The truly star players just have the magical aura and always seem to rise to the occasion. Sidney Crosby has the "it" factor in spades, whether it’s scoring the game-winning shootout goal in the snow in the first Winter Classic, or the golden goal in OT in 2010, when the moment is there to be taken, Crosby seemingly always has the knack of rising to the occasion and making magic happen.
Last night in Vancouver, his first game in that building since the aforementioned Vancouver Olympics, Crosby added another chapter to his book of magic. He scored the game tying goal with 55 seconds left, and then went on to score the only goal of the shootout, because of course he did. That’s just how the storybook goes.
The rest is all to be lost in the static- the Pens held a 2-1 lead after two periods and with a 19-2-0 record this year (coming into the game) when they were up after two periods, all was settling in for a quiet, routine road win. It wouldn’t be that easy- Vancouver tied the game seven minutes into the period, then scored two goals in a 0:17 second span, setting them up nicely it appeared to coast to a win with 6:34 left in the game.
Pittsburgh wouldn’t go quietly into the night, when Kris Letang scored a goal on Eddie Lack with 1:11 left. The Pens had life and kept the rally going, with Crosby equalizing the score 16 seconds after Letang did from right in front of the net.
It’s lame to speak in superlatives all the time and the words "extraordinary" and "unbelievable" are used far too much in sports, but getting two goals in the final 70 seconds to tie a game and then win it in a shootout is extraordinarily unbelievable.
Some more thoughts on the game:
- The end result and the good things will outweigh and outshine the bad for Crosby. When you win the game for the team, bumps in the road- like Crosby’s risky centering pass from his own zone that ended up on Jason Garrison’s stick for the Canucks first goal. Crosby also took an Evgeni Malkin shot on the inside of his foot that seemed to bug him for a while. But, as the saying goes "all’s well that ends well".
- Crosby may have won the game, but his shadow shouldn’t be cast on Marc-Andre Fleury. Fleury’s stops on all three Canucks shooters boosts the Pens goalie to 11 saves in 11 shooters faced in the shootout. He’s been tremendous there.
- On a day where Team Canada was released and he was entirely an afterthought, Kris Letang might have had his best game of the season. His goal in the final minute gave the Pens life. He also had 6 total shots on goal with 2 more shots blocked and one more missing the net. Throw in three hits, a blocked shots and a team high 24:47 played and we’re back to having a stat-line resembling the ones Letang would put up last season when he was a Norris trophy finalist.
- The second line of Jussi Jokinen – Malkin – James Neal continues to lead the Pens in shots (14) and total shot attempts (23). When they’re on the ice, they’re tipping it in Pittsburgh’s favor big-time, and tonight the trio combined for a goal and three assists.
- Nice display of speed by Brian Gibbons to score the game’s opening goal. Crosby lost the faceoff cleanly in the defensive zone (usually a bad thing) but Gibbons sped up the ice, got a good bounce of the puck and was off to the races and tucked home a backhand breakaway shot like a guy who’s scored 200 NHL goals and not just 2.
- One thing the Pens were able to do was keep Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin off the scoreboard, with Brooks Orpik and Simon Despres getting the most time against the twins. That defensive pair would each finish a -2, not entirely all their fault, but keeping the Canucks’ best off the scoreboard proved to be huge.
- This game featured the #1 and #2 penalty kills in the league, and that showed with both power plays going 0-for-2. The Pens PP looked a little disoriented in gaining clean zone entries and were unable to setup and get a lot of the good chances that they usually generate. Vancouver also had a lot of sticks deflecting passes away and showed why they do boast the league’s best PK.
- Tough night for Malkin (4 of 16 wins) in the faceoff circle. Ryan Kesler (15 of 25 wins) bested him there all night long. USA! USA! USA! Oh wait, a little early for that.
A hard-earned and exciting finish for the Pens, who’ll get a few days off before their Western Canada road trip marches on the Calgary on Friday night.