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Despite results, Crosby proud to be part of Classic

by Dave Lozo /
PITTSBURGH -- Sidney Crosby's first Winter Classic unfolded like a Hollywood script.

He danced through snowflakes and slipped a shot through the legs of Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller to give the Pittsburgh Penguins a 2-1 shootout victory in front of 71,217 fans at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Buffalo. He jumped into the arms of his teammates on New Year's Day in 2008 and cemented himself as a bona fide NHL star.

Outside of the inclement weather Crosby faced at Heinz Field on Saturday night, the 2011 Winter Classic couldn't have been more different for him.

Crosby was held without a point and was the victim of a seemingly unintentional hit by David Steckel that left him hunched over in pain during the Penguins' 3-1 loss to the Washington Capitals. The Pens' captain has now gone two games in a row without a point after registering at least one in 25 consecutive games.

The conditions weren't optimal as rain began to fall during the second period and picked up during the third. However, Crosby wouldn't attribute his rare lackluster effort to the weather.

"The conditions were all right," Crosby said. "I think when it started to come down pretty good there, you could see the puck started to bounce even a little bit more. There was light rain there at one point, but other than that, it was pretty consistent.  We knew that was something we were going to have to deal with.  So I don't think that's a complaint."

The night went from bad to worse during the final moments of the second period when Crosby collided with Steckel deep in the Capitals' zone, behind the play. Crosby was looking away from Steckel, who was trying to join the play up the ice when his shoulder made contact with Crosby's head.

It was a play few people saw clearly, including Crosby.

"I couldn't even tell you what happened," Crosby said. "I think the puck was going the other way. And I turned and next thing I know, I am down. I can't really comment on it. It's pretty far behind the play. Maybe the refs didn't even see it. A lot of people didn't.  But I don't even know. Got my head, that's for sure."

Crosby was attended to by trainer Chris Stewart after the horn sounded but seemed no worse for wear during the third period. No one seemed to think the shot to Crosby's head had any effect on how he played the final 20 minutes.

"I didn't really pay much attention to it. I think Sid's always really good, so it's tough to say," forward Chris Kunitz said when asked if he saw any changes in Crosby.

"I actually didn't know who it was or what happened," said Pens forward Michael Rupp, who fought Caps defenseman John Erskine in the first period. "When we came to the locker room, a couple of us were asking what happened to him. Whether or not it was a dirty hit, I don't know."

Coach Dan Bylsma didn't hear anything from the Pens' doctors, saying, "I didn't get a report, which means that's a good thing."

Despite the loss, the lack of production and potential headache he'll have Sunday morning, Crosby was happy to be part of a second Winter Classic.

"It's an amazing feeling. And I said the same thing when we played in Buffalo," Crosby said. "But it's pretty easy to see why you see (NFL players) so pumped up every week. Coming down the tunnel, it's a pretty amazing feeling.  And playing hockey in front of that many people, it's something that probably none of us ever dreamed of doing. 

"Would have been nice to be on the other side of things, but it's still a privilege to be part of that."

Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo 

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