COLUMBUS — With a little smirk, Pittsburgh Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said Sidney Crosby likes to play in Columbus. He should. Crosby completed the hat trick and four-point night in the Penguins’ fifth straight win, a 5-3 escape over the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena.
In 39 career games against the Metro Division rivals, Crosby has a mere 20 goals and 57 points. Those totals were burnished by the dominant performance Tuesday night. There wasn’t a specific moment that could be circled, but their message was clear by the third period, Crosby was not letting his team lose without a fight.
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Two of Crosby’s goals were in the third period, including the game-winner and the empty netter just five minutes later.
However, there might be a distinction in the analysis from PHN (read the Penguins report card) and the locker room. Crosby said the team felt comfortable with its performance.
“(It was) a matter of trying to play catch up a little bit. We tied it and then a couple two ones that we didn’t convert on and just let them hang around,” Crosby said. “So it would have been nice to build a lead — we finally get one, and they tied it — So it was weird that way, but I thought we felt pretty comfortable tonight as far as how we were playing, what we were generating.”
Usually, the coach goes last in our feature, but I thought Sullivan had a few things to say on Tuesday. Sullivan had a positive outlook on the game, including the first period. Perhaps he, too, knew that was a classic trap game the Penguins found a way to avoid with a lot of help from Sidney Crosby.
“He obviously had a pretty inspired effort,” Sullivan said; “I think he really likes to play in Columbus. I think he always seems to play well in this building. That has been my observation over the last, I don’t know, however many years it’s been.”
I didn’t realize just how many points Crosby has put up against Columbus.
Reviewing Sullivan’s comments, he tacitly admitted that his team was fighting through a rough night but didn’t harp on the wrongs. Instead, he found encouragement in the rights.
“There’s no panic, and there’s a certain quiet confidence about the group that we can get it back,” said Sullivan. “And you saw it in the third period also. I thought we just we just stayed with it.”
How difficult is it for a team to find its legs and reverse a negative start? The Penguin’s third line was giving proof it can be done. They had a rough go in the first period but steadily improved, and by the third period, they were running over the Blue Jackets.
“I think tonight we could have easily had two or three goals,” Eller said. “You know, when the chances are there, you’re doing the right thing. So there’s lots of good stuff to keep building on for everybody.”
Eller also enjoyed being on the right team when Crosby scored one of those crazy goals from the goal line. He saw too many from the other perspective.