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Crosby downplays highlight-reel goal

by Shawn P. Roarke

PITTSBURGH -- Don't go erecting a statue to celebrate the brilliance of Sidney Crosby just yet.

That was the message from the Pittsburgh Penguins' captain in the wake of his latest highlight-reel goal on Thursday night in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the New York Islanders at Consol Energy Center.

Crosby's breakaway goal, which made the score 3-0, was so breathtaking that some immediately compared it to the most legendary goal in Penguins' history -- Mario Lemieux's split-the-defense-and-deke-the-goalie tally against the Minnesota North Stars in Game 2 of the 1991 Stanley Cup Final.

That goal, in part, earned Lemieux a statue outside Consol Energy Center.

"His was much nicer than mine," Crosby said when told of the similarities between the two after Pittsburgh's 4-0 victory. "He went through guys and stickhandled through them and stickhandled around the goalie, too.

"I had a few less moves and a pretty basic shot, but I'll take the goal anytime it goes in."

While it may not be statuesque in nature, Crosby is short-selling his accomplishment.

In a series-defining game, the Penguins were leading 2-0 late in the second period until Crosby took his game up a couple of notches.

Pascal Dupuis made a good play along the wall and got the puck to Jarome Iginla, who was able to hit Crosby in stride as he motored through the neutral zone. Crosby generated speed as he accepted Iginla's pass; he was able to stickhandle across the attacking blue line and present a difficult angle for the retreating defensive pair of Thomas Hickey and Lubomir Visnovsky.

Suddenly, Crosby found another gear and split the defenders before darting to his right and curling back a bit toward the goal to get a good shooting angle on Islanders goalie Evgeni Nabokov. In the blink of an eye, Crosby snapped his wrists and his low shot zipped past Nabokov and found the far corner.

While Crosby tried to downplay it, others refused to play along.

"It was a pretty amazing goal," coach Dan Bylsma said. "Pretty spectacular. Not only the speed you see, but the move, coming out the other side for a big goal.

"I thought that goal really propelled our team. I don't know what I think is more dramatic, the goal or the celebration after."

Crosby, who had struggled at times in the first period of the game, did break into a huge smile as he skated backwards into the corner to greet his teammates and celebrate the back-breaking goal.

"That's what Sid does; he's so fast and, obviously, it's really hard to knock him off the puck," Pittsburgh goalie Tomas Vokoun said. "He just got free there, and once he gets on the same level as the defensemen it's really tough to stop him. Great individual effort and big goal for us."

The goal just seemed to spark Crosby -- he and his reconfigured line, with Iginla promoted and moved to the right side and Dupuis playing on his left -- got stronger and stronger after the goal at the 14-minute mark of the middle period.

He added another brilliant play to his portfolio in the third period when Kris Letang closed the scoring with a power-play goal at the 5:43 mark of the third period, a goal that chased Nabokov from the game.

Crosby won the faceoff that followed a Matt Martin roughing penalty and drew the puck back to defenseman Paul Martin, who almost immediately fed it back to Crosby in the circle to left of Nabokov. From there, Crosby put a backhand saucer pass right onto the stick of Letang as he slid in from the right point. Letang hammered the pass past Nabokov.

"It was just a great saucer pass," Letang said. "It was pretty high in the air. He did a great job and it landed pretty flat on my stick. That was a great pass by an outstanding player."

It was also the exclamation point for a night not soon to be forgotten by the Penguins' superstar.

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