Sidney Crosby, as has happened hundreds of times, was asked Sunday about his latest goal. The Penguins center and captain gave a description of the goal, which gave his team a lead in the third period of what became a 5-4 overtime win over Philadelphia at PPG Paints Arena.
“I think I was looking to the slot or by the net,” Crosby said. “There wasn’t much open there. It was one of those ones where you get time, you’re in a good area and you’ve got to shoot it.”
Isn’t that cute? Crosby left out maybe the best parts. Typical understated Sid.
Let’s go back to a few seconds before Crosby decided to shot rather than pass the puck.
He was above the left circle when he got the puck from defenseman Justin Schultz. Flyers center Sean Couturier, known for being defensively sound, was on Crosby. Bull that Crosby is, he held off Couturier with one hand while stickhandling down through the circle and then beat goaltender Petr Mrazek to the far side for his 26th goal.
“He’s just so good at protecting the puck, and his hands are so quick that he’s able to make plays like that easily,” said winger Bryan Rust, who was on the ice and could have been one of the targets Crosby was looking for had he chosen to pass instead of shoot.
“I was just a decoy out there,” Rust said, smiling. “I was trying to skate into space, get open and just kind of watching him do his thing. I’m not surprised. He is who he is for a reason. He elevates his games at the most important times.”
Schultz, whose work on the play understandably paled next to Crosby’s, wasn’t surprised by what he watched.
“Now I’m just kind of expecting it,” Schultz said. “He does amazing things all the time in practice and in games. It was another example of that tonight.”
Highlight goals coming frequently
You only have to go back to Wednesday night for the most recent spectacular goal prior to this one. Against the Canadiens, Crosby drove to the net, batted an incoming puck up to put it in his wheelhouse and batted it again, on his backhand, to score.
“That’s what makes him so good,” Penguins goaltender Matt Murray said. “He can beat you in a lot of different ways.”
Crosby, who has six points (two goals, four assists) in his past six games, also gave Rust a perfect setup for a tip-in goal in overtime against the Flyers. It was his 15th career overtime assist, and his 27 career overtime points are tied with Evgeni Malkin for most in franchise history.
Crosby’s goal overshadowed a pretty special one by Evgeni Malkin in the second, when he used a deft little fake and a seeing-eye shot.
Like a proud father of multiple sons, Penguins coach Mike Sullivan beams about Crosby, Malkin and others.
“We marvel as what these guys do night in and night out,” Sullivan said. “It’s a privilege to be a coach to this group of players. I do say this, we don’t take a day of it for granted. We have the ability to score. We have some very creative players. … There are nights when I drive home after games and I replay the game in my mind and I marvel at what they do.”
On this day, though, Crosby’s goal was the scene-stealer.
“I think his last couple weeks he’s playing really, really good,” Sullivan said. “He’s on the puck. I think he’s the hardest player to get the puck away from in the league. He protects it as well as anyone.
“The goal tonight he got in the third period is an indication of how hard he is to check and defend when he’s in space. He elevates his game when the stakes are high. That’s when he’s at his best.”
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