Sunday, March 28, 2010

Welcome to the Sidney Crosby Show

Seven games left in the season, division title on the line, and in a fight against a desperate Toronto team laying everything on the line: Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the Sidney Crosby Show. He had two pivotal goals and one in the shootout to lead the Pens to a 5-4 shootout victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs Sunday afternoon at Mellon Arena. This, combined with a New Jersey loss to the Flyers, gives the Penguins a two point lead in the Atlantic Division with only 6 games remaining. (Devils have 7) It was a game of "cat and mouse" the entire game with each team exchanging goals all the way until the shootout. Tyler Kennedy put the Pens on the board first with an important goal midway through the first to tie the game up after Colton Orr of the Leafs scored earlier in the game. Kennedy's goal came after Mike Rupp managed to box out two Leafs defenders in the corner boards and pass the puck out to an open Kennedy for the score. The pattern would continue when Phil Kessel managed to put a long wrist shot past Fleury to give Toronto a 2-1 lead and the majority of the momentum. It was up to the captain to turn things around, and he wasted little time doing so. His first goal of the game came after Brooks Orpik wristed a long shot on J S Giguere and Crosby was there to dig out the rebound and poke it home for the score. Just over 3 minutes later, Crosby would score yet again after taking a pass from Orpik in the offensive zone and beating Giguere just over his blocker to put the Pens up 3-2. Unfortunately for the Pens, however, there was still some work to be done. The Leafs managed to tie it and take the lead on a pair of goals from Carl Gunnarsson and Tyler Bozak in the second and third periods respectively. It appeared for a long time that this would be the way things would end until the Pens changed all that with 2:48 to go in the third. Jordan Leopold slapped a shot towards Giguere ,but instead of a routine save being made, Matt Cooke jumped in front of it and made an extraordinary deflection between his legs to tie the game up and eventually send it into overtime. It looked like the Pens would pull it off at the end of overtime as they got a 4 on 3 powerplay in the final minutes, but a few acrobatic saves from Giguere kept it tied and sent the game into a shootout. Crosby cemented his status as first star of the game by beating Giguere high side to give the Pens the shootout lead. Pascal Dupuis also scored in the shootout and Fleury stopped both attempts thrown his way by Kessel and Nikolai Kulemin. Despite allowing 4 goals, it was a strong performance by Fleury, who made 25 saves and picked up his 35th win of the season. Crosby also had a good stats night getting his 47th goal of the season putting him ahead of Alexander Ovechkin and Steven Stamkos for the league lead. Crosby's performance was extremely important considering the absence of co-star Evgeni Malkin, who missed his 4th straight game and 6th out of the last 7. Sergei Gonchar also was absent due to illness, missing his 3rd straight. Another individual performance worth noting was that of Brooks Orpik, who recorded 3 assists and was a +1 for the game. This win capped off an important weekend for the Pens, who got 4 out a possible 4 points, clinched the playoffs, and seized the division lead from the Devils. The Pens will hope to keep their momentum going on Wednesday, when young superstar Steven Stamkos and the Tampa Bay Lightning come into town.

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