NEW YORK -- In typical Sidney Crosby fashion, he downplayed his game-changing two-goal effort Saturday. The thing is, this was hardly a typical performance for the Pittsburgh Penguins' captain, at least when you judge it against his recent past in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Crosby ended his scoring slump in the playoffs with two goals in the Penguins 4-3 win against the New York Rangers in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference First Round at Madison Square Garden.
He had scored one goal in his previous 19 playoff games; he had two in a span of 4:39 late in the second period Saturday.
"It's nice to score," Crosby said after helping the Penguins even the best-of-7 series at 1-1. "I mean, you want to contribute and there are so many details in the playoffs, but when you're able to score it definitely feels good."
Crosby's teammates were not in the downplaying mood, not when it comes to their captain and leader breaking out in a big way in the most important game of the season to date.
"He was fantastic," defenseman Ian Cole said. "He is without a doubt one of the best players in the world and he certainly showed that."
After struggling to find a rhythm in Game 1 because he was on the bench for most of the first period, a result of Pittsburgh's four penalties, Crosby was fast and definitely noticeable early in Game 2.
His chances started to come in the second period, and he cashed in for the first time at 14:07, when he gained inside position on Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh by simply skating past him, then found the rebound of Patric Hornqvist's shot and popped it into the net to give Pittsburgh a 2-1 lead.
Crosby scored again at 18:46; this time, he reached out his stick to redirect Chris Kunitz's tape-to-tape cross-ice pass past Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist and into the net go give Pittsburgh a two-goal lead at the second intermission.
In addition to contributing on the scoresheet, Crosby also played a role in the Penguins going 6-for-7 on the penalty kill. He played 49 seconds on the PK. He played 15 seconds on the PK in Game 1.
Center - PIT
GOALS: 2 | ASST: 0 | PTS: 2
SOG: 4 | +/-: 1
"Hopefully it's huge for him and for us, obviously," center Brandon Sutter said. "That's a big couple goals for us. For us going into the third with a lead was huge. I think he made a couple nice plays and he was really dominant, especially down low, holding onto the puck. That's where he's so good and we need that from him going forward."
Crosby is always under pressure to score, but particularly of late his playoff drought has been noticeable and led to some ugly end-of-the-season moments for the Penguins.
He was shut out in the 2013 Eastern Conference Final by the Boston Bruins, and the Penguins lost in four games. They scored only two goals in the series.
Crosby scored one goal in 13 playoff games last season, but had no points in the last three games -- and the Penguins lost them all to the Rangers, who rallied from a 3-1 deficit to advance to the Eastern Conference Final.
It was later revealed that he was dealing with a wrist injury.
Crosby, who isn't dealing with any known injury now, was again blanked in Game 1, and quite unspectacular with only one shot on goal and three shot attempts despite winning 15 of 20 faceoffs.
He didn't let himself get shutout again Saturday because he found his rhythm early, played fast, grinded, and got to the net for two goals, doubling his production from his previous 19 playoff games.
It's no surprise that the Penguins won.
"It's not surprising," Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury said. "I always see every day how hard he works in practice and in the games, and definitely it's big for him to get two goals. That was huge for us."