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Crafty Crosby puts Pens in driver's seat

By Associated Press in Pittsburgh (China Daily) Updated: 2016-06-03 08:14

Captain sets up overtime winner right off the draw

Every time Sidney Crosby enters the faceoff circle he has a plan - even though he knows it will almost certainly evaporate once the puck is dropped.

That doesn't stop Pittsburgh's superstar captain from continuing to do it, because every once in a while the idea in his head morphs into reality.

That was the case on Wednesday night, when Crosby's improvisation helped move the Penguins within two victories of the Stanley Cup.

Crosby's faceoff win set up Conor Sheary's perfectly placed wrist shot 2:35 into overtime, lifting the Penguins to a 2-1 victory over the San Jose Sharks and a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.

"I call 25 faceoffs a night," Crosby said with a laugh. "I got 24 wrong tonight."

It's the one he got right that will live on if the Penguins find a way to close out their fourth championship.

Just before heading to the dot to the right of San Jose goalie Martin Jones, Crosby told Sheary to line up on the wall and then look for a soft spot in the San Jose defense.

Crosby won the draw and sent the puck to defenseman Kris Letang, who faked a shot before slipping it to Sheary.

The 23-year-old rookie zipped it over Jones' outstretched glove for his fourth goal of the playoffs and second of the series.

"It's pretty surreal," said Sheary, who began the season in the minor leagues.

Game 3 is on Saturday night in San Jose.

Sharks defenseman Justin Braun tied the game with 4:05 left in regulation time, but San Jose fell to 0-4 when pushed to OT in the playoffs after getting largely outplayed for much of the night by the quicker, more nimble Penguins.

Phil Kessel scored his 10th goal of the postseason for Pittsburgh, and Matt Murray made 21 stops.

The Penguins have not trailed at any point while reeling off four straight playoff victories after falling behind in the Eastern Conference final against Tampa Bay.

"Game 1 was decided in the last two minutes, tonight was decided in overtime," Sharks coach Peter DeBoer said. "We'll hold off on the funeral."

Only five teams in NHL history have come back from a 2-0 deficit in the final to win the Cup - a hole the Sharks find themselves in despite Braun's second career playoff goal and 28 stops by Jones.

"We know that if we play this way we're not going to win games, so we need to be better," said San Jose center Logan Couture.

The Sharks blamed themselves for their shaky start in Game 1, with Brent Burns admitting the spectacle of playing the franchise's first final led to spending a large portion of the first period standing around and watching the Penguins take an early lead en route to a 3-2 victory.

Burns and his teammates promised they would be sharper and more focused faced with the prospect of heading home in a massive hole, pointing to their 5-1 record this postseason in games immediately following a loss.

While the Sharks were better on Wednesday, the sustained push the Penguins were expecting from the Western Conference champions failed to materialize.

Pittsburgh did the things that have been the club's hallmark since coach Mike Sullivan took over for Mike Johnston in mid-December, controlling the puck and forcing the Sharks to skate a full 200 feet to create chances.

The Penguins' forechecking made San Jose labor just to get the puck in the offensive zone and once there, the Pens kept throwing themselves in the way.

The line of Kessel, Carl Hagelin and Nick Bonino has rapidly evolved into Pittsburgh's most dangerous unit.

They began the night with 90 combined points in 34 games, and added to it in the middle period when Hagelin stripped the puck from San Jose defenseman Roman Polak and slipped it to Bonino in the slot.

He in turn passed to Kessel, who beat Jones from in close.

Crafty Crosby puts Pens in driver's seat

Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Matt Murray pokes the puck away from San Jose Sharks' Joe Pavelski during the third period of Wednesday's Game 2 of the Stanley Cup final in Pittsburgh. The Penguins won 2-1 in overtime. Gene J. Puskar / Ap

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