Sidney Crosby assisted on three Penguins goals, including the game-winner in overtime. But it was a nonscoring play just a few minutes before that final shot of Sunday's 5-4 victory over the Islanders in Game 3 that really showed Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma that his superstar is back.
"The best setup he had was drawing the penalty," Bylsma said of the holding call that gave the Penguins a power play in overtime. "That's kind of typical of what Sidney Crosby can do. He's a tough guy, a power forward, and he draws the penalty by playing that way, playing down low."
Crosby drove to the goal and was taken down by Islanders defenseman Brian Strait just over eight minutes into the overtime period. Thirty-three seconds of play later, he dropped off a pass to Chris Kunitz for the goal that gave the Penguins a 2-1 lead in the playoff series.
"I couldn't really find anything in the middle, so I just tried to take it to the net," Crosby said of the penalty. "He just kind of wrapped me up."
And with it, the Penguins may have gone a long way toward wrapping up the series. In a pivotal Game 3, they withstood an opening barrage of two goals by the Islanders and absorbed a two-goal comeback in the third period before wresting away the victory.
Crosby, who missed more than a month of play with a broken jaw, returned to the lineup in Game 2. In his two games back, he has five points, even though he admittedly is not in the type of shape he would have been in had he been playing the past few weeks.
"Is he at the top conditioning level where he would have been at the time of his injury? I don't think he's there," Bylsma said. "But playingwise, skill-wise, I think he's shown quite a bit in the two games he's played."
What's more, Crosby said grueling games like Sunday's will help make him better as the playoffs progress.
"I'm not going to say I felt in the best shape I ever have, but it's good to go through that," he said after 26 shifts and more minutes on the ice (24:08) than any other Pittsburgh forward.
"The more you play those tough games and those longer games, the better you feel and the better shape you get in. That's the only way to do it is to go through it the hard way."