Crosby’s Long-Awaited Signature has Pens Pondering The Possibilities
For Sidney Crosby and for the Penguins, happy days are here again. But the emotion of the moment won’t mean much if Crosby and the Penguins aren’t able to build upon it as the series progresses.
When Elvis left the building this time, he took the elephant in the room and the monkey on Sidney Crosby’s back with him.
Now, an already dizzying Eastern Conference Final between the Lightning and the Penguins has a chance to really sizzle when hostilities resume tonight and Friday night in Tampa.
Crosby’s goal at 40 seconds of overtime in Game 2 on Monday night at CONSOL Energy Center was the first of his career in an extra session in a postseason game and his seventh career game-winning goal in the playoffs.
You’d think someone so often professed by so many to have a best-player-in-the-word pedigree would have more than that in both categories.
Instead, Crosby had zero goals in a streak that had reached eight consecutive games and three consecutive periods before finding a way to bend the puck around Andrei Vasilevskiy and in the process save the Penguins’ bacon, at least temporarily.
A two-games-to-none series deficit wouldn't have been a death sentence for the Penguins, but it might have been time to start pricing caskets given the Lightning’s speed, skill and status as the Eastern Conference’s defending champions.
But suddenly the teams are all even heading into Games 3 and 4 in Tampa in a series that has featured every ounce of the high-level hockey that had characterized the previous round against the Capitals in an even higher-stakes setting.
That helps to explain why CONSOL Energy Center was absolutely pulsating on Monday night and will be again on Sunday when it hosts Game 5.
For Crosby and for the Penguins, happy days are here again.
But the emotion of the moment won’t mean much if Crosby and the Penguins aren’t able to build upon it as the series progresses.
That’s what made Monday night a potential turning point, but no more than that.
Crosby’s well-publicized and much-dissected eight-game streak without a goal coincided with a six-game drought being suffered by fellow superstar Evgeni Malkin, a run of ineptitude that was extended to seven consecutive games despite Monday night’s dramatics.
Make me a milkshake Malkin?
They’re going to have to get him off the back of a milk carton first.
Somehow, the Penguins had survived that aforementioned six-game battle against the Capitals with their dynamic duo combing for just one goal between them.
That was a tribute, in part, to the Penguins’ depth.
But it isn’t likely to happen again.
It’s difficult to win in the long run without secondary scoring.
But it’s almost impossible when your primary scoring becomes your secondary scoring in the postseason.
And for all the theories about top-defensive pairs and checking lines shutting down top-end talent and the game constricting in the playoffs and referees looking the other way and the significance of playing the right way without getting frustrated, for players of Crosby’s stature it is inevitably going to come down to the most basic of hockey acts.
Crosby knows that better than anyone.
“He is our unquestioned leader,” defenseman Ben Lovejoy declared regarding Crosby in a locker room that seemed to be experiencing equal parts elation and relief late Monday night. “And he judges himself by filling the net.”
As he should.
Now that he’s found it again the Penguins have new life and Crosby at long last has the signature playoff moment that had somehow eluded him over the course of the first 112 games of his postseason career.
You could argue his power-play goal that opened the scoring in Game 7 in 2009 against Washington was more significant.
But it’s never been more dramatic or more ecstatic, particularly in the CONSOL Energy Center era for Crosby or for the Penguins, than it was when the red light went on in OT and the Penguins poured over the boards and dog-piled their captain in the corner.
At that moment Crosby officially had his mojo back.
It’s what he does with it that will matter the most for Crosby and for the Pens.