MONTREAL – Sidney Crosby shared the Rocket Richard Trophy this season for leading the NHL in goals, but he still hasn’t been able to find the back of the net in the Pittsburgh Penguins second round series with the Montreal Canadiens.
Crosby is far from being a one-dimensional scorer, but he admitted after Thursday’s 3-2 Game 4 loss to Montreal that a goal would do him some good.
“You always feel like that, whether I had eight (goals) at this point and it was 2-2 or I had none,” said Crosby, who had an assist to run his total to three in four games. “You try to make sure you’re doing your part. But I wouldn’t change anything. I honestly wouldn’t change what I’m doing out there. All you do is try to do the right things and hope you get results.”
Midway through the third period with the Penguins on a power play, Crosby had a great opportunity to get his first goal of the series. The timing would have been perfect, as Pittsburgh was desperately trying to tie a game they dominated through 40 minutes, but ultimately let slip away in the third.
A puck bounced out to Crosby and when he looked up he saw a wide expanse of empty net. Except once he let the shot go a scrambling Jaroslav Halak got across fast enough to get in the way, making one of his 33 saves on the night.
“He made the save, that happens,” Crosby said. “You can’t really dwell on that.”
Crosby scored 51 goals in the regular season this year, the first time in his career he’s topped 50, and in the first round against the Ottawa Senators he continued his hot scoring with five goals in six games.
But in the Montreal series, playing against the team he grew up cheering for, Crosby’s been shut out. And his lack of goals has only extended his drought at the Bell Centre, where he’s been shut out in nine straight games since scoring twice in his first game in Montreal as a rookie.
“Sidney’s doing the things you need to do to get those chances,” said head coach Dan Bylsma, who has found himself forced to defend his captain more often of late.
But Crosby’s not the only one struggling because his first mate Evgeni Malkin has also had a quiet series with only one goal and one assist in four games. Malkin also had a glorious chance to tie the game in the third period with a clean breakaway from the red line, but Halak got a piece of his shot and steered it wide.
“(Crosby) and Malkin are probably a little frustrated right now,” Halak said. “But the last two years they went to the final and last year they won it, so I don’t think they’re panicking right now. They’re probably saying they need to put this behind them, and we need to do that too.”
While the Penguins are not getting what they need from their top two scorers, they did receive an unexpected boost with the addition of Jordan Staal.
The big shutdown centre was used in a fourth line role as he made his way back to game action only six days after undergoing surgery to repair a damaged tendon on the top of his right foot suffered in Game 1 of the series.
Staal played 13 minutes, 24 seconds and once again led Penguins forwards in shorthanded ice time, blocking two shots.
He was not available for comment after the game.
“I don’t think he missed a step,” coach Dan Bylsma said. “I thought he looked pretty good.”
The same could not necessarily be said for his Penguins teammates, who let an opportunity to take a stranglehold on this series slip through their fingers. But Max Talbot does not see it the same way because he feels it is a discredit to the way the plucky Canadiens are playing.
“They beat the best in the league, they’re a good hockey team,” Talbot said. “They’re not in the second round for nothing. They have a strong goalie and they play their system really well. It’s going to be a battle until the end.”