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Stanley Cup Final

Key moment, Game 5: Sidney Crosby sparks Penguins by drawing penalty

Aggressive move leads to early power-play goal against Predators

by Arpon Basu @ArponBasu / Senior Managing Editor

PITTSBURGH -- A turning point in a game rarely comes in the first 33 seconds.

It could be argued that it didn't in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Nashville Predators here Thursday, either.

But with the way Penguins captain Sidney Crosby went on to dominate a 6-0 win that gave Pittsburgh a 3-2 lead in the best-of-7 series, it is hard not to look at his opening shift as foreshadowing what was to come.

Crosby drew a penalty on Predators defenseman Ryan Ellis at 0:33 by splitting the Nashville defense and ringing a shot off the post behind goaltender Pekka Rinne, then set up the first goal of the game, by Pittsburgh defenseman Justin Schultz, at 1:31 on the ensuing power play.

Crosby's brilliance on the play gave a sense that there was more to come.

There was, with Crosby getting two more assists to lead the Penguins to within one win of a second straight Stanley Cup championship. Their first opportunity will be Game 6 in Nashville on Sunday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVA Sports).

"From the opening shift," Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said, "you can see his drive and his appetite to win."


[RELATED: Complete Penguins vs. Predators series coverage | Guentzel ties rookie record for playoff points]


Here is a breakdown of the key sequence:

0:30, first period

Schultz intercepts a Predators clearing attempt near the red line and pushes the puck to Penguins forward Jake Guentzel at the Predators blue line. Crosby is on his way back toward his zone when he sees the neutral-zone turnover, curls at the red line and starts picking up speed as he approaches the Predators line, taking a perfect pass from Guentzel just as he hits it.

"When he's full of speed," Guentzel said, "he can do dangerous things."



Crosby has no teammates with him as he enters the zone with Ellis to his left and Predators defenseman Roman Josi to his right. Crosby is also initially being chased from behind by Predators forward James Neal, who slows down with two men back and lets his elite defense pair handle things.

You can hardly blame Neal; it does not look like it will become a dangerous situation for the Predators. Except it's Crosby carrying the puck, so the potential for danger naturally increases.

"A lot of things he does you don't think are possible," Schultz said. "He's so talented and creates so much for us and he was flying tonight."

Video: NSH@PIT, Gm5: Crosby narrowly misses off the post



Crosby is on his forehand as he approaches Ellis and quickly switches over to his backhand to cut to the middle of the ice. Josi, meanwhile, is watching from Crosby's right and is not in good position to help if Crosby is able to beat his defense partner.

Ellis sees Crosby go to his backhand and attempts a stick check.

With that, Ellis is toast.

"I had some speed, and we had a pretty quick play," Crosby said. "So I wasn't sure if they were trying to get up and get their gap or if they were trying to back off. I felt like they were maybe on their way up to get a gap, and I just tried to take it to the net."

Crosby immediately goes back to his forehand and pushes the puck under Ellis' outstretched stick and past him. With Crosby speeding by, Ellis is forced to grab his left hip in a futile attempt to slow him down. Crosby fends off Ellis with his left arm while maintaining control of the puck with his right hand on his stick as Josi finally reaches with his stick to try to help, but it is far too late.

"That's a pretty good player making a play right there," Predators coach Peter Laviolette said. "We need to be better, obviously, because we didn't defend it well and they got a power play."



Crosby is dragging his left leg as he leaves Ellis behind and, somehow, in one fluid motion instinctively shifts his upper body to his right to shield Josi from the puck as the referee raises his arm to signal a penalty on Ellis.

"He's so strong on his skates he was able to use his leverage and kind of get a minibreakaway and an opportunity," Crosby's linemate Conor Sheary said.

As Crosby finally falls to his left knee, Rinne is already on his knees and watches as Crosby's shot sails past his right shoulder and off the goal post behind him.



Predators forward Viktor Arvidsson touches the puck, and the play is blown dead for the holding penalty on Ellis.

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