Pittsburgh Penguin captain Sidney Crosby looks back as his shot goes past Calgary Flames netminder Jonas Hiller and defender Paul Byron during the second period at the Saddledome Friday February 6, 2015.
Ted Rhodes / Calgary Herald
A reporter once asked legendary Broadway dancer/choreographer Tommy Tune: “Do you think greats like Fred Astaire possess magic?’’
“No,’’ the multi-Tony Award-winner replied after considering the question a moment. “Magic possesses them.’’
On his particular stage, in his particular theatre, it is just as true of Sidney Crosby.
A complicated magic, granted, as much to do with effort and sweat and sheer stubbornness as it does with grace, sleight-of-hand and intellectual acuity.
He is as much earth as air, gravity as weightlessness, is Crosby. Which, as it turns out, only serves to pile on the devastation.
“You know,’’ said Penguins; goaltender Marc Andre Fleury, ballcap on fashionably backwards as he leaned back taking a well-deserved rest after setting a seasonal shutout record for Pittsburgh goaltenders, notching No. 8, “I’ve been playing with him for so long. I’ve seen him do so much.
“But I love to watch him play still. Love it.
“I love the game and I love the way he gets out there, the quickness, so shifty. He can make plays. He can score. Fun to watch.’’
A small smile. “I’m sure everybody else has fun watching, too.’’
So the wait was worth it (well, at least if you’re partial to the Pens). Sid the Kid made only his fourth-ever Saddledome appearance and left those who arrived adorned in a Pittsburgh Penguins No. 87 jersey as if it were some form of holy vestment dancing a merry jig in the aisles of the Dome.
Two beautiful goals and a helper as Pittsburgh took the Calgary Flames to school and ran out fully-deserving 4-0 winners.
The Flames weren’t so much beaten as Cros-ed.
“It’s nice,’’ said Crosby afterwards. “ A great atmosphere here. You can tell there’s so much passion for the game so as a player when you play in that type of environment you want to be at your best. You want the two points, but if there are people coming here to watch (you), you want to do your best.
“It’s nice when it all works out.’’
Beautifully, as it turned out.
Crosby’s two goals were, well, pretty much what you’d expect of the best player on the planet. One hand on the stick, he still manages to launch a Chris Kunitz pass like a car at top speed leaving a tilted off-ramp, beating the swiftest Flame, Paul Bryon, to the space and leaving goaltender Jonas Hiller no chance.
Accepting another superb Kunitz pass in the third period, short but lethal, splits the Calgary defence like a gutted perch, and sizzles a laser-beam over the glove, ending Hiller’s evening.
Beyond the usual ooohs/aaahs and groans, both goals actually their share of spirited applause. A reaction thing. For the sheer brilliance, probably.
“You never expect that,’’ Crosby admitted. “There are other buildings that aren’t … exactly like that but you take advantage of it when you can.
“We’re pretty fortunate. Our fans travel pretty well. But, definitely, to see some Pittsburgh jerseys out there is really great. Picks you up.
“It felt good as a whole. Our whole team played well tonight. We knew we were going to have to come in here and work hard. They’re a hard-working team. So come in with the right mindset.
“Jersey (a 2-1 win last week) was a little similar. Obviously the score was a little closer, it took a little bit longer. But the way we generated chances 5-on-5, we did a great job.’’
The Pens were on top and threatening from the start.
A rare Mark Giordano miscue stared the unravelling, Kunitz slapping down the Calgary captain’s outlet pass, allowing Crosby to slide across to David (I Do Believe I’ve Died And Gone To Heaven) Perron to bury his eighth goal since being rescued from the barren hockey wasteland that is Edmonton. They quite rightly doubled their lead at 18:10 of the first period, defenceman Simon Despres spotting Brandon Sutter utterly alone to Hiller’s right for a redirect.
Then The Kid went to work, with destructive consequences.
But, emphasized Calgary pivot Joe Colborne, it wasn’t as if he and his teammates were caught unawares or in anything approaching awe.
“No, I think it’s a little overblown,” Colborne said. “The fans get star-struck by it, I think. We’ve played him enough. We’ve played other guys and it doesn’t affect us at all. If you give Datsyuk, Kane, Toews, Kopitar and some of these other top players the same chances, they’re going to bury them, too.
“It’s just the fact that you can’t give top players in the league breakaways and chances like we did. We weren’t good enough in our defensive zone and that’s something we have to shore up.’’
That may be. But with Crosby in that sort of form, and Kunitz providing an utterly perfect foil, there might not have been much they could have done to stem the tide, anyway.
Hockey’s best player, showing why. Again.
“Exactly,’’ agreed Colborne. “He’s done it time and time again. It’s not surprising to any of us. You see him get breakways, you know he’s going to make plays. Again, Hills stood on his head and you can’t put any blame at all on him …