VOORHEES, N.J. – Sidney Crosby got too caught up in his hatred for the Philadelphia Flyers to recall that one of his best friends wears the orange and black.
No worries, though. Max Talbot isn’t going to delete Crosby’s number from his cellphone.
“He’s definitely a great friend,” Talbot said Tuesday. “He was heated up in the moment and that’s OK. It’s not like I’m not going to talk to him after the series.”
Crosby and the rest of the Pittsburgh Penguins lost their cool in a fight-filled 8-4 loss to the Flyers that put them on the brink of getting swept out of their first-round playoff series.
The Flyers can eliminate the heavily favoured Penguins and advance to the Eastern Conference semifinals with a win in Game 4 Wednesday night at the Wells Fargo Center. Whatever happens, it’ll be hard to live up to Game 3.
People everywhere are still talking about one of the most thrilling NHL games in recent memory. Fists flew faster than pucks, and goals were scored at a ridiculous pace.
Crosby, the often-concussed former MVP, was at the centre of it all. He instigated several scrums, and even dropped the gloves in a rare superstar vs. superstar fight against Claude Giroux.
Afterward, Crosby said: “I don’t like any guy on their team.”
That’s news to Talbot, who was Crosby’s teammate for six seasons in Pittsburgh before signing a free-agent deal with the Flyers last summer. Talbot scored both of the Penguins’ goals in a Stanley Cup clinching victory over Detroit in Game 7 in 2009. The two players are close friends, and they even appeared together in a Reebok commercial at Crosby’s parents’ house in Nova Scotia.
Asked if he was surprised by Crosby’s antics in Game 3, Talbot replied: “Yes and no.”
Crosby twice jabbed goalie Ilya Bryzgalov’s glove against the ice after the whistle, and then poked aside Jakub Voracek’s glove when he bent down to pick it up. Crosby then went after mild-mannered Kimmo Timonen, setting off his “wrestling match” with Giroux.
“I see Sid as such a great competitor,” Talbot said. “When things don’t go his way, he tries to do other things. He’s kind of like me, but with 10 times more skill. He’s going to do everything he can to spark his team to get a win.”
The Flyers are fine with whatever Crosby tries.
“He’s one of the best players in the league. It’s good that he’s frustrated. He doesn’t focus as much on his game,” Voracek said.
Crosby certainly will get more than an earful from the boisterous Flyers fans. Many are calling him a “cry baby” and some plan to bring diapers to the rink, if they’re allowed to sneak those past security.
“I don’t really pay attention to that,” Flyers forward Jaromir Jagr said. “I still respect him. I still think he’s a great kid. I still think he’s a great player. Things like that happen.”
Crosby has bigger things to worry about. The Penguins finished with 108 points in the regular season and were odds-on favourites to win the Cup. Yet, they’re one loss away from an early vacation.
“I think we’re trying to do whatever we can to win hockey games,” Crosby said. “We’ve just got to win one game. That’s really what it comes down to. I think that it is what it is. I don’t think anybody came here today shocked or down. This is a situation where we can’t change it. The only opportunity is to make it better and that starts with winning the next game. It’s something you can’t dwell on.”
Crosby has two goals and three assists in the three games.
“I think all of our minds are in the right place. We want to find a way to get back in this series,” he said. “I think every guy in here believes we can do that. We’ve got to find a way to win a hockey game. When there’s adversity, that’s when you see guys’ true colours. I think we’ll show that. We’re going to leave it all out there and give ourselves a chance to try and get back in this series.”
They can use a boost from NHL scoring leader Evgeni Malkin, who has no goals. And Crosby was pulled off the top power-play line. The Penguins have only scored three power-play goals in the series, and they’ve allowed three shorthanded goals.
“Wherever I need to play, I’m going to do my best there, whether it’s at the point, down low or whatever unit,” Crosby said, adding it was a mutual decision with coach Dan Bylsma to pull him off the No. 1 unit. “I think every guy feels that way. That’s something that is pretty common, to have those conversations.
“Coaches try to feel players out for their accommodation level in certain areas. That’s all it was. It wasn’t a big deal.”
The Penguins enter the must-win game missing one player and possibly two others for disciplinary reasons. Craig Adams was suspended for one game Monday for instigating a fight at 15:18 of the third period. Arron Asham and James Neal also could be suspended. Both are awaiting rulings on hearings for their roles in various fights.
It won’t be a friendly battle no matter who’s on the ice.
By the way, Talbot hasn’t communicated with Crosby since the series started. No texts, calls or anything else.
“Not during the playoffs,” Talbot said.
Maybe they can resume their friendship Thursday.