In his first game back since scoring the gold medal-winning goal for Canada at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, Crosby helped set up Kris Letang's goal with 1:11 left, tied it himself a little more than 16 seconds later, then scored the only goal in the shootout to lead Pittsburgh to a dramatic 5-4 win against the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday night.
Having Crosby in the building again brought back memories. So did watching him celebrate the tying goal a few feet from where the gold medal celebration happened, then score the winner on a shootout deke between goalie Eddie Lack's legs into the same net.
"It's hard not to think about it when you're out there," Crosby said. "Kind of put it in the back of your mind though, because there's some other important things happening in the next little while."
After giving up the lead on goals 17 seconds apart earlier in the third, Marc-Andre Fleury was on the bench for an extra attacker when Letang, who was robbed a couple of times and hit a crossbar earlier in the game, beat a screened Lack on the glove side at 18:49.
"Tough game," said Letang, playing his second game after missing 10 with an upper-body injury. "I had so many chances and to not be able to convert and put the game away was tough, but all the guys told me to stick with it, there's always a next shot, and it ended up being a goal."
Crosby scored the tying goal with 54.2 seconds left after being left alone at the side of the net to tap in a rebound pass through the crease from Chris Kunitz.
It capped a good day for Kunitz, who was named to the Canadian roster for the 2014 Sochi Olympics with Crosby earlier Tuesday.
"We gave the best player in the world an open net with a minute to go," said Lack, who made 31 saves. "That can't really happen."
It's happened too often this year for the Canucks, who failed to hold on to a lead for the fourth time in the past five games. They've lost five straight, matching their longest losing streak of the season.
It was also the fifth time Vancouver has surrendered a tying goal after the opposition pulls its goalie for an extra attacker, though they did win two in overtime.
"I feel like when we are in it, it actually feels good, and then when they got their third one, I don't know if we panicked or not," Lack said.
It was a familiar ending to a game that was anything but for Crosby.
Held without a point the first 58:49, it would've been the first time in six games and the second time in the past 17 games he was kept off the scoresheet. The Penguins captain even committed the turnover that sparked the Canucks' comeback, but his team never panicked.
"It doesn't matter what the score is with our team; we always believe we can come back," said Fleury, who finished with 22 saves.
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma passed Eddie Johnson for the Penguins' franchise record with his 233rd career victory.
"Memorable game, yes," Bylsma said. "I knew the number at the start of the season, but I didn't think we'd be getting it this quickly. To pass an Eddie Johnson, he's a big figure in our dressing room and a big figure in our organization, and it's a milestone."
Bylsma wasn't shocked that it included heroics from Crosby -- especially here.
"I wasn't surprised by the celebration in that corner," he said.
Pittsburgh's late rally ended a wild third period in which the Canucks overcame a 2-1 deficit to take a two-goal lead. Defenseman Chris Tanev tied it at 7:39 before Chris Higgins and Zack Kassian scored 17 seconds apart to put Vancouver ahead 4-2.
"They did it to us, so it was nice we did it back," said Fleury, who stopped all three Vancouver attempts in the shootout and hasn't given up a goal on 11 chances this season. "When your team does something like that, you just want to help out, and I got my chance in the shootout."
With his team trailing 2-0, defenseman Jason Garrison started the Canucks' comeback with his fifth goal with 4:25 left in the second period after an uncharacteristic giveaway by Crosby.
Crosby's blind backhand out of the corner went to Garrison atop the right circle, and he wristed his first goal in 14 games, and 100th career NHL point, past Fleury high on the blocker side.
Tanev, who also had an assist, tied it at 2-2 with a low shot through a screen by Higgins and Kassian, and Higgins put the Canucks ahead on a breakaway, slipping a backhand through the legs of a sprawling Fleury with 6:53 left. He assisted on Kassian's goal on the next shift.
Seconds after Lack robbed James Neal at the other end, Kassian, who also had an assist, batted Higgins' high pass out of the air and chipped a floater over Fleury's shoulder. Again, it wasn't enough.
"It's happened way too many times," captain Henrik Sedin, who didn't take any faceoffs but denied a report he is playing through an injury, said of all the blown leads. "We should have at least five of six more points right now. We have to take a look and see what we are doing wrong."
Vancouver coach John Tortorella was blunt when asked if his team was fragile. "Sure it is," he said.
"This one was a doozy," Tortorella said. "That's what is around us. We are going to try to exorcise it and get it away from us."
|Brian Gibbons (2) ASST: NONE|
1 - 0 PIT
|Evgeni Malkin (12) ASST: James Neal (19), Olli Maatta (11)|
2 - 0 PIT
|Jason Garrison (5) ASST: NONE|
2 - 1 PIT
|Christopher Tanev (5) ASST: Dan Hamhuis (10), Zack Kassian (3)|
2 - 2 Tie
|Chris Higgins (12) ASST: Jannik Hansen (5), Yannick Weber (3)|
3 - 2 VAN
|Zack Kassian (8) ASST: Chris Higgins (13), Kevin Bieksa (14)|
4 - 2 VAN
|Kris Letang (7) ASST: Jussi Jokinen (19), Sidney Crosby (41)|
4 - 3 VAN
|Sidney Crosby (24) ASST: Chris Kunitz (25), Jussi Jokinen (20)|
4 - 4 Tie
|1||Z. Kassian||J. Jokinen|
|2||M. Santorelli||S. Crosby|
|Taylor Pyatt Interference against Darren Archibald|
|Jason Garrison Holding against Kris Letang|
|Simon Despres Tripping against Daniel Sedin|
|Tom Sestito Charging against Kris Letang|