regular-season games after he received a major penalty for boarding on Thursday.
Even with no goals from Crosby, the Penguins have won all three meetings with the Thrashers this season, giving them eight straight wins in the series. Atlanta (34-34-13) hasn't beaten Pittsburgh since Jan. 30, 2008.
The Thrashers will miss the playoffs for the ninth time in 10 seasons but at least can boast of improving on last season's 76-point total.
Atlanta needs a win Saturday to avoid a season-ending five-game losing streak.
The Thrashers, outscored 13-2 during a four-game home skid, allowed three third-period goals in a 5-2 loss at Washington on Friday night.