Sidney Crosby made his way onto the scoresheet Friday night in Game 2, and he brought the kids with him.
The line of Crosby, Conor Sheary and Jake Guentzel, nicknamed 'Sid and the Kids' by fans, was red-hot as Pittsburgh defeated the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-1 at PPG Paints Arena to give the Pens a 2-0 series lead.
Sheary, Crosby and Guentzel accumulated six points (2G-4A) on the night, including two beautiful goals.
The first came when Sheary stole the puck from Columbus netminder Sergei Bobrovsky behind the net and found Guentzel racing to the left of the goal. Guentzel tapped it to his right, where captain Sidney Crosby chipped it past a sliding Bobrovsky for his first goal of the series and to give the Pens a 1-0 lead.
"(Sheary) worked hard to get up in the play there and was able to work the puck free," Crosby said. "'Jake' was coming into the side of the net there and made a good heads-up play to find me on the side of the net. It was a good play, a lot of hustle and good execution there."
The tally is Crosby's 50h playoff goal of his career, making him just one of three players in Pens playoff history to score 50 goals. But while Crosby gets the goal, it's Sheary who should get the glory.
Sheary, standing at 5-foot-8, is small in stature, but big in skill, talent and heart. The Massachusetts native had no fear as he crashed the trapezoid and rattled Bobrovsky, who had turned around to play the puck.
"He had his back turned to me, so I tried to close in on him quick and make him make a decision," Sheary said. "Eventually he held it long enough that I could make a play on it and create a turnover."
The assist is Sheary's first point of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs and the 10th playoff point of his career. Sheary also posted three hits on the night, putting up a solid defensive effort to create offense.
"I think that's just part of playoff hockey," Sheary said on playing physical. "I think everyone is expected to do that. Just because I'm an undersized guy doesn't mean I can't finish checks. I might not maybe give as big of a wound as some of these other guys, but I think that if I can stop them in their tracks and make them work harder to get up ice, it will be a long series."
Not to be outdone, rookie Guentzel scored the first playoff goal of his career nearly eight minutes into the second period. Crosby and Guentzel found themselves on a 2-on-1 thanks to a great defensive effort by Ian Cole. Crosby sent a smooth pass over to Guentzel at the inner edge of the right circle, who immediately snapped a shot past the left toe of Bobrovsky.
"It's something we've been talking about in practice," Guentzel said. "Obviously, their D like to slide, so (Crosby) made a great pass and I just tried to get it on net."
While the trio were held pointless in Game 1, they rectified that for Game 2, reflecting their spectacular regular season - where they combined for 18 points (9G-9A) in the last five games.
"I think we kind of read off each other pretty well," Sheary said. "We kind of try to stay as close as we can, especially off the rush. If we can just give those five-foot passes, it makes their D turn and make decisions quick. If we can exert that on them and make them make those decisions, I think we're going to have success."
"We complement each other well," Guentzel said. "We all play similar, so I think it helps us make plays."
It's often said that playing alongside Crosby makes players better; however, the captain joked after the game that he finds himself pushing to match the speed of the young guys on his wings.
"He's not giving himself enough credit," Sheary laughed. "He's just as fast, if not faster than both of us. He can make plays all over the ice. Me and Jake just try to compliment him as much as we can and try to find the openings for him because he has such great vision."
Even head coach Mike Sullivan was impressed with what his veteran captain, sophomore and rookie have accomplished together.
"They're three really good players," Sullivan said. "They play the game with a lot of courage. They go to the battle areas. They've got great hockey sense and they're quick. They're hard to defend. They were looser down in the tight areas. They're really a dynamic line underneath the hashmarks.
"They play that give-and-go game and tight space. They're so allusive, they're hard to defend and I think when they're in that offensive zone, they're as dangerous a line as there is in the game right now."