PITTSBURGH – Four goals and the shootout clincher were scored by players who will participate in the Olympics starting this week.
But after the Nashville Predators beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-3 Sunday afternoon, the only Olympian anyone wanted to talk about was the one who blocked a shot with his foot.
Canada can breathe a sigh of relief.
Team Canada and Penguins star Sidney Crosby tied Alex Ovechkin for the NHL lead in goals with his 42nd, but gave his native nation a scare when he was wincing in pain after taking a Kevin Klein slapshot off his foot early in the second period.
Crosby did not, however, miss a shift the remainder of the game and afterward downplayed the situation.
“I will be there,” Crosby said of Vancouver, where Canada was to practise Monday and open against Norway on Tuesday. “I’m on the flight tonight.”
Cal O’Reilly and Martin Erat scored during the shootout, Erat, Jordin Tootoo and Shea Weber scored in regulation and Dan Ellis made 30 saves and stopped Kris Letang and Crosby in the shootout for Nashville, which is on a 2-2-1 stretch.
Matt Cooke and Brooks Orpik also scored for the Penguins.
“I thought it was huge to get this win – especially against a powerhouse like Pittsburgh,” said Weber, also a defenceman for Canada who was sharing an evening flight with Crosby to Vancouver after the game.
“They’ve got one of the most complete teams we’ve seen, and they played a solid game. I thought we did a good job of hanging around and ended up earning two points.”
Crosby spent several minutes with his head down on the bench moments after he blocked the shot – initially appearing to be his lower shin but Crosby later indicated it was his foot.
He led an offensive rush up ice immediately after blocking the shot; it wasn’t until after he lost the puck did he show any signs he was hurt.
During the ensuing television timeout, Crosby appeared to be gingerly testing the leg with light skating. At one point, he almost slammed his stick into the dasher boards in apparent frustration.
But he did not miss a shift the remainder of the game – later adding an assist and an unsuccessful attempt in the shootout – and after the game played coy when questioned by reporters about the injury, shrugging it off and apparently attempting to diffuse any thoughts he was in danger of missing the Olympics.
“The shot off the foot?” he said. “That happens. That’s part of the game.”
Crosby was then asked if he was limited at all the rest of the game.
“No. … How many minutes did I play?”
Told it appeared he didn’t miss a shift, the 22-year-old who became the youngest captain to win the Stanley Cup last year implied that should show he was fine.
Although he appeared tentative during his first shift after the incident, by the end of the game Crosby showed no visible signs the foot was hindering him.
The Penguins likewise downplayed the situation.
“He was excited and emotional about the pain,” Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. “But I think it was one of those stingers, and it wore off for him.”
Crosby gave Pittsburgh a 1-0 lead with his eighth goal in his past seven games on a one-timed slap shot from high on the right circle at 14:43 of the first.
Nashville tied it 34 seconds into the second period when Erat – who will represent the Czech Republic at the Games – scored a power-play goal, his 19th, from near the same spot Crosby did.
That was the first of three goals in 1:47.
Pittsburgh retook the lead at 2:09 when Cooke tapped the puck between Ellis’ legs following a Jordan Staal rush to the net down the right wing.
But 12 seconds later, Tootoo scored from a bad angle along the goal line on the right wing side, his wrist shot beating Marc-Andre Fleury inside the far post for his third goal in three games, fifth on the season.
Team USA’s Orpik scored for the first time in 112 games, the defenceman firing a slapshot from the centre point that appeared to deflect off Ellis’ stick and into the net 4:51 into the third.
But Weber tied it with 7:43 to play on a blast from the right point that found its way through traffic.
“One of the things we pride ourselves on organizationally is that we are resilient and we’ll hang in there,” Nashville coach Barry Trotz said.
“There were some adjustments we tried to make during the game a little bit and guys just got it done. They battled hard and I’m just happy we were able to beat them in the shootout.”
The Penguins had won each of their seven previous shootouts this season and Fleury had allowed only one goal on 15 shots before allowing both shooters to score on him Sunday.
“It’s a little disappointing to lose,” Crosby said, “but we played well.”
NOTES: Nashville C Marcel Goc had two assists. … Orpik hadn’t scored since Nov. 26, 2008.