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Sidney Crosby leads by example, climbing Penguins record book

Passes Jaromir Jagr for second-most playoff points in Pittsburgh history in Game 2 win vs. Capitals

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

WASHINGTON -- In a span of 3:10 in the second period, Sidney Crosby made plays at each end of the ice that encapsulated his completeness as a player and his importance to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Phil Kessel and Jake Guentzel were the beneficiaries, scoring goals that broke open a tie game and propelled the Penguins to a 6-2 victory against the Washington Capitals in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Second Round at Verizon Center on Saturday.

 

[RELATED: Complete Capitals vs. Penguins series coverage | Matchup: Sidney Crosby vs. Alex Ovechkin, Game 2]

 

With two goals in Game 1 and two assists in Game 2, Crosby has four points in the best-of-7 series, which the Penguins lead 2-0 heading to Pittsburgh for Game 3 on Monday (7:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

"He's a committed guy right now," Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. "I think he sees an opportunity for this team to have success and he leads by example, and when he does that, he's inspiring to his teammates and certainly his coaching staff."

Video: PIT@WSH, Gm2: Guentzel strikes on odd-man rush

With his second multipoint game of the series, Crosby has 52 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs in his career, one more than Mario Lemieux for most in Penguins history. His two assists Saturday moved him one point ahead of Jaromir Jagr for second place in Penguins history with 148 playoff points (53 goals, 95 assists).

Lemieux is the Pittsburgh's all-time leader with 172 points (76 goals, 96 assists). With one more assist, Crosby will tie Lemieux for the most in Penguins history.

"I've played in a lot of playoff games over the years, so I've been part of some good teams," Crosby said. "It's the time of the year when you want to be playing."

Crosby's ability to come through in big moments has been well-documented. The 29-year-old was voted the Conn Smythe Trophy when the Penguins won the Stanley Cup last season and was also the most valuable player at the World Cup of Hockey 2016 when he was captain of Team Canada, which won the tournament.

But when the Penguins defeated the Capitals in six games in the second round last season, Crosby had little impact offensively; he had no goals and two assists. He's been dominant so far in this series, beginning with his two goals in the opening 1:04 of the second period of the Pittsburgh's 3-2 win in Game 1 and continuing with his assists on the Kessel and Guentzel goals in Game 2.

"You knew he was going to step up," Guentzel said. "He's one that would step up and he did a great job for us tonight."

Crosby displayed his world-class skill when he set up Kessel's goal, which broke a 1-1 tie at 13:04 of the second period. After taking a pass from Guentzel in the neutral zone, Crosby put the puck between his own skates as he crossed the Washington blue line and drew three defenders to him before dishing to Kessel in the right faceoff circle.

Kessel finished the play by shooting past goaltender Braden Holtby into the right corner of the net.

Video: PIT@WSH, Gm2: Kessel finishes Crosby's nice feed

"You watch it all year. He does that all the time," Kessel said. "You see him out there, I think he's the strongest guy in the League on his skates and he knocks the guys off. You always got to be ready."

Crosby demonstrated the blue-collar side to his game on the play that led to Guentzel's goal to make it 3-1 with 3:46 left in the second period. He dropped down to his knees to block Justin Williams' shot in the left circle in the Pittsburgh end, and then dove to nudge the puck ahead to Guentzel. From there, Guentzel raced down and beat Holtby to the short side with a shot from the right circle.

"I saw he blocked it and I knew he would chip it to me," said Guentzel, who leads the League with seven playoff goals. "It was a great play by him, for sure."

To hear Crosby tell it, he simply was doing something anyone else on the Penguins would do. The Penguins blocked 33 shots in the game. Crosby blocked two.

"Everybody knows that's part of it," he said. "Everyone's got to kind of do their part, depending upon their position and the situation. I don't think anybody overlooks that. I think we all understand how important it is to do different things and those details. A number of guys were blocking shots and doing all those things, so that's great to see."

Sullivan viewed it as another example of the Penguins captain's leadership.

"He's the best 200-foot player in the game, in my estimation," Sullivan said. "He plays at both ends of the rink. He defends as well as he plays with the puck and creates offense. … I've gained so much respect for him as a person in the time that I've been coaching him. That's something that I think you don't really gain an appreciation for a guy unless you get to see him on a daily basis.

"Everyone knows how good a player he is. I just think he's a terrific leader as well."

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