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Penguins get 'big boost' from Crosby

Captain ends goal drought in OT of Game 2 of Eastern Conference Final against Lightning

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / Staff Writer

PITTSBURGH -- Amid the joyous excitement in the victorious Pittsburgh Penguins locker room Monday, Sidney Crosby stood by his stall having a quiet conversation with owner Mario Lemieux.

Crosby had just done something that Lemieux never did during a Hockey Hall of Fame career in which he captained the Penguins to the Stanley Cup twice and scored 67 goals in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Crosby himself hadn't scored an overtime goal in the first 112 postseason games of his NHL career. He corrected that anomaly 40 seconds into sudden death Monday for a desperately needed 3-2 victory against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Final at Consol Energy Center.

Crosby said he felt "just happy" after seeing the puck sail in over goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy's blocker to finish off a 3-on-1 rush and end his eight-game goal drought.

Video: TBL@PIT, Gm2: Crosby goes top-shelf to win it in OT

"Whether I scored in the last seven games or hadn't scored in the last whatever, it feels good to get rewarded," Crosby said. "I think we deserved that win tonight."

Without it, the Penguins would have headed to Amalie Arena for Game 3 on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports) trailing 2-0 in the best-of-7 series. Now, they are even and would seem to have some momentum after the dramatic ending.

But Crosby cautioned against getting too caught up in one goal and one victory.

The Penguins need three more wins to reach the Stanley Cup Final, and the Lightning demonstrated again in Game 2 that they have no intention of rolling over, battling back to tie the game after falling behind 2-0 in the opening 9:37.

"To be in the playoffs here, it's a great opportunity, and to score and contribute, it feels good," Crosby said. "But it's one game, and whether you win 5-1 or 3-2 in overtime, it's one win. So, you've got to keep that in mind, but it's definitely exciting."

For a while, it appeared the payoff might not come for Crosby in this game despite multiple Grade A scoring chances. His best opportunity prior to his overtime goal came with 9:28 remaining in the second period.

Looking for a spark to get Crosby and Evgeni Malkin going, Penguins coach Mike Sullivan put them together for a shift. It appeared the move would pay off when Malkin slid a pass across to Crosby for a backhand from the right circle with a half-empty net yawning in front of him.

Video: Crosby speaks to the media

When the puck came off his stick, Crosby thought he had the go-ahead goal, but Vasilevskiy slid over in time to catch it with his glove before it reached the goal line.

"I got pretty good wood on it," Crosby said. "I thought it was a pretty decent shot. [Vasilevskiy] had to kind of respect [Malkin] on that left side, so I thought I had a lot of net. I just probably put it a little bit too far back into him, and he's a big guy. He covered a lot of net and was pretty quick in getting over.

"But, when it came off my stick, I thought I had a pretty good chance of scoring there, for sure."

It would have been understandable if Crosby felt frustrated at that point. He hadn't scored since Game 4 of the Penguins' first-round series against the New York Rangers. In the seven games before Monday, Crosby had been limited to one even-strength point.

But Sullivan never noticed any letup in Crosby or Malkin, who was held without a point for the sixth consecutive game.

"I think it's coming for both of those guys, Sid and [Malkin]," Sullivan said. "I think they're playing the game the right way right now. They got a lot of chances. Their puck possession time is significant, and that's the most important part from our standpoint. As long as they continue to play the game the right way, they're going to help us win.

"I'm glad Sid got the overtime winner. I think he got rewarded for a hard effort tonight."

Video: Head Coach Mike Sullivan speaks to the media

Sullivan tried to give Crosby some help by taking struggling left wing Conor Sheary off his line with Patric Hornqvist and replacing him with Chris Kunitz to begin the third period. Crosby's winning goal came at the end of the opening shift of overtime.

Kunitz and Hornqvist had changed and were replaced by Bryan Rust and Matt Cullen. A pass up from defenseman Brian Dumoulin to Rust at the blue line caught Lightning defenseman Anton Stralman in between in the neutral zone and created the 3-on-1 rush.

Rust initially did not see Crosby, who started out in a blind spot behind Rust to his left. As Rust was about to pull up in the left circle, he was planning to pass to Cullen.

"Then he kind of stumbled, and Sid was yelling," Rust said.

After Rust heard Crosby, his next move was a no-brainer.

"When one of the best players in the world is wide open, you definitely look for him," Rust said.

Rust fed Crosby, who let go a shot from the inner rim of the left circle that appeared to curve inside the left post.

"[Rust] had a good chance to maybe shoot it too, but he made a perfect pass and put it in an area that I could get a quick shot away," Crosby said.  

That started the celebration and maybe gave the Penguins and Crosby a shot of confidence they needed.

"Obviously, this is an important win for us to even the series, but I thought it was a collective effort," Sullivan said. "The whole group, I thought, played extremely well, but, obviously, when Sid gets an OT winner like that in that fashion, I think it's a big boost for our team."

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