Matt Cullen and Sidney Crosby. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Sid the Kid's career drought is over. His overtime winner for Pittsburgh in Game 2 was the very first of his post-season career.
The sport's greatest players are judged on what they accomplish when they're needed most, whether that's fair or not. It implies a certain intangible ability to deliver in the clutch. You don't have to believe in it, but much of the hockey community and Twittersphere thinks that way.
Sidney Crosby has spent his career as a big-game player for the most part. An injury kept him off the ice for the dying minutes when Pittsburgh won the Stanley Cup in 2009, but he was still dominant in that playoff run. He delivered the gold-medal-clinching goals at the Olympics for Canada in 2010 and 2014, the former in overtime.
Something that had eluded Sid the Kid for his entire NHL career, however: a playoff overtime goal. Until Monday. Crosby finally delivered in his 113th post-season contest. Watch the winner here:
A perfectly timed shot. Crosby showed a goal-scorer's poise, not panicking, taking a split second to delay and aim short-side before one-timing a Bryan Rust feed past Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy.
The goal couldn't have come at a more opportune time for Crosby and the Penguins. It halved the Eastern Conference final at 1-1 instead of sending Pittsburgh to Tampa Bay down 2-0. It ended an eight-game goal drought for him, too. He hadn't scored since Game 4 of the Metro Division seminal versus the New York Rangers. Crosby went all of Round 2 against the Washington Capitals without a goal. They needed him Monday. They'd thrown everything they had against red-hot Vasilevskiy, who'd stopped 16 shots in the third period alone. Coach Mike Sullivan's deep, speedy, grinding lineup could only do so much of the damage via the depth players. The superstar had to chip in sooner or later.
Crosby was around the net all night, registering six shots, including one denied spectacularly by Vasilevskiy in the second. Crosby's 2016 playoff high before Game 2 was half that total, just three shots. It was only a matter of time before he finally converted one. He deserves credit for spending a ton of time in the slot, in the blue ice, in front of Vasilevskiy, taking punishment in Game 2. He didn't play on the perimeter, and he got rewarded for it.
It's a series again after Pittsburgh's 3-2 victory. The Pens head to Tampa knowing they controlled the pace of Game 2. The momentum is suddenly back in their corner.
Matt Larkin is a writer and editor at The Hockey News and a regular contributor to the thn.com Post-To-Post blog. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Matt Larkin on Twitter at @THNMattLarkin