Pittsburgh Penguins' Sidney Crosby, right, scores the tying goal against Vancouver Canucks goalie Eddie Lack, of Sweden, in the final minute of third period NHL hockey action in Vancouver, B.C., on Tuesday January 7, 2014.
Photograph by: THE CANADIAN PRESS, Darryl Dyck
In Sidney Crosby’s first game in Vancouver since the golden goal, he sure came close to reliving it. Crosby scored again in Rogers Arena, and did it dramatically. Like he knows any other way.
This time it was in regulation. But there were just 55 seconds left, and it tied a game that featured two big-time comebacks.
The first was from the Canucks. Down 2-0 at the midway point, they scored four unanswered to take a 4-2 lead with 1:11 left.
But then it was Crosby’s turn. The Penguins collectively gut-punched the Canucks with two goals in 16 seconds, which helped send the game to the shootout, where Pittsburgh just about never loses.
“It was fun until we blew the lead,” Zack Kassian said of the 5-4 defeat. “Then, we choked in the shootout.
“But that’s what the regular season is for, to learn from these things.”
The Canucks have done a lot of learning. Four times this season they’ve blown late leads when the opponent pulls the goalie.
“It should be fixable,” Ryan Kesler said. “We have to do something. Like work on it in practice. It’s inexcusable. We put our best defensive players out for a reason. To have a centre-ice draw and then give up a late one like that, it shouldn’t happen.”
Crosby’s goal fully resuscitated the Pens, who looked done when Kassian scored with 6:36 left to put the Canucks up 4-2. Of course, a team with Crosby is never done.
You’d think blowing a two-goal lead with 1:11 left would be the only thing that could make this week any worse for the Canucks.
But not when your best player is hampered by an injury, and this one is serious. Henrik Sedin played through a hand injury Tuesday, protecting his 674-game iron man streak while shielding the injury by taking the night off from faceoffs. It left the Canucks taking on the Penguins without Alex Burrows, Alex Edler, Roberto Luongo and the full, healthy use of one of Henrik’s hands.
But with the way Eddie Lack, Kassian and Chris Higgins played — before Kris Letang and Crosby scored late — it appeared the Canucks weren’t going to need any of them.
Higgins scored on a breakaway midway through the third to put the Canucks up 3-2.
Kassian then knocked in what will be a contender for goal of the year. Kassian, playing with a broken nose, actually bounced the puck off the ice, then swatted it out of the air and into the net with his backhand. It was as ridiculous a goal as a Canuck has scored in years. And it should have been enough to win.
Lack’s work will drift more under-the-radar, especially after blowing the game. But he was as good as it gets after the Penguins went up two goals. He made a sprawling, desperate save on Letang in tight, which kept Pittsburgh from going up 3-0.
Then, in overtime, he stopped James Neal all alone to send it to a shootout.
With all their injuries, maybe it shouldn’t have been a surprise to see the Canucks trying to get a point or two by utilizing the 1-3-1 trap.
Sure, it was booed in the second and the third as the Penguins held on to the puck in the offensive zone while the five Canucks skaters clung to the neutral zone. It wasn’t great for entertainment purposes at times, but it sure kept the Canucks in a game that looked like it had Pittsburgh blowout potential early.
The Penguins rode a dominating first period to that early two-goal lead, but goals from Jason Garrison in the second and Chris Tanev in the third tied things at two.
Garrison was set up by Crosby, of all people, who was trying to clear the puck from behind his net when he sliced it through the slot and on to Garrison’s blade.
The unusual Crosby gaffe made up for one by another Olympian. Dan Hamhuis, one of the surprises on Team Canada’s announced roster, couldn’t control a puck at his blue-line.
Brian Gibbons picked his pocket, leading to a breakaway goal that put the Pens up 1-0 just 13:15 into the game.
Evgeni Malkin scored the other Pittsburgh goal 5:25 into the second.
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