The Pittsburgh Penguins came away with a crucial Game 2 win over the San Jose Sharks in the Stanley Cup Finals Wednesday night.
Tied 1-1 in overtime, the Penguins scored the game-winning goal off a face-off less than three minutes into the extra period to take a 2-0 series lead.
The game-winning goal came from rookie Conor Sheary on a dead-on shot from the zone that hit the upper right-hand side of the goal. However, the play and gorgeous shot might not have been possible without help from Sidney Crosby and his masterful play design.
As Crosby and his teammates said after the game, going into the face-off Crosby designed a play to get Sheary an open look after the face-off. In doing so, he told players where to stand, including telling defenceman Kris Letang to pass up an open shot after the face-off.
“[Crosby] said he was going to win it to me, that’s it,” Letang said after the game (via NHL.com’s Dan Rosen). “He was going to win it to me and I had to find [Sheary].”
According to Rosen, Letang admitted he thought about shooting, something he would normally do in that situation. However, Crosby told him not to, saying the defence would expect it. As Deadspin’s Barry Petchesky pointed out, replay shows that Sharks center Logan Couture was coming at him from a defensive stance, ready to block a shot.
Crosby said he didn’t think it would be wise for Letang to shoot in that situation.
“We’ve done a lot of one-timers and quick shots from the point, so we knew they’d be coming hard. … It’s overtime, you don’t necessarily want to have somebody have to make a play with a guy right in his face, especially if he’s the last guy back. If there’s no play there, worst case, we just put it in a corner and we’re not forcing anything.”
Instead, Letang followed Crosby’s instructions and waited. Crosby had told Sheary to line up by the wall during the face-off. After Crosby won the face-off, Sheary made his way into the zone, and as the defence rotated, he found himself open for a pass.
Letang got it to him and Sheary fired a beautiful shot.
Crosby was modest after the game, saying he Letang and Sheary deserve credit for executing the play. Penguins coach Mike Sullivan rebuffed it.
“That’s Sid. His work ethic is unmatched. … He prides himself in the details of his game, like faceoffs.”
The Penguins now have a comfortable 2-0 lead going into San Jose. Crosby’s genius play-calling helped give them that comfort going into enemy territory.
Watch the entire play below:
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