PITTSBURGH — While Lightning star Steven Stamkos and Penguins star Sidney Crosby insisted Monday's game between their teams was not solely about them, it was difficult not to make comparisons between the league's top two offensive forces.
Crosby has league bests of 36 points and 25 assists. Stamkos, second in points with 34, has a league-best 17 goals.
"Steven Stamkos is more of a shooter, but Sid is an explosive guy with speed up the ice," Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma said.
"You see that in Stamkos, too. They're both guys who go around the cage and they don't just go on the offensive side of the puck and find their offense that way. They go into the tough areas down low, and they're good there."
Crosby also showed plenty of respect for his rival.
"He competes every shift and his consistency has allowed him to be successful," he said. "He doesn't need much time or space and he makes you pay every time he gets a chance."
Crosby fought off Stamkos before passing to Chris Kunitz who scored in the first on Monday. Stamkos' 17th goal made the score 4-3 with eight seconds left.
"To be in the same sentence with him is pretty special," Stamkos said of Crosby. "I still have a long way to go and lot of things to work on before you get mentioned with a guy like that."
SUITING UP: Ondrej Palat was called up Sunday while with AHL Syracuse in Hershey, Pa.
The Crunch had traveled in track suits, Palat said. So before the left wing made the 3½-hour trip to Pittsburgh in a car sent by Tampa Bay, he ran to a store to buy a suit and shirts.
"A big day for me," said the left wing, who played 9:28 against the Penguins and got his first NHL point with a secondary assist on Tom Pyatt's goal.
Palat, 21, drafted 208th overall in 2011, had 11 goals, 44 points in 49 games for Syracuse. Lightning coach Guy Boucher called him "the most consistent, most complete player the last two years on that team."
About Monday, Boucher said, "He played terrific. He made terrific passes, poised with the puck, very reliable defensively."
Palat, 6 feet, 180 pounds, was not entirely at loose ends as former Crunch teammates Alex Killorn, Cory Conacher and Pierre-Cedric Labrie had pregame advice. "They told me to play my game and don't be nervous," Palat said, "because I'm very nervous right now."
MORE INJURIES: LW Ben Pouliot (upper body) won't play this week, Boucher said. Pouliot has a sling on his right arm. No surgery is indicated, Boucher said. … D Sami Salo (lower body) played after missing two games. … LW Ryan Malone (lower body) missed his 12th game.
ODDS AND ENDS: F Adam Hall played after two games as a scratch. … D Brendan Mikkelson and Marc-Andre Bergeron were scratched.