While Louis Domingue and the Penguins penalty kill held the fort early in the third period of Game 3 against the Rangers last night, the game was still tied and Pittsburgh needed to score again to secure the win.
The go-ahead goal would be scored by Danton Heinen, on what wasn’t the best or most dangerous shot but one that still slipped past Alexandar Georgiev with 8:58 to go. It was a fitting response for Heinen, who went to the penalty box twice in the game, and also to augment the impressive amount of depth scoring that the Pens got from their second power play group and Evan Rodrigues.
Danton Heinen: "Obviously, we were super happy with the start. But it's a tough lead to have there, they have a lot of game left, they're gonna get their chances. I think later on in the third, we just simplified. Got back to our game and stuck with it."— Pens Inside Scoop (@PensInsideScoop) May 8, 2022
No one plays more simple and effective keep away than Sidney Crosby, and the Pens captain really came to life down the stretch of the game.
Crosby’s work in the third period highlighted another solid game. Per Evolving Hockey, with Crosby on the ice the Pens carried 74.6% of expected goals, dramatically shifting the ice in Pittsburgh’s favor as he has done all series.
As our pal Jesse Marshall noted, it was Crosby who often had the Rangers on the ropes, at a time in the game when they were desperate to have the pucks themselves and make a push to tie the game.
After New York erased a big deficit in the second period, it looked like Game 3, and possibly the series at large was there for the taking in the third period. But the play went the exact opposite way. Per The Athletic, overall at 5v5 in the third period: “Pittsburgh controlled expected goals (72 percent), shot attempts (22-9), scoring chances (14-4) and high-danger chances (6-2)”.
That made for an emphatic response to blowing the big lead and pulling out the crucial win. And, even though Heinen was the one to score, the impact of Crosby can’t be under-stated.
Sidney Crosby is not a real human being pic.twitter.com/akMCpmOjJU— Mark Shulkin (@MarkShulkin4) May 8, 2022
Crosby would put the exclamation point on the night with a between the legs saucer pass for Jeff Carter to tap in for an empty net goal. It also was a significant point in the big picture as Crosby’s 197th playoff point, which had him pass Paul Coffey for sixth place all-time in playoff scoring.
Sidney Crosby with one of the all-time prettiest empty-net assists pic.twitter.com/7vXpSIKRyF— Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett) May 8, 2022
Crosby is up to six points (1G+5A) in the three games of this playoff. Along with Jake Guentzel, Sid and his line almost single-handedly willed Game 2 into a competitive contest in the third period before New York pulled away. The first line did not score in Game 3 (until Crosby’s empty net assists) but still were dangerous and put their stamp on the game.
For Pittsburgh to win playoff games and then build that into attempting to win playoff series, they need their star players to play like stars. The Pens are up 2-1 at this point in very large part because the best player on the ice so far this series has been their captain.
The Pens needed that kind of steadying force after blowing a three goal lead in the second period.
“What might be the most rewarding part for me as the coach in winning this game is that a lot of teams, when you allow a team back into the game in the fashion that we did. In a lot of those instances, a lot of teams don’t recover from that,” coach Mike Sullivan said after the game. “I think it speaks volumes for the character of the group and the leadership that we have, that we were able to move by it.”
The best advantage that Sullivan has in times like these is that he knows the Pens never have to look too far for character and leadership. He just has to tap No. 87 on the shoulder and send him out for the next shift.