Crosby draws penalty to set up winning power play
UNIONDALE, N.Y. — Sidney's Crosby biggest assist didn't show up in the box score Sunday.
Crosby had three assists in the Penguins' 5-4 overtime win over the New York Islanders in Game 3 of their first-round Stanley Cup playoff series. But Penguins coach Dan Bylsma singled out a play Crosby made immediately before he found Chris Kunitz for the game-winner as the most important.
“I probably think the best set-up he had was drawing the penalty,” Bylsma said. “That's kind of typical, what Sidney Crosby can do. He's a tough guy, a power forward, and he draws the penalty by playing that way — playing down low and going to the net. That sets up, obviously, the game-winning goal on the power play.”
Crosby drew the penalty after carrying the puck along the right boards. He pulled up to try to find a teammate in the middle, but when nothing presented itself, he put his head down and charged toward the net. As Crosby made his move, Islanders defenseman Brian Strait was called for holding, much to the dismay of the boisterous Nassau Coliseum crowd.
It didn't take long for the Penguins to capitalize. Just 33 seconds into the power play, Crosby set up Kunitz in the left circle for a one-timer past Evgeni Nabokov with 11:16 left in overtime.
“He's putting it on a tee for me. I've just got to put it on net,” Kunitz said. “It's great to have him back and playing and seeing the vision. It doesn't seem like he's missed too much time.”
Crosby, who has five points in two games since returning from a monthlong absence with a broken jaw, took a pass from Paul Martin along the goal line by the left post to start the play.
As Islanders defenseman Andrew MacDonald slid toward Crosby, he found Kunitz in the vacated area. Dropping to a knee as he shot, Kunitz lifted the puck past Nabokov before the Islanders were able to recover.
“That was pretty much all him,” Crosby said. “He did a great job of finding the open area there. It's not an easy play backing up like that and making the shot that he made. That was a big one for us.”
The goal served as redemption for Kunitz, who took the blame for a mistake that led to the tying goal by New York's John Tavares midway through the third period.
“It feels really good,” Kunitz said of the first playoff overtime goal of his nine-year career. “It was my fault on the fourth goal. I didn't put it deep; I put it wide. They moved it up quick, and Tavares had a great one-on-one, good shot. It's something you regret in your head. I was just fortunate enough to get one back in overtime to make up for it.”
Dan Duggan is a freelance writer.