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Penguins Room: Sidney Crosby Milestones, ‘Playing His Heart Out’



Pittsburgh Penguins, Sidney Crosby

Pittsburgh Penguins coach Mike Sullivan has been asked almost daily about his captain, Sidney Crosby, who is carrying his team in one of the most impressive stretch runs in NHL memory. The Penguins have points in 10 straight games, including seven wins, and Crosby has been a dominant force.

Actually, he’s been the dominant force.

There have been times in the streak culminating with the crucial 6-5 overtime win over the Detroit Red Wings that the rest of the team looks beaten or not up to the task. And it’s been in those moments that Crosby has been at his best.

It seems that Crosby is setting a new record, tying a record, or otherwise etching his name among the all-time greats every day. Thursday night, Crosby not only notched his 1000th career assist but also passed Phil Esposito for 10th on the all-time scoring list.

No player has cracked the top 10 since Jaromir Jagr did it in 2008. Every day, a reporter must ask Sullivan about the latest accomplishment and what Crosby means to the team.

“I never get tired of answering questions about Sid’s milestones and his legacy. It’s probably apropos that it’s an overtime goal that he assists on. I think this one is a huge milestone,” Sullivan said. “There aren’t too many guys in the game that have a thousand assists. … that puts him in real elite company and that the milestones that he’s achieving now are, I think they’re self-explanatory. I mean, it puts him in the elite company of the greatest players of all time … the thing that I admire the most about him is just how he carries himself with such humility and integrity.”

Bryan Rust and Erik Karlsson heaped praise on Crosby, too.

“He’s a big part of our game, and he’s a big reason that we are in the situation we’re in. We’re going to need him playing like this down the stretch here if we’re going to have a chance,” Karlsson said. “If it’s one thing he’s done throughout his career, it’s delivering when you need it the most. And today was nothing different than that.”

The win Thursday put the Penguins in a playoff spot, which they cannot lose if they don’t lose their remaining three games. They lead the Washington Capitals and Detroit Red Wings by one point for the final wild card, but still trail the New York Islanders by three points for third place.

Penguins Locker Room

Sidney Crosby

Of course, Crosby had no idea that he passed Esposito or that the next two names he will pass over the next couple or few seasons are Joe Sakic and his former landlord, Mario Lemieux.

Crosby was far more concerned with the win. In classic Crosby fashion, he also admitted he was on the ice for four goals against and wasn’t very happy about it.

There’s something about a leader who forcefully wills an inconsistent team to points in 10 straight games by playing some of the best hockey of his life, yet believing he could do better.

“When (the game) gets tighter like this, I think there’s more emphasis on (defense),” said Crosby. “Just because of the situation, I think that it’s probably the same for everybody, but I think I was on for four goals tonight. So I’d still like to be a little bit better that way.”

Bryan Rust

Rust stole the postgame show by bringing his young son to the locker room. Before we began, Sportsnet Pittsburgh team reporter Hailey Hunter got Rust’s son to muster a “Let’s go Pens.”

The young man clearly made Dad happy. Rust also praised Crosby, calling him “awesome.”

“You can see he’s very emotionally invested,” Rust said. “He’s out there playing his heart out. And, I think everybody in here has taken notice of that. And I think we’re all just trying to do the same.”

Here’s the heart-melting postgame interview:

Mike Sullivan

Sullivan had every reason to be angry. His team played a wild, sloppy, mistake-filled game that yielded a point to the Detroit Red Wings, keeping them within striking distance should the Penguins not win all three remaining games.

However, Sullivan was also proud. His team overcame their own self-destructive tendencies and found a way to win overtime, their first time since Feb. 27.

Had the Penguins lost in OT, they would have been a long shot to make the playoffs, but instead, they control the situation. Sullivan was honest but admitted he was “proud.”

“We were able to find a way to get two points. I give the players a lot of credit for hanging in there and just sticking with it,” Sullivan said. “You know, that could have sunk a lot of teams and it didn’t sink this group. And I’m proud of them for that.”