It was only a matter of time before Sidney Crosby found the back of the net in the 2009 Stanley Cup Final, which is exactly what the Pittsburgh Penguins' captain did midway through a wild second period in a 4-2 win against the Detroit Red Wings in Game 4 at Mellon Arena on Thursday night.
Crosby had been held without a goal in the first three games of this series -- a series that became a best-of-3 when the final horn sounded -- but No. 87 certainly wasn't short on scoring chances. His 15th goal of the playoffs came at 10:34 of the second period, when he redirected a pretty feed by Evgeni Malkin past Chris Osgood and broke a 2-2 tie. It was the second of three consecutive goals by the Pens, all scored in a span of 5:47.
Even though he didn't record his first point of the Final until the Pens returned home for Game 3 -- he assisted on Sergei Gonchar's winner in the third period Tuesday night -- most sensed that Crosby was on the verge of breaking through. That breakthrough came Thursday, and it proved to be the game-winning goal.
Back-to-back victories against the defending champions. Forty-eight hours apart, Crosby factored into a pair of goals that has made this a series again. The questions regarding when the Pens' captain will find the back of the net against the Red Wings can now stop.
"Any time you're getting chances and it's not going in, you've just got to stick with things," Crosby said. "You don't want to change a whole lot. You've got to just bear down and focus and keep getting those chances. If that happens, hopefully they're going to go in."
When the red light went on, the man standing behind Pittsburgh's bench was arguably the least surprised person in the building.
"We know how well he's played. We know he's gotten scoring chances," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said of Crosby. "We know he's been in and around the net like he often is and has been throughout these playoffs. Tonight, he got the result -- and it was a big result for us. He got the game-winning goal."
It was probably one of the more painful goals of Crosby's career. With his arms in the air in celebration, Crosby was tackled by teammate Kris Letang and fell straight on his back. He may not have felt the pain at the time, but he certainly might feel a little stiff Friday morning.
"I was driving the net and I was just trying to get a rebound, but obviously he put it in," Letang said. "I was just continuing my run and I hit him pretty hard. I think he woke up and he was fine after it, so that was good."
Luckily for Letang, his coach was screened for the celebration and missed the tackle. More important, it was OK to joke about it afterwards.
"I just saw the replay when I came up here. I didn't realize he had buried Sid on his back," Bylsma said. "Kris Letang is a physical player, and he showed it again there."
"I didn't expect Tanger to come that hard," Crosby joked. "He was happy for me. It feels good to see it go in, for sure."
It was only a matter of time.
Contact Brian Compton at firstname.lastname@example.org.