Ron Cook: Even without points, Sidney Crosby was best skater on ice



No goals. No assists. No points.

There is just one other thing to say about Sidney Crosby's performance Sunday night in the Penguins' 3-0 win against the New York Rangers in Game 2 of their Stanley Cup playoff series.

No skater on either team was better.

Bylsma discusses Game 2 win over Rangers

Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma talks about his team's 3-0 win over the Rangers in the second game of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals. (Video by Matt Freed; 5/4/2014)

It's a lot easier to like the Penguins' chances the rest of the way, not just because of the win, which tied the series at one game apiece, but because of the way Crosby played. Much has been made of his long, almost unbelievable streak without a postseason goal, now at 13 games going back to the Ottawa series last season. But this game was different. This was Crosby's best of these playoffs. If he keeps playing like that, the goals will come. So will the wins for the Penguins.

Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist was sensational, the best player on the ice. The Penguins threw 34 shots at him, getting only one by him by defenseman Kris Letang midway through the second period and another on the power play by Jussi Jokinen late in the game. Evgeni Malkin's goal with 53.5 seconds left was an empty-netter.

Crosby had six of the Penguins' shots. Many were terrific scoring chances. Lundqvist is good, but not so good that he will continue to deny Crosby when Crosby is skating like that. In any other game, Crosby would have had two goals, perhaps even a hat trick.

Maybe in Game 3 tonight at Madison Square Garden.

There has been much speculation that Crosby is hurt, so profound has his drop-off been from the regular season when he ran away with the NHL scoring title with 36 goals and 104 points. But he looked anything but hurt Sunday night. He played fast. He played physical. He played like, well, Sidney Crosby, the best player in the world.

"I agree," teammate Craig Adams said. "He was hounding pucks all over the ice. They were forced to deal with him all night."

That was especially true in the second period when the Penguins took control of the game. Crosby forced Lundqvist to make a great save when he redirected a pass from linemate Brian Gibbons midway through the period. Later, Lundqvist made a big save on a sweeping shot by Crosby, then another on one of Crosby's often lethal backhanded shots. For good measure, Crosby won five of six faceoffs in the period.

"The way he was jumping," Adams said when asked what impressed him most about Crosby's game.

It was at both ends of the ice.

"He made a number of plays on the backcheck by lifting guys' sticks," Adams said.

"I thought he was great on the forecheck," Penguins center Brandon Sutter said. "He's so tough in the corner, handling the puck. When he has it, it's hard to get it away from him. There aren't too many guys as strong as he is."

Crosby didn't share his thoughts with the media after the game. He's almost always at his locker -- win or lose -- to speak for the Penguins as their captain. It's a surprise when he is not there.

When Crosby has faced the media, he has been the same as always -- poised, in control, never saying the wrong thing, never down. But there's no question his failure to score goals has been bothering him. He knows there's a reason the Penguins are paying him $8.7 million a year. He is expected to deliver when the lights are the brightest.

"Hey, listen, everybody gets down at times," Adams said. "It doesn't have to be over not scoring goals. It could be allowing a goal on the penalty-kill. Or making a defensive mistake. That's only natural. Sid is no different than anyone else."

On this night, Crosby had no reason to be down. His team won a big game, a critical game, a game it had to have to stay relevant in the series. So what if his stat line didn't reflect a strong performance? Anyone who watched the game knew he was flying on the ice. That includes the Rangers.

"I thought it was his best game of the playoffs by far," Adams said. "He was terrific, just terrific."

Ron Cook: rcook@post-gazette.com. Ron Cook can be heard on the "Cook and Poni" show weekdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on 93.7 The Fan.


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