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Crosby inspires Pens in Game 4 win

by Michelle Crechiolo @PensInsideScoop / Penguins Team Reporter

When talking about his team's play in their 3-2 win over the Ottawa Senators in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final on Friday at Canadian Tire Centre, head coach Mike Sullivan started by praising the play of his captain.

"This group has a knack for responding the right way to any of the adversities or the challenges that this team has been faced with and I think it always starts with our leadership. It starts with our captain," Sullivan said. "I think he leads by example, and I thought Sid had one of his best games tonight.

Crosby scored on the power play - his second goal in as many games - while adding an assist. He almost single-handedly jumpstarted an offense that had been struggling in the series and just brought an overall compete level that blew Sullivan away.

"He was on the puck, he was hard on the puck, he was making plays, he was defending hard, he was inspired," Sullivan said. "He was really inspired and when he plays that way, he's tough to handle and he inspires our group as well."

Chris Kunitz, who was moved onto Crosby's line for the game, agreed that he set the tone from the first shift.

"He was shooting the puck early," Kunitz said. "Any time he had it on his stick, he was flying with it. I think you know right from the start that when he's got it going, you want to give him the puck and let him do his thing.

"When we need a big goal, he finds a way on the power play to get it. He gets us on the board early, finding Olli (Maatta) on the far side of the ice with his vision. I think any time your leaders step up like that it really trickles down and lets everybody we've got to make another level of a push to win a game."

It's impressive the level that Crosby continues to find, especially considering how much hockey he's played the last couple of seasons - winning both the Stanley Cup and the World Cup.

"I think for him to continue to play the inspirational game that he plays, I think is indicative of how badly he wants to win," Sullivan said. "He's probably the fiercest competitor that I've been associated with in the game and last night I thought was an example of it.

"He's got an insatiable appetite to be the best and he has a drive and a will to win that in my estimation of being around the game, not too many people have and I think because of that, that's what separates him from others."

Crosby not only has a drive and a will to win - he has an appreciation of what it takes to win. Especially having made back-to-back Stanley Cup Final appearances in 2008 and '09, losing the first and winning the second. And since then, it feels like he's experienced every high and low the postseason has to offer.

He's hoping to use that experience to help the Pens become the first team to repeat since the Detroit Red Wings did so in 1997 and '98. Though he's not thinking that far ahead right now. Right now, all he's thinking about is Game 5 on Sunday at PPG Paints Arena.

"I think just going through it and understanding how tough it is to win, you need some bounces, you need some luck along the way," Crosby said the other day. "But we've done a great job of just going a game at a time here and embracing those challenges. So we want to continue to go the same way here."

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