That was the cover headline on the front page of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review sports section this morning. Below it had the headshots of Pens superstars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Below that was the caption: “It’s playoff time. Have you seen Crosby or Malkin?”
Crosby was spotted at Madison Square Garden by the thousands in attendance and thousands more watching the nationally broadcast game at home, scoring two goals in a 3:36 span in the second period to lead the Pens to a 4-3 victory over the New York Rangers in Game 2 that evened their First Round Stanley Cup playoff matchup at 1-1.
“It’s nice to score,” Crosby said following the game. “You want to contribute. When you’re able to score it definitely feels good.”
Crosby was held to one goal and three points in the seven-game Second Round series with the Rangers last season. Entering Game 2 he had one goal in his previous 19 postseason games.
In other words, he was due to break out - and break out he did.
The Pens desperately needed a strong performance from their captain. They did not want to return to Pittsburgh trailing in the series 2-0. Pittsburgh went to New York with the goal of splitting the two games.
Mission accomplished, thanks to No. 87.
“That’s a big couple of goals for us,” said Brandon Sutter, who finished the game with a goal and two points. “For us to win that period and go into the third with a lead was huge. He made a couple of nice plays and he was really dominant, especially down low hanging onto the puck tonight. That’s where he’s so good.”
Crosby wasn’t just dominant in the offensive zone. He was dominant in his own zone as well. He will get a lot of credit for the two goals he notched on the scoresheet, but his work in the defensive zone didn’t go unnoticed by the team.
“I thought he had some really good chances tonight, good puck possession time in the zone,” head coach Mike Johnston said. “But the big thing for me is that he plays 200 feet. His battle in our zone was just as hard as it was in the offensive zone.”
Crosby’s play was contagious, and his teammates fed off of the emotion of their captain.
“He’s our captain. We’re following his example,” defenseman Ian Cole said. “He’s a lead by example kind of guy. You see him working his tail off every single game whether or not he gets a goal every game is beside the point. He does so many things right all over the ice that it really sets the tone for our team.”
Don't worry, Malkin also made an appearance. He did not end up on the scoresheet, but he did make a play that was a game-changer. With the Pens on a power play and holding a 3-2 lead, the Rangers put a puck on net that squeezed through goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury. The puck skittered to the goal line where a diving Malkin swatted it away to prevent disaster.
The Pens would go on to score the eventual game-winning goal on the ensuing power play.
It took the effort of all 19 players to beat the Rangers. But without their two big stars, particularly their captain, the outcome may have ended much differently. As it is, the Pens will return to Pittsburgh with home-ice advantage in a best-of-five series.