Pens defeat Canucks in shootout
VANCOUVER, British Columbia – The last time Sidney Crosby played at Rogers Arena, he sent an entire nation into a frenzy.
So it was only fitting that he took over a game in the same building on the very day that Canada announced its roster for the Sochi Olympics.
The Penguins’ captain tied the score with 55 seconds left in regulation and added the only goal in a shootout to rally Pittsburgh past the slumping Vancouver Canucks 5-4 on Tuesday night.
Both goals came at the same end of the arena where Crosby scored in overtime for Canada to win the gold-medal game against the United States at the 2010 Olympics.
“It’s hard not to think about it when you’re out there,” said Crosby, among the 25 players selected to the Canadian roster for the 2014 Games. “I remember it a little differently with the way the rink was set up and everything, but (it’s) still a great memory.
“(You) kind of put it in the back of your mind though, because there’s some other important things happening in the next little while.”
Crosby helped to rescue the Penguins after the Canucks scored two goals 17 seconds apart to take the lead with under 7 minutes to go in the third period.
“That hurt. That was tough to give them that much momentum late in the game like that,” he said. “We found a way. It’s not the position we want to be in.”
But Kris Letang and Crosby did the Canucks one better, scoring 16 seconds apart late in the third to tie it after Vancouver had grabbed a 4-2 lead.
Letang’s shot from the point beat goalie Eddie Lack with 1:11 to go in regulation. Moments later, Crosby banged one in to tie it.
“From the bench it took way too long to get it off his skate and to his stick,” said Penguins coach Dan Bylsma, who passed Eddie Johnson to become the team’s career wins leader with 233. “I wasn’t surprised by the celebration in that corner.”
Said Lack: “We gave the best player in the world an open net with a minute to go. That can’t really happen.”
Crosby then moved in on Lack in the shootout and fired in a quick shot.
“You don’t want to put yourself in that position, but if it does happen, if you are faced with that, you need to find ways to get out of it,” said Crosby, who also had an assist. “To be down two with that much time left, we knew we had to get two quick ones and we found a way.”
Evgeni Malkin and Brian Gibbons also scored for the Eastern Conference leaders, who won their third straight. Jussi Jokinen added two assists and Marc-Andre Fleury made 22 saves for the win.
“It doesn’t matter what the score is with our team, we always believe we can come back,” Fleury said. “I just try to stop the next puck and our chance to win is always there.”
Chris Higgins, Zack Kassian and Christopher Tanev each had a goal and an assist for Vancouver, which lost its fifth game in a row. Jason Garrison also scored and Lack made 31 saves.
“This one was a doozy,” coach John Tortorella said. “We are going to try to exorcise it and get it away from us. I thought we showed more confidence tonight. Day by day we will try to get better.”
Vancouver appeared to be on its way to a victory when Higgins beat Fleury through the legs on a breakaway with 6:53 left in regulation and Kassian batted down a puck off the rush and swatted it past the goalie 17 seconds later.
“I want them to keep their heads up. There is no sense whining about it,” Tortorella said. “There’s no sense looking for excuses.”
Lack made his second consecutive start in place of injured Roberto Luongo, who sustained what is thought to be an ankle injury against the Los Angeles Kings last weekend.
Luongo, selected to Canada’s Olympic team along with Canucks defenseman Dan Hamhuis earlier in the day, had just returned to the lineup after dealing with a groin issue. Chris Kunitz, who plays on Crosby’s line, also made the cut.
Crosby and Penguins linemate Chris Kunitz also were chosen for Canada’s Olympic squad earlier in the day.
Down 2-1 after two periods, Vancouver tied the score at 7:39 of third when Tanev’s shot from the point beat Fleury through traffic for his fifth of the season.
Then, the wild finish.
“I don’t know how to explain it,” Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieksa said. “We were in good position and had a pretty good third period. It all happened so quickly, I don’t know what happened.”
NOTES: Hamhuis will be making his Olympic debut next month after playing seven times for Canada at other international tournaments. … Fleury was Canada’s No. 3 goalie at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, but didn’t make the squad this time. … Crosby was still recovering from his concussion issues when the Penguins made their last visit to Vancouver at the start of the 2011-12 season. … The Canucks recalled Joacim Eriksson from the AHL to serve as Lack’s backup with Luongo out. … Garrison’s goal was his 100th NHL point.