Sometimes the difference between winning and losing is simply the presence of otherworldly talent.
That seems to have been the case Saturday night as the Pittsburgh Penguins took down the St. Louis Blues with a dominant 4-1 performance, due in no small part to captain Sidney Crosby putting the club on his back once again.
Crosby kicked off the theatrics near the end of the first period with an exceptional highlight-reel tally, scoring a backhand one-timer from one knee.
Midway through the second, he did it again, concluding a dominant shift by faking a slap shot and whipping the puck over to defender Justin Schultz, who wired it home for the 3-0 lead.
Even Crosby’s late-game empty-netter was impressive – it’s the only way the Nova Scotian sniper knows how to do it – as he earned his second of the game by stealing the puck at his own blue line and flipping it over a falling Blue from center ice.
The star pivot reached the 30-goal plateau with his empty-net tally, still the league-leading mark as the NHL moves into the final third of the season.
There’s no question Crosby has stepped it up as of late, taking on a heavier workload to keep the Penguins afloat as they deal with mounting injury concerns.
With key offensive weapons Evgeni Malkin and Conor Sheary still on the shelf, Crosby saw his ice time rise over the 22-minute mark for the fourth straight game – his 22:27 against St. Louis ranking as the second-highest mark among all Penguins skaters.
Crosby saw over 22 minutes of ice just twice in the 41 games preceding this four-game stretch.
Following the win, head coach Mike Sullivan said Hagelin is now considered out with an upper-body injury and will be re-evaluated back in Pittsburgh, according to the club's official Twitter account.
Kris Letang managed to finish the game and score a silky smooth goal in the process, but the veteran rearguard was forced out for a stretch after taking a high hit. He eventually returned, but was also sent to the ice in pain late, blocking a slap shot off the inside of his foot.
Crosby's heroics earned the club a victory this time around, but it's fair to assume Sullivan would prefer to have a few of his other stars back in the lineup to ease the growing burden on his captain.
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