Sidney Crosby says Penguins better served going for empty-netters than sitting back in late-game situations | TribLIVE.com
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Jonathan Bombulie

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Playing the position runs in Sidney Crosby’s family, and he’s been known to goof around between the pipes in pick-up games and other informal settings from time to time, but make no mistake: He’s not a goaltender.

As such, the idea of sitting back and letting opposing teams fire a barrage of shots at him during the final minute of a game doesn’t agree with the Pittsburgh Penguins captain.

The team has struggled lately to protect one-goal leads in the final seconds of regulation, losing three of their previous 13 games by that method heading into a Thursday night matchup in Nashville.

Crosby thinks the best way to solve that problem is to spend as little time as possible white-knuckling it in the defensive zone.

“You’ve got to find a way to try not to defend,” Crosby said Thursday morning. “If you can get it out of your zone and not allow them to get zone time and wear you down defensively, obviously, that’s ideal. Putting it in the empty net and getting a two-goal lead, that’s ideal.”

To that end, Crosby must walk a fine line. Scoring an empty-net goal, something Crosby has done 19 times in his career, is the easiest way to diffuse the situation. Gambling to achieve that goal, though, is ill-advised.

“I think you pick your spots,” Crosby said. “I think early on in shifts, you have a little bit more energy and you’re a little bit more aggressive. As they start to get more zone time, you’ve got to control yourself a little bit and make sure you’re in lanes and try to block shots and that sort of thing. You don’t want to run out of position, but ideally, you’re not spending too much time in your own end. That usually gives you a better chance.”

As for the three goals the Penguins have given up in five-on-six situations lately, Crosby echoed the sentiments of coach Mike Sullivan, saying they came under such different circumstances it’s hard to watch video and draw up a concrete plan to stop them.

“You just gotta bear down,” Crosby said. “You’ve got to come up with big plays. It’s got to be different things each time, whether it’s shot blocks or faceoffs or getting a clear, getting a goal. You’ve got to find different ways to get it done.”

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