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Power play powers win against Leafs

by Sam Kasan @PensInsideScoop / Pittsburgh Penguins

"The power play is a hard thing to figure out, especially ours," Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan said in mid-January.

But it appears that the Penguins, at least for the last five games, have figured it out.

Pittsburgh has scored a power-play goal in five straight games (seven total), culminating in a three-goal outburst in a 5-2 win against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday night at PPG Paints Arena.

"The guys were making good decisions with the puck; we had some really good looks," head coach Mike Sullivan said. "We're shooting the puck.

"I thought the entries were really good tonight. We're just making good decisions and working together. I think when they do that, we have the makings of a dynamic power play. Hopefully we get a little confidence and get a little traction."

The man powering the power play was Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby, who figured in on all three man-advantage scores (1G-2A), while adding an even-strength assist for a four-point night.

"We always talk as a coaching staff that Sid is playing chess when other guys are playing checkers," Sullivan said. "He has such great instincts and he makes great plays. He's one of those guys that can anticipate the play two or three passes in advance."

Crosby now has 23 points (7G-16A) in 13 games since returning from a core muscle injury that kept him out of the lineup for 28 games. Crosby also continued his historical dominance of Toronto, racking up 28 goals and 63 points in 44 games against the Maple Leafs.

"He is who he is for a reason," forward Bryan Rust said of Crosby. "We try not to take that for granted."

After going 0 for 11 in two games at Washington and Tampa Bay, the Penguins power play ignited. The unit has since gone 7 for its past 13 chances (54 percent), including 3-for-3 against Toronto.

"We've tried to communicate more off the ice and with video," Rust said. "We're trying to make subtle adjustments in certain situations. Guys are playing with a little bit of confidence. We're just doing a really good job of executing right now."

Crosby kicked things off with some beautiful passing displays. First, he went cross-slot with a backhander to Rust on the opposite side. Rust buried his 23rd of the season.

"He made an unbelievable pass," Rust said of Crosby. "I saw that's where he was looking and barely got there in time to catch the pass, but it was obviously an unbelievable play."

Video: TOR@PIT: Rust buries Crosby's pinpoint pass for PPG

Crosby then made a similar play - though this time on the forehand and across the crease - to Jason Zucker, who chipped the puck into the goal for his third goal in four games with the Penguins.

"Sid made an unbelievable pass and at that point I'm just trying to bang it home as best I can," Zucker said.

Video: TOR@PIT: Crosby, Zucker team up for power-play goal

Crosby then finished the day by picking up a goal of his own. Once again, Pittsburgh's goal came on the result of some incredible puck movement. This time Jared McCann went across the high slot to Patric Hornqvist. The Swede then dished back through the crease to Crosby, who nudged the puck in just over the goal line from an impossible angle.

"I was a little nervous," Crosby said with a grin. "(Hornqvist) made a great play. I was trying to make sure I dropped it at the net. I had to put that one in. That was a perfect pass he made."

Video: TOR@PIT: Crosby taps in Hornqvist's dish for PPG

The Penguins' power play continued to roll even without the services of center Evgeni Malkin, who was a late scratch with an illness. Pittsburgh seems to have finally figured out the power play.

"It just came down to execution," Crosby said. "Just executing well and taking what they give us, and making sure when we get the looks, we put them in the net.

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