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Leafs laud Crosby's impact during lockout

| Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013, 11:06 p.m.
Penguins captain Sidney Crosby can't get to a third-period rebound as he is defended by the Maple Leafs' Carl Gunnarsson on Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013, at Consol Energy Center. (Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review)

For his lofty standards, Penguins captain Sidney Crosby has started the season slowly.

His work during the NHL lockout, however, still is drawing rave reviews.

Many members of the Toronto Maple Leafs said before their 5-2 victory Wednesday at Consol Energy Center that Crosby's presence was a significant factor in getting a deal done.

“He is the face of hockey,” Toronto right wing Joffrey Lupul said. “When you have the face of your sport working hard, trying to get something done, I think everybody notices. It meant a lot to all of us.”

Crosby's decision to team with Penguins co-owner Ron Burkle during negotiating sessions in December ultimately was not successful, despite early progress.

No player around the league has publicly questioned Crosby, even though he aligned himself with an owner. Rather, Crosby's work seems to have inspired many.

“I think you can honestly say that what he did was appreciated by everyone,” Maple Leafs left wing James Van Riemsdyk said. “He didn't have to go to New York, but he did it anyway.”

Crosby never was viewed as a hard-core labor man during the lockout, but his loyalty to NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr never was questioned.

Instead, he became a leading voice of moderates who wanted to see a deal orchestrated.

“It is always a good thing when you see superstars kind of taking the lead the way Sidney did,” Toronto defenseman Mike Komisarek said. “And Sidney's not just a superstar, but he's the best player in the league. Someone like him has a big voice, and he used it. When Sid speaks, everyone listens. It was great to see him take a stand, work with Don and help to get things going.”

Crosby changed somewhat during the lockout.

Although polite and relatively well liked by players around the league, Crosby, at 25, seemed far more at ease throwing himself into what became a messy four months.

If players liked and respected him before, many acknowledged to actually knowing him now.

“Never really knew him before, but I had a chance to meet him during that time,” Komisarek said. “And I'll tell you, I can't say enough good things about him and all that he did.”'

Crosby did plenty of good things on the ice against the Maple Leafs on Wednesday.

He set up center Evgeni Malkin's first goal of the season on a power play in the first period. Then, Crosby scored his first goal.

With the Penguins trailing 2-1 in the second period, Crosby sensed a break and scooted toward the red line. Right wing Pascal Dupuis located Crosby, who records 1.75 points per game at Consol Energy Center, and fired a lead pass.

Crosby took the pass and, for the first time in three games, displayed his patented burst, blowing past Toronto defenseman Dion Phaneuf before burying a quick snap shot between goalie James Reimer's legs.

No matter his contributions on the ice, part of Crosby's legacy will include the work he did off it during the lockout.

“It was great to see all the things he did,” Komisarek said. “And I really do believe that he made a big, big difference. Having him around was a big deal.”

Josh Yohe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at jyohe@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JoshYohe_Trib.

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