-- Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby
was held without a shot for the first two periods of Monday night's Game 1 by an in-your-face Carolina defense, yet still found a way to contribute when it was most important.
Midway through the third period, with Carolina's Matt Cullen in the penalty box, Crosby feathered a pass along the attacking blue line and onto the stick of defenseman Philippe Boucher, who then crept further into the zone before unleashing a seeing-eye shot that trickled under the leg pad of Carolina goalie Cam Ward for Pittsburgh's third goal, the game-winner in a 3-2 victory at Mellon Arena.
Crosby, however, expects more out of himself and his team as the series progresses -- starting in Thursday's Game 2.
"We didn't really execute that well tonight and that is an area we have to make sure we improve," Crosby said. "I think we are confident, as far as our offense is concerned, that if we execute, we are going to generate chances, no matter what."
And make no mistake, Crosby was generating chances throughout the game, but the forwards on the receiving end of his passes were not able to finish. In one sequence alone, during a second-period power play, Crosby set up defenseman Kris Letang
, forward Evgeni Malkin
and Letang again within a 30-second span, but neither Letang nor Malkin could beat Ward.
"I think we are confident, as far as our offense is concerned, that if we execute, we are going to generate chances, no matter what." -- Sidney Crosby
Crosby also had several other perfect passes, including a sweet pass into the slot to set up a one-timer by Bill Guerin that elicited a highlight-reel glove save from Ward, who was falling to the ice as he plucked the puck out of mid-air.
At times, it looked like Crosby was looking to pass more against the fast and aggressive Hurricanes defense, which is much more effective than the one deployed by the more run-and-gun Washington Capitals, Pittsburgh's opponent in the past round.
"They are a fast team and they are in your face quick," Crosby said. "But, at the same time, we pride ourselves on making things happen too, but we have to execute a little bit better, too."
While Crosby didn't score, the Penguins received some big contributions from depth players to get the jump in this series. Boucher, a seldom-used defenseman, had the game-winning goal and an assist on Malkin's goal. Miroslav Satan had the game-opening goal, a sweet breakaway after he was sprung from the penalty box.
"It means a lot and it builds a lot of confidence for everyone that those guys were able to chip in," Crosby said. "The guys see that and realize everybody is going and everybody is contributing, and that is the only way you can win consistently."
Author: Shawn P. Roarke | NHL.com Managing Editor