Cam Cole: Sid on a skid trying to score

 

Offensive funk: Rangers aim to go up 2-0 on Pens, who are struggling to get goals from their likely, or any other, sources

 
 
 
 
Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby was contained by a hard-checking New York team in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarter-finals Wednesday.
 
 

Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby was contained by a hard-checking New York team in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarter-finals Wednesday.

Photograph by: Bruce Bennett, Getty Images

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NEW YORK - Sidney Crosby went several Stanley Cup playoff seasons during which he was trotted out in front of microphones every day to speak Captainese.

Never had a lot to say, but heck, neither did Wayne Gretzky. Compared to his mentor, the reclusive Mario Lemieux, Crosby was practically Robin Williams.

But Friday, the Pittsburgh Penguins chose to keep Crosby under wraps and unleash the foursome of Paul Martin, Blake Comeau, Max Lapierre and Taylor Chorney on the quote-starved media covering their series against the New York Rangers, who won the opener 2-1.

It wasn’t that Crosby was shy, except in the goals column.

It was that he, like the scoring star of the Rangers, Rick Nash, was carrying a piano-like weight into the post-season, and answering questions about it wasn’t going to help.

In Crosby’s case: one goal in his last 19 playoff games (during which the Pens are 8-11).

For Nash, who led the Rangers with 42 goals this regular season: just five goals in 42 career playoff games, not so much as a point in New York’s loss to L.A. in the Stanley Cup Final last spring.

Thursday, Nash shot the puck that Marc-Andre Fleury kicked into the slot for Derick Brassard to fire home, 28 seconds into Game 1, and he took the Rangers’ only penalty of the night, for burying Pittsburgh defenceman Rob Scuderi face-first into the boards.

Crosby, though, was … just OK. He played 19 minutes, and was 15-5 on the faceoff dot, and skated miles and tried hard, but had a single shot on net, and lost track of Brassard on the opening goal, and ended up minus-1.

Evgeni Malkin was a lot more forceful on the attack, but he, too, was held off the scoresheet.

It’s been said before, to the point of cliche, that in the playoffs, the secondary scorers, or even lower on the totem pole than that, need to contribute in order for a team to go far.

It’s never been more true than this season, in which the scoring race was contested at a tepid point-per-game level.

Still, around the league in Games 1, scorers were scoring. Anaheim’s Corey Perry had four points and Ryan Getzlaf had three. Pavel Datsyuk had two goals for Detroit, Jonathan Toews three points and Patrick Kane two in Chicago’s OT win. Zach Parise had two helpers for Minnesota.

The Penguins, though, are in a funk. They took five first-period penalties, which kept the big names off the ice. But even when Crosby and Malkin got their minutes in the second and third periods, they gave the Rangers, and Henrik Lundqvist, few anxious moments.

“I thought five-on-five we did a good job,” Pittsburgh coach Mike Johnston said. “We can’t take that many penalties, especially in one period … you take your key players out of the game. But the second and third, I thought we started to take over, five-on-five.”

Johnson has been doing the only thing he can to lessen the checking pressure on his two star centremen: keeping them on separate lines, with the exception of three shifts Thursday.

“One line should get the lesser defence pair, so it’s a hard match when teams look at our group,” he said.

In theory, yes.

In practice, apparently not.

Said Rangers coach Alain Vigneault: “I wouldn’t say there was any specific matchup I was looking for, but I was looking for numbers and pace.”

The Penguins’ best line was Max Lapierre, Nick Spaling and Blake Comeau, who got the lone goal on a rebound, with the ever-pesky Lapierre parked in Lundqvist’s kitchen.

“It’s a tough league to score in,” Comeau said. “But I feel like guys with (Crosby-Malkin) kind of talent you can only contain for so long. I saw that first hand last year with Columbus in the playoffs.

“I don’t think Geno or Sid scored the first few games and then Malkin scored a hat trick against us to seal the series, so I just think it’s a matter of time.

“The Rangers obviously have some good defencemen: (Dan) Girardi and (Ryan) McDonagh are two pretty good shutdown D, (Marc) Stahl as well, so, we knew coming in it’s not going to be one of those series where it’s trade chances back and forth. We’re going to have to grind it out. But I think we’re prepared to do that.”

Lapierre, who did yeoman work killing penalties in that first period, never mind playing a greasy style of game.

“I think every goalie in the league is so good right now, you absolutely need somebody in the paint, so that’s going to be the game plan tomorrow: shoot from everywhere, bad angles, the point, and try to have as much traffic as we can,” he said.

“We cannot afford to have that many penalties. As a PK guy it definitely gives you the chance to be in the game, but I’d rather have Sidney Crosby or Malkin on the ice than me going out to kill penalties.”

So would Johnston. Grinding is good, but scoring is better.

ccole@vancouversun.comTwitter.com/rcamcole

 
 
 
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Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby was contained by a hard-checking New York team in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarter-finals Wednesday.
 

Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby was contained by a hard-checking New York team in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarter-finals Wednesday.

Photograph by: Bruce Bennett, Getty Images

 
Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby was contained by a hard-checking New York team in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarter-finals Wednesday.
Carl Hagelin #62 of the New York Rangers gets the stick up on Sidney Crosby #87 of the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game One of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Madison Square Garden on April 16, 2015 in New York City.
 
 
 
 
 
 
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