The Associated PressPITTSBURGH (AP) — Mike Sullivan’s decision to throw together Sidney Crosby, Conor Sheary and Jake Guentzel was two parts pragmatism and one part experimentation.
The Pittsburgh Penguins were banged up in mid-March and needed a spark. So Sullivan put the best player in the game alongside a couple of 20-somethings who make up for in energy and intelligence what they lack in pedigree.
“Sid and the Kids” are growing up on the job. And the defending Stanley Cup champions are only too happy to ride the wave.
Crosby had a goal and two assists, Guentzel scored the first NHL playoff goal, and Sheary added a brilliant secondary assist as the Penguins rolled by the frustrated Columbus Blue Jackets 4-1 on Friday in Game 2 of the first-round series.
“When they’re in that offensive zone, they’re as dangerous an offensive line as there is in the game for me,” Sullivan said.
Sure looked like it. Sheary’s determination set up Crosby’s 50th playoff goal to give Pittsburgh a first-period lead and Guentzel buried a cross-ice pass from Crosby to put the Penguins ahead near the game’s midpoint as the Penguins went up 2-0 in the best-of-seven series. Game 3 is Sunday night in Columbus.
“I’m trying to keep up with them for the most part,” Crosby said. “They’re pretty fast and they have a lot of skill. I think we’re just trying to read off each other. This time of year there’s not a lot of time and space but tonight we were able to get a good number of chances. It was good to see some go in.”
Evgeni Malkin scored his first goal of the postseason, and Patric Hornqvist pushed in an empty-net goal.
Marc-Andre Fleury finished with 39 saves while filling in for the injured Matt Murray, and received plenty of help. The Penguins blocked 23 shots before they even got to their goaltender.
Brandon Saad scored for Columbus, and Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 28 shots but the Blue Jackets continued to have issues offensively. Columbus has scored more than three goals just once in its last 13 games.
“We played the game we wanted to, we just weren’t able to bury our chances and they did,” Blue Jackets forward Brandon Dubinsky said.