Sidney Crosby dreamed of hoisting the Stanley Cup too many times to count, but none of those scenarios involved him watching the third period of a do-or-die Game 7 from the bench.DETROIT --
But that was the scenario that unfolded Friday night as the Pittsburgh Penguins defeated Detroit, 2-1, in Game 7 to win the Stanley Cup. Crosby injured his left knee on a hit by Johan Franzen early in the second period and watched helplessly -- except for an ineffective 32-second shift midway through the third period -- as his team held on for dear life through a frenetic, last-gasp effort by Detroit to defend its championship.
"I don't recommend it," said Crosby, who at 21 is the youngest captain in NHL history to win a Stanley Cup. "It was so painful. I mean, being a captain and seeing what the guys are doing out there blocking shots. Seeing how intense it was, it was even more painful to see it go like that."
Crosby, who had 31 points in the Stanley Cup Playoffs to finish second behind Conn Smythe-winning teammate Evgeni Malkin, tried everything to get back on the ice. He said he took as much numbing agent as the doctors would allow and then swallowed a couple of pain pills. But his left knee -- which was pinned between the boards and Franzen's hip on the neutral zone hit -- would not respond.
Crosby said he couldn't stop or turn very well during the one shift he allowed himself to take midway through the third period. It was then that he knew he would not be on the ice to decide the most important game of his life.
"You get to a point where you've got to ask yourself whether you're going to be hurting your team by being out there," Crosby said. "I knew I had done everything I could to numb it or try to play through it. But at the same time I'm playing against (Pavel) Datsyuk and (Henrik) Zetterberg. One misstep and I could cost the guys a lot of hard work. I didn't want to be the guy who did that."
So he stayed glued to the bench, watching the time tick away ever-so-slowly and seeing his teammates sacrifice more than even he could imagine.
"Sidney Crosby has bailed us out so many times," forward Bill Guerin said. "It was our turn to bail him out. We had to get this done."
The determination to get "this done" was galvanized even as Crosby weaved his way across the ice, unable to put weight on his injured knee.
"You never want to see your captain go down, but I think everyone just sucked it up and played the extra minutes," Pittsburgh defenseman Rob Scuderi told NHL.com. "There's nothing you can do. You can either whine about it and give up a lot of chances and maybe let them tie the game; or we could suck it up and keep going."
The Penguins did the latter and withheld the furious final charge of a proud champion to deliver Crosby the Stanley Cup that has been his heart's desire since he became a hockey sensation as a young teenager in Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia.
Max Talbot, who scored the Penguins' two goals Friday night, has known Crosby for almost a decade. He know the pressure that Crosby has been under throughout that time, first in junior hockey and then with Team Canada at the World Juniors and finally with the Penguins, where Crosby was ordained as the "Next One," the inheritor of the mantle of greatness handed down from Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux, the former star player and current owner of the Penguins.
"You know what, he is our team," Talbot said. "He is the heart and soul of the Pittsburgh Penguins. I think everybody knows that. If they don't, well, I'm telling you, he is our leader. What he brings every day to the rink is special. The pressure he had to go through to become that player is really special.
"He respects the game. He loves the game. And you know what, today is so special to win that for him, with him.
When the final second of Game 7 ticked off the clock, when Marc-Andre Fleury had launched himself across his crease to get a diving blocker glove on a shot from Nick Lidstrom that appeared destined to force overtime, the pain was suddenly gone from Crosby's leg -- if only temporarily.
The Penguins captain piled over the boards and onto the ice, celebrating an accomplishment he had dreamed about for so long but could never be sure would happen.
"It's a dream come true," a clearly spent Crosby said almost 45 minutes after he accepted the Stanley Cup from NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. "It's everything you imagined and more."