Pittsburgh's captain recorded his second career playoff hat trick, leading his team to a thrilling 4-3 victory over the Ottawa Senators in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference semifinals series. The victory gives the Penguins a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series, which will resume Sunday back in Ottawa.
From the opening drop of the puck, the folks at CONSOL Energy Center could tell that this was going to be a special night. Crosby's first goal came a mere 3:16 into Friday night's action. Taking a pass at the defensive blue line, Crosby dashed up the left side of the ice, deked Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson so bad he might have to go into Witness Protection and finished with a beautiful wrister to give the Penguins a 1-0 lead.
It was his second you-gotta-see this goal of the playoffs, following his well-covered split of the Islanders defense in Game 5 of that series.
Of course, Crosby wasn't done pounding the Senators defense into submission. He was back on the board a little less than 13 minutes later to answer a Kyle Turris goal, getting a semi-lucky bounce off Ottawa goaltender Craig Anderson to give Pittsburgh a 2-1 lead heading into the first intermission.
Crosby didn't waste anytime finishing off his hat trick, either. He rocketed a slap shot past Anderson and into the Ottawa goal less than two minutes into the second period, painting the home crowd with a coat of unrepentant glee. The Penguins' Instagram sent out a picture of the Pittsburgh crowd celebrating their star's big night.
Though the remainder of evening was uneventful—relatively speaking—Crosby made history in the first 22 minutes of Friday's contest. As pointed out by John Buccigross of ESPN, Crosby became just the second Penguins player in history to record multiple hat tricks in the postseason and he's just one behind Mario Lemieux club record of three:
Sidney Crosby is just the 2nd player to record multiple playoff hat tricks as a Pittsburgh Penguin. Mario Lemieux had 3— John Buccigross (@Buccigross) May 18, 2013
The National Post's Bruce Arthur notes how easy Crosby made the quick-strike goal barrage look:
*Sidney Crosby sighs, rolls up sleeves*— Bruce Arthur (@bruce_arthur) May 18, 2013
This is a good time to remind you Sidney Crosby is just 25 years old. And that he'll be playing in an innumerable amount of postseason games going forward, barring some catastrophic injury or unforeseen misfortune to the prospering Penguins franchise.
In other words, that record is coming down—probably before Crosby turns 30.
It's almost strange that Crosby has accomplished so much at such a young age. It's almost as if he's run out ways to prove he's the world's best player. The Pittsburgh captain is already become the youngest player in NHL history to captain a Stanley Cup team, won a Hart Trophy and captured a Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy—all of which he did in different seasons.
However, Friday night's ascendant performance could singlehandedly put him in consideration to do one of the select few things he never has—win a Conn Smythe Trophy. Pete Paguaga of The Register Citizen noted that Crosby's recent play has put him in consideration for the trophy already:
The only thing missing from Sidney Crosby's closet is a Conn Smythe Trophy. If he keeps playing like he will get one #nhl— Pete Paguaga (@PetePaguaga) May 18, 2013
Through eight games played—he missed Game 1 of the Islanders series—Crosby has put up 12 points, matching his six goals with as many assists. That currently puts him behind Boston's David Krejci and teammate Evgeni Malkin on the points list for the playoffs, but it stands to reason Crosby will only be getting better as the postseason goes along. He's still recovering from the broken jaw that caused him to miss the final month of the season and still has him wearing a bulky mask on his face.
As Crosby continues to work himself into shape—which he's been doing quite well—the consistency of his outings should only improve.
Of course, we're ridiculously early in this process. Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford has been so good in these playoffs (5-1, 1.27 GAA, .950 SV%) that it's almost blasphemy to mention anyone alongside him at this point. Crawford has seemingly sprouted tentacles during the postseason, swatting away opposing shots like Dikembe Mutombo in a GEICO commercial.
And as we've seen over these past few playoffs, the Penguins aren't a guarantee to go rampaging to the Stanley Cup Finals. Pittsburgh is up on Ottawa 2-0 on the teams' semifinals series and has looked like the far superior team, but both of those contests have been played at the friendly confines of CONSOL Energy Center. And even if the Penguins make slight work of the Senators, there are still, you know, two more series left on the docket before individual awards are even considered.
It's always important for context in these discussions. There's too much time, too many mitigating circumstances to be ascribing sweeping declarations about a playoff run in its infancy.
That being said, Crosby was on a historic pace before going down during the regular season. He had 56 points in only 36 games and was on pace to obliterate everyone in the scoring race—and to likely win the Hart Trophy.
With Friday night's hat trick, Crosby placed himself in the discussion for a bigger, more important trophy—at least for now.