Crosby's 2 goals, 2 assists lead Penguins past Ducks
Hours before the Penguins' 6-2 victory over Anaheim on Monday night at Consol Energy Center, the scrum of reporters vacated the area around Sidney Crosby's stall. Tom Kuhnhackl and several other call-ups from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton chatted among themselves about the mass of humanity moving away from their area of the dressing room.
“This is just absolutely crazy when you see that every practice and after every game,” Kuhnhackl said. “It's a different world.”
Kuhnhackl, Conor Sheary, Scott Wilson, Kevin Porter, Derrick Pouliot and recent addition Oskar Sundqvist occupy stalls that sit just a few feet away from Crosby, the league's best forward over the past several weeks. And while they're unlikely to follow in the Penguins captain's footsteps as world-class scorers, they're picking up on all the little things on the ice and off it that set apart Crosby, responsible for two goals and two assists Monday, from almost every other player in the league.
“I watched him growing up my whole life,” Sheary said. “You just follow him. … I see things he does, and I might try the next time. He sees things way differently than other people on the ice.”
Feisty in front of the Ducks' net and full of energy at both ends, Sheary, Pouliot and company bolstered standout performances from Crosby and defenseman Kris Letang in a way that convincingly propelled the Penguins, winners of six of their past seven, past Anaheim, which had a six-game win streak and one of the league's most balanced lineups.
“It feels like it's a different world up here,” said Wilson, who until recently led the American Hockey League with 22 goals. “I think we did a good job of getting the pucks and turning the pucks over and letting the big guys take care of the rest.”
Sheary tipped a Letang shot from up top to beat Ducks goalie and Whitehall native John Gibson to give the Penguins a 2-0 lead 10 minutes into the first period.
The line of Sheary, Wilson and Porter dictated possession as well as any of the team's trios, with Sheary's goal preceded by more than a minute of offensive zone time.
“The energy they bring, the momentum that they bring to our team is evident,” coach Mike Sullivan said. “They're hungry. And they're all capable of scoring goals. … That's really been the only thing that's been missing with that group. … (So) we're thrilled for them tonight.”
Pouliot proved his two-way maturity on a night when two other offensive-minded Penguins blue liners, Letang and Trevor Daley, committed neutral zone turnovers that went back the other way for Anaheim goals.
Ryan Getzlaf hijacked Letang in the first period's final minute to get a breakaway and scored to cut the Penguins' lead to 2-1. But Carl Hagelin — another recent addition to the Penguins roster who sits near Crosby in the dressing room — buried a shot on a breakaway chance 33 seconds later to restore the two-goal margin.
Daley's giveaway, which occurred with one minute left in the second period, led to a Patrick Maroon goal.
But the Ducks fell into a state of desperation well before Maroon's goal, due in large part to Crosby, whose tally 15 minutes into the second frame extended his career-best goal-scoring streak to seven games, tying Chicago's Patrick Kane for the league's longest this season.
Crosby buried his first goal after he blocked a shot, collected the loose puck for a breakaway and beat Gibson down low.
Crosby dazzled with his second tally. He ripped one past Gibson on a breakaway while Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler hooked him down to the ice early in the third period.
“As a team, we're finding our game,” Crosby said. “We're pretty depleted with injuries right now, and the guys from Wilkes-Barre deserve a lot of credit. They've come in to some really important roles for us, and they've done a really good job. Brought a lot of energy for us.”
Gibson finished with 25 saves and departed in the third period after Olli Maatta stretched the Penguins' lead to four goals. Gibson has allowed 12 goals in two appearances at Consol Energy Center.
But there's curiosity among the Penguins and their opponents about whether any goalie or defense can slow Crosby's current momentum.
“His last 10 goals or so, I think me and Porter have just looked at each other with nothing to say,” Wilson said. “Even in practice, when you watch a guy like that, you're pretty starstruck. I've been up here for a while, and it never gets old. That's for sure.”