PITTSBURGH — Sidney Crosby got behind Justin Braun and beat him down the ice. He picked up the puck in the corner beside the San Jose net and turned on a dime. Braun tried to stay with Crosby but lost his edge and fell. Before Logan Couture could fill in for Braun, Crosby spotted Conor Sheary alone in the slot and fed him a perfect backhand pass. Sheary’s shot beat Martin Jones, and the Penguins led 2-0.
The whole play took about 10 seconds. It went from one end of the ice to the other. It came pretty much out of nowhere.
It was vintage Crosby.
“He’s one of the best players in the league,” said Sharks defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic. “Strong. Can skate. Can shoot from his backhand or forehand. If you want to lead him one way, on his backhand he can probably be more dangerous. Taking away his time and space is most important.”
Because, as we saw in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, it doesn’t take much time or space for Crosby to make something happen.
“He sees you all over the ice,” said Sheary. “They over-backchecked a bit and I found that soft area. I was looking far side. [Patric Hornqvist] had a defenseman (Vlasic) tied up in front so I don’t think Jones even had a chance to see it.”
As for Pittsburgh’s other superstar, Evgeni Malkin didn’t get on the scoresheet Monday, but his coach is confident that will happen soon enough.
“He’s generating scoring chances,” said Mike Sullivan. “That’s the thing we watch most is his scoring chance involvement, his primary chances himself. He’s been involved in a fair number of chances, both primary and secondary, over the last two series. We feel real comfortable with his game. We know it’s a matter of time before he scores.”
And, of course, everyone knows by now that the Penguins are more than just Crosby and Malkin. Their most prolific line in these playoffs has been centered by Nick Bonino, the guy who scored the winning goal in Game 1.
The Sharks, meanwhile, have vowed to start better in Game 2. They mostly blame themselves for what happened in the first game of the series, as opposed to crediting their opposition.
“No turnovers, try not to give them too many odd-man rushes. We gave up two and they scored on both,” added Vlasic. “We’ll come out with a better start. We will.”