-- Sidney Crosby
may have been overshadowed by Evgeni Malkin
's hat trick in Pittsburgh's 7-4 victory Thursday in Game 2 at Mellon Arena, but the captain's fingerprints were all over this series-changing win.
Crosby started the goal festival that was Game 2, scoring No. 13 of these playoffs just 1:51 into the game. The goal -- a quick one-timer off a sweet pass from Chris Kunitz
-- came on the first of Crosby's 23 shifts.
It's his sixth game-opening goal of the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs, tying the record set by Chicago's Bobby Hull
in 1962 and matched by Edmonton's Fernando Pisani
But Crosby was just getting warmed up. First, he added a secondary assist on Maxime Talbot
's goal early in the second period that tied the game 3-3. That was the end of his offensive production, but he proceeded to dominate in small ways.
He had four shots on net Thursday night after being held to just two shots in Game 1. He drew a pair of penalties on Matt Cullen
, allowing Pittsburgh to gain momentum with each power play. He was a plus-3 on the night and won 16 of 26 faceoffs.
All of those little things that Crosby was doing helped the Penguins dominate the battle for puck possession and establish residency in the attacking zone for multiple shifts at a time.
"For us, we try to make sure we do a good job of (getting into the offensive zone) and make sure we create a lot in the offensive zone," Crosby said. "Not forcing plays, but keeping control and putting pressure on them down there. The longer you can get down there, the more tired they are going to get and the more chances you are going to get."
In a way, it could be argued that Crosby softened up the Hurricanes for Malkin's exploits.
That was certainly how Carolina coach Paul Maurice
felt after Pittsburgh's one-two punch of Malkin and Crosby left his team on its knees.
"We left them alone at times one-on-one with a player," Maurice said. "We're going to have to do a better job of getting a little better support. I think they're hurting us bad. They certainly are creating some opportunities for their team on the ice."
Crosby said his team knew that it was imperative that it win Game 2, a game that Carolina has made its statement game in the first two rounds. The Penguins did not want to go to Raleigh or Saturday night's Game 3 with the series deadlocked at one win apiece.
So it was important that the team execute -- and Crosby set the tone with his first shift, forcing his team to follow his example in fashioning a definitive victory.
"You have to execute; that's what it comes down to," Crosby said. "We were able to do that tonight. It comes down to executing consistently and making the most of your changes and we did that.
"It was a big (victory). Obviously, we knew that they were hard to beat in Game 2 and they wanted to at least go back (to Carolina) with a split; but we accomplished being strong at home. We realize it's going to be even more difficult going down there."