Moments after diving through the crease to keep the score tied, Crosby set up the winner in stupendous fashion. Hanging onto the puck behind the Ottawa net, he ragged the puck back and forth behind the goal three times looking for space as Jason Spezza doggedly tried to check him. Crosby finally came out from behind the net and as he fell in the right circle, he pushed the puck to Letang at the point. The defenseman fired a shot through a Bill Guerin screen for the winning goal with 4:12 left in regulation.
"I was just trying to get some space," Crosby said. "Someone was on me, not sure who was following me around, they were tracking me pretty good. I finally got a step, tried to get to the net, but they had a ton of guys there, a couple of our guys were there as well. I just tried to make the play to Tanger (Letang). He had a ton of time. He did a great job getting it through. They had a lot of guys there."
After Peter Regin's goal 18 seconds into the game seemed to deflate a sold-out Mellon Arena, Crosby evened the game. He beat Spezza on a draw just outside the Ottawa end and Chris Kunitz emerged from the scrum with the puck. He pushed it between Anton Volchenkov's skates and fired a shot from the left side that Brian Elliott stopped, but Crosby, driving to the net, banged in the rebound at 8:45 of the first period.
The end of the first featured a heavy hit by Ottawa's Andy Sutton that knocked Pittsburgh's Jordan Leopold out of the game. Leopold was carrying the puck along the wall in the neutral zone when Sutton arrived with a thunderous check and left Leopold face-down on the ice for several minutes. He eventually skated off under his own power, but did not return.
"He is being evaluated," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "He's suffering from the hit. He'll be evaluated further tomorrow to see where he's at."
That turned up the heat on an already physical series, and the first period was capped by Pittsburgh's Brooks Orpik shoving an Ottawa player through the open Zamboni chute door and the Penguins' Maxime Talbot and the Senators' Zack Smith dropping the gloves after the horn sounded.
After a scoreless second, it was Crosby's Superman dive through the crease that preserved the 1-1 score after a Volchenkov shot squeezed through Marc-Andre Fleury with 9:13 left in regulation.
"It could have been anybody else," Crosby said. "I was just sitting there waiting to see where the puck ended up. Just squeezed through. Lucky Flower (Fleury) didn't try moving back. It's kind of one of those delicate things -- you're watching it, not sure what to do. I just tried to poke it through and there was just enough room to poke it through the other side. Great to see it get out of there."
He wasn't the only one feeling that way.
"I think Flower is a little more appreciative for the one that got behind him and him diving after it," Bylsma said.
Bylsma said Crosby's strong play was what he expected to see from his captain, and saw his strong play filter throughout the lineup.
"That is what good teams have and good leaders have," Bylsma said. "It's most often not about the words they say but it's about what they do and what they do on the ice. Those are great examples of watching it and everyone in the building is pretty clear about what he's doing on the ice. You want to follow that."
Ottawa coach Cory Clouston was just as impressed by Crosby's play.
"We knew he was going to have some success against us," he said. "It's impossible to stop him, especially every night. I thought he was the best player on the ice tonight and he showed what he's able to do. When they needed a goal he made a big play. He stopped one from crossing the goal line for us. He was real good tonight."
Crosby, as usual, downplayed his effort.
"I was just trying to do the same thing as everyone else," he said. "We all had the right mindset tonight. We knew we needed to be physical, knew we needed to be smarter in the way we played. It's two teams who want to play the exact same way. They want to get their (defense) involved in the rush, they want to be quick, they want to be physical. Both teams want to control the puck. It's a matchup of two teams looking for the exact same thing and it's going to come down to who wants to do it better."
Contact Adam Kimelman at email@example.com
Shift of the night: Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma said he wanted the line of Jordan Staal, Matt Cooke and Tyler Kennedy to play more in the offensive end, and early in the third period, they did just that. The trio didn't score a goal, but they certainly put the Senators on their heels and nearly scored off a faceoff play when Staal beat Jason Spezza and got a deflection off Cooke that Anton Volchenkov had to dive to pull off the goal line.
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