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Sidney Crosby doing what it takes to guide Pittsburgh Penguins to another title

By
Shelly Anderson, The Sports Xchange
Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby is doing everything he can to get his name etched for a third time on the Stanley Cup. File photo by Archie Carpenter/UPI
Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby is doing everything he can to get his name etched for a third time on the Stanley Cup. File photo by Archie Carpenter/UPI | License Photo

PITTSBURGH -- Simple answers, the kind that put team ahead of self, have been staples for Sidney Crosby in his 12 NHL seasons.

The Pittsburgh Penguins center is one win away from captaining his team to its second Stanley Cup in a row, and third during his career. That could happen as early as Sunday night in Game 6 in Nashville against the Predators.

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Yet Crosby doesn't gush, at least not publicly.

Consider his description of the opening couple minutes Thursday in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final. By even the most objective standards, Crosby came roaring into the game and launched the Penguins toward a 6-0 win and a 3-2 series lead.

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"We had a great start," he said. "Wanted to make sure that we played on our toes. I thought we did a great job of that."

Here's what really happened:

Crosby, on the game's first shift, carried the puck over the blue line and bulled his way through strong Nashville defensive pair Roman Josi and Ryan Ellis. He drew a holding penalty against Ellis while ringing a shot off the left post.

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RELATED Stanley Cup: Sidney Crosby punches P.K. Subban's face into ice

On the ensuing power play, Crosby set up Justin Schultz for a 1-0 lead, and the tone for the game was set.

"Sid led the charge for us, first shift, and the team followed," fellow center Matt Cullen said. "When he plays that way, it's awfully easy to follow him. He's pretty inspirational when he plays that way. It was great to see the way he played, and a lot of guys stepped up and chipped in."

Crosby finished with three assists to reach 27 points, one behind Pittsburgh center Evgeni Malkin for the NHL postseason scoring lead.

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Crosby, Malkin and playoffs goals leader and Crosby linemate Jake Guentzel would seem to be the favorites to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP if the Penguins close out the series.

If Crosby, 29, wins that trophy, he will match the two that Penguins owner and iconic Hall of Fame center Mario Lemieux won. If Crosby gets his name on the Cup a third time, he will top Lemieux by one.

He also passed Lemieux for the franchise record with 20 career points in Stanley Cup Finals.

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Crosby came dangerously close to saying amusing things when he talked about getting tangled with Nashville's P.K. Subban in the first period of Game 5 and appeared to bang Subban's head off the ice -- "He was doing some UFC move on my foot" -- and about what happened in the second period when it appeared he threw a water bottle onto the ice from the bench -- "I made a gesture, and it came flying out of my hand. I didn't try to throw it. ... I have a better arm than that anyway."

Asked about being so close to lifting the Cup again, though, Crosby quickly reverted to form.

"Still a lot of work to be done, but the way we played (Thursday) night, if we can build off that momentum that's important, but we know we're going to face a desperate team," he said.

Perhaps Crosby's way of expressing himself could at times make watching paint dry a popular spectator sport by comparison, but his consistency and performances like the one he had in Game 5 continually invigorate his teammates.

"Whether (the puck) goes in for him or doesn't, I think he prepares the same way every game, and he does these things every game," goaltender Matt Murray said. "So sometimes he may get a lot of points, sometimes he may not, but at the end of the day, he's doing the same stuff and seeing little things ... for the whole team that definitely provides a jump.

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"And he's our leader, so everybody kind of follows what he does."

What Crosby does, rather than what he says, is what counts.

"What I've really grown to admire and respect about Sid is not only is he a talented player, because there's a lot of talented players; I just think he has such a drive to be the best, and he's willing to do what it takes," coach Mike Sullivan said. "He doesn't just show up to the rink and put his equipment on. He controls everything within his power to be the very best. He controls his diet. He lives the right way. His off-ice habits are exceptional.

"He sets such an example for the rest of the group on how to control what you can to give yourself every chance to be successful. ... He has so much care for this organization and trying to help his team win, and he happens to be just an ultra-talented guy that's a really good player. I just think what separates him is his drive. I don't know that I've been around an athlete, not just a hockey player but an athlete, that is as driven as Sid is."

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