The Penguins needed something heading into Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final on Wednesday night.
After failing to score in the first two games in Detroit, the team needed a spark, a lift – some sort of jolt.
Enter Sidney Crosby.
The Penguins’ captain scored two goals to lift Pittsburgh to a 3-2 win over the Red Wings at a rowdy Mellon Arena.
He nearly had the hat-trick as another shot clanged off the crossbar. Nevertheless, his two goals put him back into the NHL playoff scoring lead with Detroit's Henrik Zetterberg. Both players have 23 points.
“I thought he played well. I thought he played well the first two games. Sometimes, the results are not always there. You can’t judge players on goals and assists,” Penguins coach Michel Therrien said. “As coaches, we pay attention on different things. I thought that his work ethic was there. He stuck to the plan. That’s what you’re looking for from your captain, show an example. And good players, when the challenge is there, they like to play those type of games.”
Crosby didn’t score the game-winning goal Wednesday night. That honor went to Adam Hall, who banked a shot off goaltender Chris Osgood 7:18 into the third period to put the Penguins up, 3-1, at the time. However, Crosby did score the first one – which had a huge mental impact for a team that had suffered through 137:25 of scoreless hockey to start the Final.
“Finally,” Crosby said. “It wasn’t that the chances weren’t there. It just finally went in for us. I mean, we would hit posts and didn’t have bounces that came on our stick near the net. We finally had one go in and it felt good to get one in, to get the first one and get momentum and start off the game.”
Heading into Wednesday’s game, the Penguins weren’t trying to erase the 2-0 deficit all at once. They established a simple goal of putting the puck in the net first.
It worked as Crosby slid a shot past Osgood with 2:35 remaining in the first period.
“Whether it was me or anybody else, we just wanted to get the first one,” Crosby said. “We wanted to get a goal and find a way. It didn’t matter who or when. But for sure, it would be nice to get the first one. I think that was the mindset going in. And it was nice to get it, for sure. But whether it was me or anyone else, I wasn’t really worried about that. I just wanted to make sure that we gained the momentum as early on.”
The Penguins seized the momentum in the second period as Crosby swept a power-play goal past Osgood 2:34 into the frame.
“I don’t think I changed a whole lot. I got both goals. I got some good bounces. I went to the same spots I typically would go to. The puck ended up on my stick,” he said. “As far as creating things, I think we did a better job creating more. I think that came from patience. They’re a team that plays in your face, but sometimes you realize you have a little bit more time in certain plays. And, just focusing on deciding when to hold onto it and when to dump it in. It probably just took a little time to get used to. I thought we did a better job managing the puck.”
Crosby was focused heading into Wednesday night’s contest despite the two-game deficit. That was evident in his quiet demeanor before the game.
“I think it was desperation. I wanted to make sure, personally, I had a good game,” he said. “You want to be quiet, but you have to have a sense of confidence in the room, too. I think we all believed that if we put our best game out there, we gave ourselves a good chance. But personally, you just want to make sure you’re leading by example and doing your job out there and that’s all I was basically trying to do. I mean, it’s not hard to get up for a game this big, especially in the Stanley Cup Final.”
Even though the Penguins won a game – the first Stanley Cup Final victory for the team’s young core – they realize it’s just one more step toward their ultimate goal
“It feels good. I mean, we definitely earned it. But, at the same time, it's one,” Crosby said. “You don’t want to take anything away from it. We realize how hard it was and how tough it’s going to get. So, it feels good to come out of this game on the other side, for sure. But, we realize it’s only one.”