– Sidney Crosby
was great for the Pittsburgh Penguins
in their marquee matchup Sunday with the rival Washington Capitals
He found out -- much like in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference semifinals last season -- that when Alex Ovechkin
is involved, sometimes that isn't enough. Crosby had two goals for the Penguins at Verizon Center, but Ovechkin had three and added an assist for the Capitals in a pulsating 5-4 overtime victory.
"It felt like a playoff atmosphere to me. It is intense every time we play them," Crosby said. "We had the game, and unfortunately we let it slip away."
Indeed, it was Crosby and the Penguins who dominated the first half of this contest. Despite a five-hour bus ride from Newark, N.J., that had them arrive in the U.S. capital at 2:15 a.m., Pittsburgh's captain had the only two goals of the opening period.
Crosby intercepted an outlet pass by Washington's Tyler Sloan
and then deked past him for his first tally. His second came on his very next shift. He took a pass from Evgeni Malkin
and went from the right side of the net to the left in front of Jose Theodore
before slipping a shot past him.
In a span of three minutes, Crosby had put to rest fears that his team would not be prepared to play because of the travel problems from the day before.
"Well, we expect Sid to come out and play," Capitals defenseman Mike Green
said. "He's such a great player and so good around the net. We knew he was going to come. But we couldn't hang our heads after that. We had to pick it up. And that's the thing about our team -- we don't roll over and die."
Crosby has now matched his career high with 39 goals, and he has 23 games left to set a new mark. He's on pace to finish with 54, which has only been surpassed by two people since 2000-01 – Jonathan Cheechoo
and Ovechkin (twice).
Ovechkin will likely do it a third time as well, as the three goals he scored after Crosby made it 2-0 helped him regain the outright lead in the race for the Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy – hardware the Russian star has won two years in a row.
Crosby was on the ice for both of Ovechkin's goals in the third period. The first one included a bit of a lucky bounce, but Nicklas Backstrom
beat Crosby on a draw to the right of goalie Marc-Andre Fleury
and Ovechkin ripped it into the net.
It was a game that seemed eerily reminiscent to the one played in this building in early May when both players recorded hat tricks, but the Capitals prevailed because of a David Steckel
goal. Crosby was unable to complete the trick this time, and Ovechkin's team rallied from a three-goal deficit for the victory.
"They've got a great offense and we allowed them to use it there," Crosby said. "Especially in the second half after we got that lead … we didn't have that instinct to keep going and finish them off. We let them hang around and they were going to get their chances."