When Stephen A. Smith wrote his article about Sid and Geno the other day on a roll of used toilet paper, nobody had a single clue what this dude was talking about.
Largely, this was because it was an incoherent cacophony of words from a humanoid that probably can’t even spell “hockey” without consulting the Office Assistant. But hey, common sense ain’t common when you got common men commenting on everything they ever did.
If Game 5 was to be a “legacy-defining game” for Crosby and Malkin, well, folks, it’s pretty safe to say their legacies are more secure than a Russian money transfer. Sprinkle in a little Phil and the three of them combined for 2 goals and 6 assists, with Sid having half of those assists, to put the Pens one win away from their second straight Stanley Cup.
But with respect to Crosby, he was in a different universe last night. If the Pens win the Cup again in one of the next two games, the next generation of hockey fans will be talking about this game in Penguins lore. He was that good. This was a statement game from Sid, regardless how the rest of this series plays out. It was far and away one of the best games any of us have ever seen him play and he set the tone from the opening shift. We’ve all been watching him long enough to know that he’s always a danger when he steps out on the ice, but in Game 5, with the direction of the series on the line, he was the danger.
It’s tough to even call it a “vintage Crosby performance” because I’m not sure we’ve seen him dominated every single one of his 23 shifts in a game like this before. And on his first one, reunited with Guentzel and Sheary for the first time in forever, The Forever Line picked right up where they left off last time we saw them. They were lethal. They were more dangerous than Bill Cosby with a pocket full of forget-me-nows.
And even when the Preds thought they were safe by getting the puck into the neutral zone, they were punished for even believing they had stopped these guys. 87 took a quick transition pass from Bake to undress Ellis and split he and Josi, still managing to ring a shot off the pipe as he got hauled down. This was the start they’ve been looking for since April.
If there was ever a moment for the Pens PP to erect itself, it was this exact moment: a powerplay just 50 seconds into Game 5. And boy, did they ever look deadly from the onset. But when Crosby and Hornqvist keyed in on Calle Jackcock and broke his ankles with some quick passing, it was all over before anyone even had a chance to react to Sid putting a pass on a platter for Schultz to power one just 91 seconds into the contest. 1-0
The pace was frenetic, but so conducive to the Pens style of play. They were soaring. Crosby continued to set the tone with some great leadership (by example, of course) and almost set up/scored another one about 3 minutes later after Rinne morphed into Fleury playing the puck behind the net, coughing it up to a relentlessly forechecking Crosby. The punishment for the Preds wasn’t about to subside, either, and the Pens would make them pay in transition again. Conscious effort taken in this game to make sure the breakout was on point and it started with Maatta switching it to Daley to go off the glass to find Kunitz. Olympic Gold Medalist Chris Kunitz re-emerged to hit Bryan Fucking Rust to rip a nasty backhander off the far bar over Rinne’s glove for his 13th career playoff goal. 2-0
But about 4 minutes later, the Pens got caught with too many men to give the Preds a chance to get back into it, which is to actually say the Pens PK put together a near perfect kill. Both goalies traded off big saves as the period wore on, too, with both coming from Ron Hainsey.
Then, with 92 seconds left in the period, Crosby and Subban got into a wrestling match on the ice behind Murray with 87 just giving him the business like Subban has done to Sid all series long. Really epitomized the series-long battle these two have been having. Both got 2 minute minors for holding. Both were doing illegal shit. Probably doesn’t happen if Subban doesn’t grab Sid’s leg like a petulant child who just got told no McDonald’s, but whatever. Narratives gon’ narrative.
And with the matching minors came some 4-on-4 ice hockey. Might not be a single thing on this planet that favors the Pens more than a little 4v4 action. Not even the refs favor the Pens that much!!!!!!! With all that open ice came the backbreaker with just 10 seconds left in the opening frame. Malkin starting and finishing the play was so arousing that Kurt Eichenwald replaced his tentacle porn with this exact goal. Gene’s 150′ pass to hit Phil was majestic, but Phil still had to clown Arvidsson to set up Evergene coming late. 3-0
Pekka Rinne would play the remaining 10 seconds of the period, but that would be the last that we’d see of him outside of a few shots of him looking more depressed than a Dashboard Confessional album after allowing 3 goals on 9 shots. Juuse Saros, making his second appearance in 3 games in Pittsburgh, was welcomed to the game by giving up a goal 1:19 into his tenure. Once more, it was the Forever Line lighting Nashville on fire and erasing any doubt of the Pens pissing away another 3-0 lead on home ice. All started with Crosby’s insane pass reception from Bake in the neutral zone to scorch into the offensive zone. That’s where he and the kids went to work, eventually with 87 feeding Sheary for his second chance in a row on the shift, burying this one. 4-0
No idea what the Preds were doing with their D-zone coverage, but holy hell did Irwin/Weber get their asses handed to them all night. To add insult to injury to Matt Irwin, who got victimized on the 4th goal and was on the ice for about 3 total minutes and 2 goals against at that point, he then going fucking demolished with a vintage Kunitz hit before Kun buried Ekholm on his next shift. The Penguins then followed it up with another goal, this time coming from Crosby freeing up Maatta, Wilson, and Phil to go in on a 3v2. Maatta stepped into the zone, pulled up, and hit Phil to cut to the high slot and rip a second behind Saros. 5-0
Let’s just stop for a minute here to appreciate the play Crosby made at the blue line because it was that good and that important. He takes the pass and looks dead to rights. Back turned, Irwin draped on him and Forsberg closing in. But somehow, someway, he has the wherewithal to hit Maatta with a no-look, backhand pass between Irwin’s legs to spring the rush. That’s just pure disregard for human life.
It’s gotta be worth noting that as hard as we and literally everyone else on the planet have all been on Ron Hainsey, he played himself a mammoth game. And late in the period, Ronnie Redemption popped up on the scoresheet. Unreal play to dance Neal to force him to take out his own player instead of Ron’s targeted head. Had no clue Hainsey had that sort of skill in his repertoire, but here we are. Redemption gained the zone and slipped it to Phil just inside the blue line. Malkin came screaming in as 65 drove the net. Textbook shit, but Gene still had to hit Ron Ron with a gonorrhea gross pass all alone on the backdoor for the tap tap taparoo. 6-0
By the time the third period rolled around, the party was on. The only bit of business left to attend to was Murray preserving his shutout and getting out of the game without any injuries. The Preds tried to ruin both directives with 9 3rd period shots on goal and approximately 125 penalties from attempted goonery, culminating with Jeff Sessions crosschecking Maatta in the face to get himself a match penalty and potential suspension.
But the Pens saw this shit out until the end to put them one step closer to the edge.
- With Crosby, Malkin, and Kessel getting all of the hype, Matt Murray got next to no attention for his 24 save shutout. Maybe the quietest shutout in the history of shutouts or hockey, but he was back to his solid self last night after giving up 8 goals in his last two games. Take your goalie controversy somewhere else. It’s not welcome here.
- Big time moment for the Pens PP, showing up when it mattered most. Going 1-for-6 on the night matters a whole lot less when you go 1-for-1 on your first chance 50 seconds into the game. They broke their cold spell. More are coming.
- The assist Sheary’s goal gave Guentzel his 21st playoff point, tying him with Dino Ciccarelli for the record. What a story.
- Not even gonna talk about WaterBottleGate. When you call a crosscheck to the face a “hockey play,” choosing to die on a hill where the greatest player of our generation accidentally tosses a bottle on the ice is about the dumbest thing since I Am Sam.
Another like week and a half layoff between games or something like that. Get ready for Sunday. Bring it home. Go Pens.