The Pittsburgh Penguins are now in second place in the East Division, just one point behind the Washington Capitals because of Sidney Crosby. The Penguins won two in a row and erased a brutal third period memory from Tuesday night when they yielded six goals. There was unease in Penguins land because of that collapse.
Would the Penguins crumble or have lingering effects after nearly blowing a six-goal lead? Would the New Jersey Devils be emboldened by their comeback?
The Penguins game may have been decided on the first shift and cruised to a 5-1 win. With New Jersey undoubtedly ready to pounce, Sidney Crosby changed the Penguins mindset and changed the Penguins game on Thursday night.
Just 41 seconds into the game, Crosby was physical. He charged the New Jersey breakout and scored a vital goal which changed the feeling from pensive to optimistic.
“For me, a testament of his leadership was the first shift of the game tonight,” Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan said. “He had a big hit. His line was dominant on the first shift. He scored a goal. I just think he was trying to make a huge statement to our team.”
The Penguins are now among the NHL leaders in first-period goals. Crosby’s line with Jake Guentzel and Bryan Rust was the offensive driver.
Crosby finished with two points, including his first-shift goal, a team-high four shots, and two hits. Characteristically, Crosby downplayed the moment and his role.
That is Sidney Crosby.
“Coming off of last game, we weren’t happy with the third,” he said. “We wanted to have a good start and get in the right frame of mind, and it was nice to get one early.”
Crosby’s goal certainly put the Pittsburgh Penguins in the right frame of mind as the game was close but seemingly never in doubt. The Penguins momentarily had first place in the East Division until Washington beat the New York Islanders.