Superstars are such because they perform at the highest levels of their sport that others can only dream of achieving. Sometimes, for a variety of reasons, those superstars become mortal for periods of time but it does not last and when the superstars return to their status, they lead like no others can. Ladies and gentlemen, I bring to you, Sidney Crosby.
Tampa Bay Lightning vs Pittsburgh Penguins
Sidney Crosby scored his first career overtime game-winning goal 40 seconds into the game’s fourth period in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals to give the Pittsburgh Penguins a 3-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning. The goal also knotted the best-of-series at 1-1.
“I thought we had some real good chances even in the first two periods,” Crosby said during his postgame press conference. “It felt like every shift we were able to generate something and even with that they (Tampa Bay) were still able to counter pretty well and generate a couple chances themselves, but I thought we just had the right mindset going into the third (period). We played on our toes. We were aggressive. You know, it’s a 2-2 game and I think we just had the right mindset and I just think everyone kind of helped each other create momentum and help the next line get out there against a tired group and we found a way there in overtime.”
“I just liked our stick-to-it-iv-ness, I guess,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. “We just kept playing (after Tampa Bay tied the game). We just stayed with it. We just kept trying to play the right way. That’s what I liked most about the group. I thought as the game wore on we got better and better. I give the guys a lot of credit for just staying with it.”
The first period saw four goals scored and 22 shots (Tampa Bay 8, Pittsburgh 14) and it appeared that the game would be a high-scoring affair between two high-powered offensive teams.
Matt Cullen gave Pittsburgh a 1-0 lead 4:32 into the game. He received a pass at the Tampa Bay blue line from Tom Kuhnhackl and carried the puck into the Lightning zone on the left wing. He cut toward the middle of the zone and passed across the ice to Eric Fehr, who let a shot go at Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy. The netminder made the save but the rebound went straight Cullen and he put a wrist shot into the far corner of the net.
Phil Kessel put the Penguins ahead 2-0 at 9:37 of the first period. Pittsburgh controlled the puck in the Tampa Bay zone working the cycle down low in the left wing corner. Kessel exited the corner toward the blue line and fed a pass across the ice to Carl Hagelin, who put a shot at Vasilevskiy. Once again, the goaltender stopped the shot and gave up a rebound that Nick Bonino pounced on, he attempted a shot that hit the skate of a Lightning defenseman and skidded to Kessel. The winger scooped up the puck and put a low shot past Vasilevskiy.
Tampa Bay defenseman Anton Stralman, playing in his first playoff game of 2016 after missing 19 games with a broken leg, scored at 16:37 to cut Pittsburgh’s lead to 2-1. Jonathan Marchessault received a pass in the neutral zone from Victor Hedman and skated into the Penguins zone along the left wing boards. He spotted Stralman as the Lightning defender skated toward the crease of Pittsburgh goaltender Matt Murray on the right side of the ice and hit Stralman with a pass that the defenseman converted for his first goal of the playoffs.
Jonathan Drouin closed out the scoring in the opening period with 50 seconds remaining in the frame. JT Brown headed up ice after receiving a breakout pass from Matthew Carle. Brown made his way to the middle of the neutral zone and sent a pass to Drouin on the right wing. Drouin skated into the Pittsburgh zone and reeled off a blistering wrist shot, while in stride, that found its way between Murray’s left arm and body before settling into the back of the net evening the score at 2-2.
Thanks to the goaltenders, the clubs played the next two periods without scoring a goal. Tampa Bay put 13 shots on goal during those 40 minutes. Pittsburgh had 24 shots on goal.
The stage was set for Crosby, who had gone eight games without scoring a goal, to return to the mantel of superstardom when he watched teammate Brian Dumoulin send Bryan Rust into the Lightning zone on the left side of the ice. Crosby joined the rush to create a two on one and yelled for the puck. Rust pulled up and backed off from the Tampa Bay defenseman forcing the defender to move toward him, as he did, Rust moved the puck over to Crosby and the Penguins captain one-timed a shot over Vasilevskiy’s shoulder for the winning goal.
The series shifts to Tampa’s Amalie Arena for Games 3 and 4.
Game 3 will be played on Wednesday, May 18th, at 8:00 pm ET (NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).
Stat of the Night:
Sidney Crosby scored the fastest overtime goal (40 seconds into OT) in Penguins playoff history.
Pittsburgh improved to 3-1 through four overtime games in the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Per Elias Sports Bureau, the Penguins tied a franchise record with three overtime wins in a playoff year, also achieved in 2009 and 2001.
Victor Hedman posted his 28th career playoff assist to tie Vincent Lecavalier for third on Tampa Bay’s all-time list.
Sidney Crosby scored his 47th career playoff goal to pass Kevin Stevens for third on the Penguins all-time list.
Tuesday’s Stanley Cup Schedule:
Game 2 -Western Conference Finals – San Jose Sharks at St. Louis Blues (8:00 pm ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports) St. Louis leads the best-of-seven series 1-0.
Follow ESPN New Hampshire NHL Writer, Shawn Hutchen, on Twitter at @ShawnHutcheon.