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Crosby, Penguins confident heading into Game 2

Pittsburgh captain shrugs off minus-3 rating against Capitals in Game 1

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / Senior Writer

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby anticipated the matchup he was going to get in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Second Round against the Washington Capitals. He was happy to accept it, because the challenge of going mano a mano against Washington's top line of Nicklas Backstrom, Alex Ovechkin and T.J. Oshie is enticing to a player like Crosby.

"I think we can create offense against them," Crosby said.

Maybe the Penguins will create more in Game 2 at Verizon Center on Saturday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, TVA Sports) because they lost the matchup Thursday, which is why they lost Game 1 in overtime 4-3. It doesn't seem as if anybody wants to back down from it now, either.

Crosby played 14:31 of his 19:56 even-strength ice time against Backstrom in Game 1. It was a continuation from the regular season, when he played 15:52 of his 26:09 even-strength ice time against Backstrom in the last two games against the Capitals on March 20 and April 7.

"Sometimes both coaches are comfortable with the same match, and we're certainly comfortable with that," Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said.

It looked ugly for Crosby and linemates Conor Sheary and Patric Hornqvist on the Game 1 stat sheet. Oshie had a hat trick, including the overtime winner, with Crosby, Sheary and Hornqvist on the ice for each of the goals to finish minus-3. 

But as bad as that looks for the Penguins top liners, it wasn't telling of how they played.

Video: PIT@WS, Gm1: Oshie steals feed, races in for snipe

Oshie's first goal, at 12:10 the second period, came directly off of defenseman Olli Maatta's turnover at the Capitals blue line. Crosby, Hornqvist and Sheary had nothing to do with the play and were helpless to stop Oshie from coming in alone down the right side.

Oshie's second goal, at 3:23 of the third period, was partially because he split Crosby, Sheary and Hornqvist to get to the net in transition, but also because Maatta was so far out of position and couldn't cover him when he got there. And, not for nothing, but it was one goalie Matt Murray should have had. He let it slip through his five-hole and later called it a bad goal.

Oshie's game-winning goal at 9:33 of overtime came on a wraparound that occurred only after defenseman Trevor Daley's weak backhanded clearing attempt resulted in a turnover. Oshie got the puck, took it across the ice and down before going around the net. Daley was caught battling Ovechkin in the slot, which is why Oshie had space for the wraparound.

"You don't like being on for goals, definitely not, but I've had a lot worse games and didn't end up dash-three," Crosby said. "As a line you have those nights where it just feels like a line dominates and you could easily be dash-three. That didn't feel like one of those nights."

Nor should it have, because other than the three goals that, frankly, were not a result of a poor play or bad read by Crosby or his linemates, they were quite good. 

They broke out of the zone well. They had the puck. Crosby was a plus-4 in shot attempts in his head-to-head ice time against Backstrom (17-13). He won 12 of 16 faceoffs against the Capitals' top center.

Video: Sidney Crosby meets the media after practice

"We're on for three goals against, but I thought we did a lot of good things," Crosby said. "Sometimes it goes like that, but I thought we produced a lot of good chances."

But they didn't produce any goals. That's the issue. That's why it's glaring, why we're talking about it a day later. Backstrom's line scored three; Crosby's line scored none. If that continues, the Penguins have no chance to win the series. 

"They scored three goals, so obviously they won that matchup," Hornqvist said. "There's no question about that. [Saturday], it's our turn to change that and be ready to do that because we have to have a good game."

To do that, Hornqvist said he thinks they have to be better at covering the middle of the ice if there is a turnover. As much as Maatta and Murray are to blame for Oshie's second goal, Hornqvist didn't absolve himself, Crosby and Sheary for their role in letting Oshie get to the net.

"That Oshie goal shouldn't happen there when he just came in the middle," Hornqvist said. "They got a lucky bounce, but he goes there, too, so we have to make sure we collapse from the middle to the outside and not from the outside to the middle."

They played with the puck a fair deal in Game 1; they'll need it even more in Game 2 because while they generated some shot attempts, they didn't have many Grade-A scoring chances.

"We have to go out there and have the attitude that we can score, too," Crosby said. "They're a good line and they're going to get chances. We've got to get ours too."

Do it and odds are they'll go home with the series tied.

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