Stars cross; it takes toll
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PHILADELPHIA -- Seconds into Game 6 Sunday, Philadelphia's Claude Giroux dumped Penguins captain Sidney Crosby onto the ice. Seconds later, Giroux scored the first goal of what became a 5-1, series-clinching victory for the Flyers at Wells Fargo Center.
"You get hit sometimes," Crosby said. "I don't know if that altered the game. I think they got a great start, which they wanted, and he got everyone into it."
That was a telling slice of the teams' first-round series -- Giroux outshined Crosby and outscored him, 14-8 -- and it left Crosby dismayed but philosophical.
He has spent the bulk of the past 16 months dealing with a concussion and neck injury, only to have his first postseason appearance in two years end in six games over 12 days.
"That's hockey sometimes," Crosby said. "You don't always get to achieve the stuff you want to, and there's a lot of other teams that want the same thing.
"It's not a good feeling, but, that being said, we've got to find some way to learn from this and be better for it."
Several minutes after the game, following a final postgame meeting with coach Dan Bylsma, many players were milling around or already out of the visitors' locker room. Crosby was sitting patiently at his stall, his uniform and pads off, and he stood to answer five minutes' worth of questions.
He talked about the flavor of Game 6, when the Flyers got a couple of bang-bang goals to be in position to go into shutdown mode.
He talked about the tough start the Penguins had, losing leads in Games 1 and 2 at home and again in Game 3 at Wells Fargo Center to fall into what turned out to be an insurmountable, 3-0 hole.
Then, the topic turned to his series.
Crosby had a goal and an assist in Game 1, the same thing in Game 2 -- scoring the game's opening goal each night. Not a bad start, but not enough to push the Penguins to a win in either game. He had an assist in Game 3, a goal and two assists in the 10-3 Game 4 blowout win, and no points in the final two games.
"I felt all right," Crosby said of his series. "I think it was much tighter the last couple of games, and I probably didn't get as many chances as I would have liked. That's playoff hockey sometimes. You've got to find ways to create.
"Yeah, that would pretty much sum it up -- I would have liked to get more going the last couple of games."
He entered this series with 30 goals, 82 points in 62 career playoff games. That put his points pace a little off this series, but Bylsma didn't think that reflected his performance.
"I think these six games were probably Crosby's best six [in his most recent comeback]," Bylsma said. "I thought he was very good, ends up with eight points."
Crosby missed the final 41 games of the 2010-11 season, the 2011 playoffs, and the first several weeks of this season before he played in eight games starting Nov. 21, getting two goals, 10 points. He then left the lineup until getting cleared for the final 14 regular-season games in which he had six goals, 19 assists.
Crosby apparently will get the chance to go through a normal offseason and go into 2012-13 season fresh and healthy. This was a physical series, and Crosby not only got dumped by Giroux but also had a hard collision with teammate Evgeni Malkin on a Game 5 power play. He indicated he came out of the series fine.
But not as fine as Giroux, who is moving on to the Eastern Conference semifinals as the star of this series.
Crosby has had heady times, too, including captaining the Penguins to the 2009 Stanley Cup. But, even after all he's has been through in recent months, he will have to wait until next year to try again.
First Published April 23, 2012 12:02 pm