What a storyline: Canadian boy plays his first game against a fabled team from his home country. He has a one shot to beat the squad he grew up rooting for and the franchise which drafted his father.
It’s the last chance of the overtime shootout with the game’s balance resting on his shoulders.
He skates down the ice, dekes to his left, brings the puck to the right and backhands a shot into the net.
Goal. Game Over.
Sounds like Hollywood, right?
Welcome to The Crosby Show.
And the 16,254 on hand Thursday night at Mellon Area got to see it with their own eyes.
That Canadian boy is Sidney Crosby. And, when he scored in the overtime shootout to give the Pittsburgh Penguins a dramatic 3-2 win over the Montreal Canadiens, the deafening roar emanating from Western Pennsylvania probably could have been heard all the way in Crosby’s hometown of Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia.
“It’s amazing. It’s kind of hard to believe,” said an exasperated Crosby. “It’s something that just happened. It’s fun. That’s the fun part of hockey. I am having a great time playing in this league. I feel fortunate to get the opportunity to get a shot like that. I got lucky; there wasn’t much pressure to tie it or stay in it. I had the chance to win it. It was a nice feeling.”
To do it against the Montreal Canadiens made it even more special. The franchise drafted Crosby’s father, Troy, in 1984. He was at Mellon Arena to witness his son’s thrilling goal first-hand along with other family members.
“It’s pretty amazing to do it against them and to get a big two points here,” Crosby said. “It feels pretty nice.”
Well, that exciting moment wasn’t all Crosby had up his sleeve Thursday. He scored the Penguins’ first goal in the opening period. His attempted pass to Ziggy Palffy on the far post deflected of a Montreal defender and slid into the net for a power-play tally. It was the super rookie’s sixth goal of the year. Only 18, Crosby leads all NHL rookies with 20 points.
“He’s quite amazing,” said Penguins center Mario Lemieux, a Hall of Famer known for creating breathtaking moments of his own. “I have said it many times – some of the things he does on the ice are amazing. He showed it again [Thursday] night. He put on a great move and won the game.”
While his NHL career has just begun, the shootout goal left an indelible mark in Crosby’s mind.
“I would say scoring your first goal is a special feeling. To get this one is pretty incredible, too,” he said. “Montreal was my favorite team growing up. I feel pretty lucky.”
When both teams tied 2-2 at the end of overtime, the game went to a shootout. Crosby was surprised he was listed as Pittsburgh's third – and last – shooter. Mark Recchi and Lemieux went ahead of him and Montreal goalie Jose Thedore turned away both.
“Coach didn’t say anything [about the order], so I didn’t know until [public address speaker John Barbero] announced it,” Crosby said. “I just tried to watch Reccs and Mario go and tried to study what [Theodore] was doing a little bit and shoot from there.”
Pittsburgh goalie Jocelyn Thibault stopped all three Montreal shooters – Michael Ryder, Alex Kovalev and Alexander Perezhogin. That set up Crosby, who ended the game with a goal. He copied Recchi’s attempt, but turned the puck over to his backhand at the last second and lifted it into the goal. The puck slammed against the top netting and sent one of Theodore’s water bottles flying. The crowd went berserk.
“I saw Reccs come down and fake the shot and then go to [the left] side. I thought that [Theodore] was going to slide over to the right,” Crosby said. “So, I tried to do the same thing. Instead of shooting it the second time, I tried to bring it back. I did and it worked.
“I was just trying to get him to bite. I saw him bite on Recchi’s shot. I saw him go to that side. I thought he’d probably do the same thing if I was doing the same thing. It was pretty exciting.”
Thibault had no doubt Crosby was going to score the game-ending goal.
“It was a perfect situation. It seems in a situation like that, they always score,” Thibault said. “I knew we were going to win. I face him in practice every day and I know he’s a good player. There’s not much Jose could have done on that shot.”
Crosby fed off the crowd’s electric atmosphere.
“That gave us the energy we needed in the shootout,” he said. “It was deafening. You couldn’t think pretty much when you were shooting or when Thibault was making a great save.
“It was a fun time.”