Monday, February 24, 2014

Canada’s Sidney Crosby delivers dagger with breakaway goal

By Neil Davidson
February 23, 2014

Crosby move
Canada's Sidney Crosby puts a move on Swedish goalkeeper Henrik Lundqvist to score the second goal in a 3-0 win in the gold medal final Sunday at the Bolshoy Ice Dome.

SOCHI, Russia — Stripping Jonathan Ericsson of the puck at the Canadian blue-line, Sidney Crosby took off with seemingly all of Sweden chasing him.

They never caught him.

Crosby froze Henrik Lundqvist with a move then took the puck to his right, sweeping in a backhand as the desperate goalie tried to slide a leg over. He was too late, with the puck bouncing in off his skate.

“It was great,” said Canadian forward Matt Duchene. “When he got that breakaway, I don’t think there was any doubt that he was going to miss there. He’s a big-time player, big-game player. He’s our leader. Best player in the world.

“We had full confidence he was going to bury it there.”

The goal, at 15:43 of the second period, made it 2-0 and took the wind out of the Swedish sails. Linemate Chris Kunitz made it 3-0 midway through the third Sunday in the Olympic hockey final.

“When they got that second goal, I think it kind of took the air out of us a little bit,” said Swedish forward Gabriel Landeskog.

Added Swedish coach Par Marts: “I think the second goal let us down the most. If you were 1-0 down and one period left, you could handle that but two goals down and 20 minutes left against a team that doesn’t let a goal in, that’s really tough.”

Canada allowed just three goals in the whole tournament and got stingier as the competition wore on, with shutouts against the U.S. in the semifinal and Sweden in the final.
“With each game we seemed to build more and more confidence,” said Crosby.

For Crosby, the breakaway brought back memories of the gold medal game at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver when he missed on a similar play in the third period against the U.S. Zach Parise then scored for the Americans to send the game into overtime, when Crosby scored his golden goal.

“To get a chance like that late in the second (period), to know you can go up (by) two, you want to make sure that you make the most of it,” said Crosby. “I remember in Vancouver (four years ago) I missed one with a couple of minutes left and they ended up tying it.

“So it’s nice to be able to get that one, get a bit of a cushion.”

Beating Lundqvist was also sweet.

“I haven’t scored on him that much to be honest with you,” Crosby said of the New York Rangers goalie. “So it was nice to finally score.”

The breakaway was Crosby’s only shot of the game and just his 11th in six games. But after some initial line tinkering by the Canadian braintrust, Crosby became a force as the tournament wore on, playing on an effective line with Kunitz and Patrice Bergeron.

“Sidney Crosby for me was so dominant these last two games,” said Canadian coach Mike Babcock.

The three checked tenaciously with Crosby taking advantage of the extra space behind the goal to help bottle up the Swedes in their own end.

A points machine in the NHL, Crosby’s numbers here were modest. But his contribution was immense. He finished with one goal and two assists and was a plus-four in 98 minutes 42 seconds on the Olympic ice.

“Everyone evaluates Sid on scoring, and I evaluate Sid on winning,” Babcock said after the preliminary-round game against Finland. “That’s what we came here for.”

On Sunday, Babcock returned to that topic.

Canada did not play defensively, he said. It played offensively, keeping the puck away from the opposition.

“We outchanced these teams big-time, we didn’t score. We were a great offensive team.”

“Does anybody know who wore the (Olympic tournament) scoring race?” he then asked. “Does anybody care?

“Does anybody know who won the gold medal? See you guys.”


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