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Crosby puts intangibles on full display

by Mike G. Morreale
PITTSBURGH – Sidney Crosby was held without a goal for the third straight game in the Stanley Cup Final Tuesday night. But for Crosby Game 3 against the Red Wings was all about cutting the series deficit in half, not piling on to his stats.

With a 4-2 victory in Game 3, Crosby considers it mission accomplished.

Crosby, who logged an industrious 22:19 of ice time for the game on a team-leading 25 shifts, did pick up his first point of the series when he was credited with the secondary assist on Sergei Gonchar's game-winner with 9:31 remaining in the third. He also won 63 percent (12 of 19) of his faceoffs.

All in a day's work for Crosby, who entered this best-of-7 with 14 goals in 17 postseason games.

"That's the mental and physical grind of the playoffs -- you're always adjusting constantly and working hard," Crosby said. "Some things don't go right and then there are some other times when you find a way to make things happen. You always talk about the next shift and that's how we have to look at it. It's a battle out there and it's tight, but it's playoff hockey and it's where we want to be this time of year."

Despite not getting a goal, Crosby has been able to do many of the little things it takes this time in the season -- things that might go unnoticed by the average fan, but are very much appreciated by his teammates.

"Sid leads by example, for sure, in the way he plays and he did that again (Tuesday)," Penguins defenseman Kris Letang said. "He's going to show us the way by the way he skates. He's able to chip in those pucks when we need to get it deep and he's always the first one back in our defensive zone."

He also had plenty of success in the faceoff circle against one of his primary foils in this series, Henrik Zetterberg. Crosby won 4 of 5 draws against Zetterberg in the first period Tuesday.

What was Sid's secret in Game 3 faceoffs?

"It's always a little bit nicer being at home because you're able to set up more when taking the draws, and I'm always trying to find different ways to win them," Crosby said. "(Zetterberg) is very strong in the faceoff circle, but you just have to try and find different ways to win them. He likes to try and switch it up sometimes and not do the same thing, so it's a matter of trying to read what he's doing."
His intensity and leadership were evident from the early going. When Johan Franzen scored midway through the first to give the Wings their only lead of the game at 2-1, there was Crosby skating down the ice to tap goalie Marc-Andre Fleury on the pads to provide a little motivation.

It worked, too, as Fleury would stop the final 19 shots he faced, including all 14 in the second, while his team rallied to victory. Crosby knew being outshot 14-4 in the middle period wasn't the recipe for success against the Wings. It was something he knew had to change not only for the benefit of Fleury, but the Penguins' season.

"It's probably a little easier when you come out of a bad period like that and you're still tied and you realize you dodged a bullet," Crosby said. "I think we realize that Marc played great and kept us in it (in the second) and it was up to us to respond in the third period. As much as we weren't happy with the way we played in the second, we knew that we still had a chance in the third and wanted to make the most of it."

Pittsburgh Penguins Stanley Cup Final GearCrosby led the way with an inspiring 6:52 of ice time on nine shifts in the final period.

"Sid is a great player; he's going to bring a lot every night," Letang said. "He's going to provide a lot of speed on offense and create chances and, defensively, he's responsible and knows what to do. He was always the first guy back."

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