RALEIGH, N.C. -- A year ago at this point in the playoffs, Sidney Crosby shook NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly's hand and leaned in a little toward the fancy Prince of Wales Trophy, making sure not to so much as graze it.
Last night, after a short conference with veteran teammate Bill Guerin, the Penguins' center and captain did more than touch the large reward for the team winning the postseason Eastern Conference title.
Following the series sweeping victory that clinched a spot in the Stanley Cup final, Crosby grabbed that trophy with both hands, lifted it with Daly hanging onto it, then took a short skate around the RBC Center ice with it and shared the moment with his teammates.
"Last year, obviously, we didn't have the result we wanted," Crosby said of the team's loss in six games to Detroit in the Stanley Cup final, "and we figured we'd touch it this year.
"Although we didn't accomplish exactly what we want, we still accomplished something here. It doesn't mean that we think we're finished by any means, but we can still enjoy it."
Last year, the Penguins' captain succumbed to superstition when he posed with the trophy without touching it, but this time he hopes to change the result that followed. The club faces a potential rematch with the Red Wings, who lead Chicago, 3-1, going into Game 5 of the Western Conference final tonight.
Superstition again played a role last night.
"We just wanted to change things up," Crosby said. "We didn't touch it last year. Might as well grab it and get a picture with it and move on and go after the one we really want."
The players would get no argument from coach Dan Bylsma.
"That's a lot of talk," he said. "Teams that play in the finals will decide who wins the Cup, not who touched the trophy or not.
"If you look at history, Mario [Lemieux] touched it two years and they won the Cup."
When the Penguins won those Stanley Cups, in 1991 and '92, Lemieux -- the center and captain and now a Hall of Famer, co-owner of the club and Crosby's landlord -- took an even longer skate with the same Prince of Whales Trophy.
Before a potential rematch with Detroit this year, and even before Crosby decided to touch the large reward for getting through three rounds of the playoffs, the Penguins wrapped up a few loose ends after the game.
Penguins center Jordan Staal and big brother Eric, star center for the Hurricanes, were on opposite ends of a one-sided series.
Before the game, Carolina had been 7-0 in this postseason when Eric Staal scored and 1-9 when he didn't -- including 0-3 against the Penguins. He got his first goal of this series on a wraparound to open the scoring in the first period last night, but the Penguins were strong enough to break the pattern.
Jordan Staal played against brother Marc, a defenseman for the New York Rangers, in the second round last year, but this was in the conference final with a chance to play for the Stanley Cup on the line. That made the meeting between Jordan and Eric in the teams' handshake line right after the game, which included a brief hug, "a little tough," Jordan Staal said.
Now the Staal family parents Henry and Linda -- who remained at home in Thunder Bay, Ontario, figuring it would be too difficult to watch two sons playing against each other with so much on the line -- can narrow their focus on Jordan.
Meanwhile, there was a potential passing of the baton between Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, a finalist last year and Stanley Cup champion hopeful this year, and his Carolina counterpart, Cam Ward, who not only has his name on the Cup but also was the 2006 Conn Smythe winner as playoff MVP.
"I just told him, 'Great series,' " Fleury said. "He wished me good luck.
"He's been through it. I have a lot of respect for him. He's a goalie I like to watch and somebody I look up to."
Shelly Anderson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1721.