Sidney Crosby attempts to get the puck past Henrik Lundqvist.Photo: NHLI via Getty Images
It was only a matter of time.
Facing the Rangers in the playoffs the past two seasons, Sidney Crosby has often been made to look mortal, even made to look mediocre, with the superstar unable to score or set up teammates with the ease he is accustomed to. But on Saturday night, the world’s best player broke out of his postseason slump, scoring two goals in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals to give the Penguins a 4-3 upset win at Madison Square Garden and tie the series at one.
Crosby had scored just one goal in his previous 19 playoff games.
“Great players always find a way,” teammate Maxim Lapierre said. “He doesn’t listen to what’s been said about him or complain. He’s professional, he works hard, he doesn’t say a word, and when it’s time to do something big, he does it.”
Crosby had been successfully contained by the Rangers since being held to three points in last year’s seven-game playoff series, and only registered one shot in Game 1 this year. From Saturday’s start, Crosby displayed none of the tentativeness he felt swallowed the team the other night, getting to the net with a mix of patience and aggressiveness.
With the game tied at one in the second period, Crosby scored his first playoff goal since Game 3 of last year’s series loss to the Rangers, giving the Penguins the first lead of the series after getting behind Ryan McDonagh to score on a backhand alone in front with 5:52 left in the period.
The two-time MVP could only be kept quiet for so long, ripping off the muzzle and slapping one on every seat of the sold-out crowd.
“You want to contribute, [so] when you’re able to score it feels good,” Crosby said. “It’s nice to get rewarded. Sometimes in the playoffs you play well and you don’t always get the result you want.”
Less than five minutes later, Crosby showcased his unique gifts by maneuvering through multiple defenders without the puck to find a sliver of open space, redirecting a pass from Chris Kunitz past Henrik Lundqvist to put the Penguins up 3-1 with 1:14 left in the second period.
Brilliant on offense, Crosby also contributed on multiple penalty kills, filling in on multiple shifts as Pittsburgh committed seven penalties.
“He had good puck possession, time in the zone, but the big thing for me still is he plays 200 feet,” Penguins coach Mark Johnston said. “His battle in our zone was as hard as it was in the offensive zone.”
After the sensational performance, Crosby was asked if the pressure to score had now been lifted. With the series tied at one and more at stake in Game 3, the weight remains just as great.
“There’s always pressure to score, especially this time of year,” Crosby said. “The most important one is the next one now. It’s playoff time, I expect that, try to go out there and play hard every night and trust the puck will go in.
“We wanted to make sure we went home with one and we’ll try to build on that momentum.”