Penguins captain Sidney Crosby posts four points in vintage return

PITTSBURGH -- Captain Sidney Crosby had a goal and three assists in his long-awaited return from core muscle surgery, and the Penguins cruised past the Minnesota Wild 7-3 on Tuesday night.

Crosby, who has been participating in full-contact practice with the Penguins since Saturday, took 21 shifts in the victory, logging 17:53 of ice time.

He assisted on both of Evgeni Malkin's goals, including one 7:57 into the game, and scored off an assist from Jared McCann 7:41 into the third.

"I had a lot of energy, I was excited to be out there," Crosby said in his postgame interview on NBC Sports Network. "And the team is playing well. That definitely helped."

It was vintage Crosby, on home ice, as he won 11 faceoffs, and played 4:53 on the power play, showing the mix of speed, power and endurance that has made him an eight-time All-Star.

Crosby missed 28 games while he recovered from Nov. 9 surgery, but the team gave strong indication that he was near a return last week, when he traveled with the Penguins on a three-game trip vs. Western Conference foes. Though he didn't play in any of the games -- all victories -- he took part in morning skates and practices, inching closer to being back.

Pittsburgh went 18-6-4 without Crosby and is in the No. 2 playoff seed in the Metropolitan Division. The Penguins have won four in a row, and five of six. Crosby admitted that watching the team succeed without him helped take some of the sting out of his lengthy rehabilitation and promised he "wouldn't get too fancy'' in hopes of maintaining the selfless, diligent identity the Penguins carved out in his absence.

"Our consistency has been there," Crosby said. "We just have to keep it simple."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.