Yeah, Sidney Crosby knows how to make his presence felt.
The Penguins got the league’s best player back into their lineup for Friday’s Game 2 against the New York Islanders after he’d missed the previous 13 games (12 regular season, one playoff) with a broken jaw suffered on March 30 against this same team, and it took him all of three minutes and 19 seconds to score his first goal on a power play.
That was impressive enough. But when Crosby – sporting the protective shield over his jaw that he had been wearing ever since he resumed skating – scored his second goal of the game just four minutes and three seconds later, the general sentiment was essentially, “Are you kidding me?!”
But while we all sat with jaws slack in amazement watching Crosby electrify the crowd at CONSOL Energy Center and everyone else watching and listening with his hot start, in all actuality none of us were truly surprised by the performance he produced. It was expected, in a sense, which tells you everything you need to know about the kind of player he is.
Crosby has done it before, the most notable performance coming on Nov. 21, 2011, when the Penguins captain scored twice and added two assists in a 5-0 win over – fittingly, the Islanders – after missing the previous 62 games with a concussion.
“I thought he didn’t miss a beat,” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “He skated well, he was on pucks, he was strong. In addition to his two goals, he had a couple other dangerous situations and plays and was very good in the faceoff circle. I thought he was very good getting back in there after missing 13 games.”
But while Crosby looked like his old self out there to everyone who watched, he didn’t necessarily feel that way.
“All right,” he said after a slight hesitation when asked how he felt. “I think that there’s definitely a little bit of rust. But there’s not a lot of time, so I’ve got to find a way to create things out there and be better.”
If Crosby considered himself rusty in this game, it’s going to be scary to see what he does when he shakes it all off.
Crosby slotted into his usual spot between longtime linemates Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis for the game, two players with whom he’s comfortable and familiar with. And it’s their hard work – harder than anybody on the ice – that created Crosby’s second goal.
The two of them wreaked havoc in the slot, causing a scramble of bodies and the puck to stay loose. It eventually found itself on Dupuis’ blade and he ripped it to the net. A juicy rebound popped out to Crosby at the goal line, who beat Islander goalie Evgeni Nabokov from a severe, impossible angle to put the Penguins up 3-1.
Crosby, who led all Penguins forwards with 23:21 minutes played, made an impact in other facets of the game as well. He fired a total of eight shots at Nabokov and won all seven of his faceoffs in the first period, winning 54 percent overall (14-of-26).
But in the end, the Penguins couldn’t get the job done despite building that two-goal cushion, with the Islanders coming back for a 4-3 win and evening the series at 1-1. Despite the tough loss, the captain felt his team would bounce back quickly from this one.
“You have to,” he said. “That’s the playoffs. That’s the nature of it. You can’t dwell on things whether you win or lose. You’ve got to turn the page pretty quick.”