PITTSBURGH — Sidney Crosby made his way down the tunnel and out of sight. Any sense of security the Pittsburgh Penguins had in their first-round playoff series against the New York Rangers disappeared right along with their captain.

The superstar’s status for Friday night’s Game 6 is uncertain after Crosby absorbed a high but – in the eyes of the officials – legal hit from Jacob Trouba late in the second period of Game 5 on Wednesday night. He didn’t play the final 26 minutes and was nowhere near the bench as a two-goal lead turned into a 5-3 loss that sent the series back to Pittsburgh.

Penguins Coach Mike Sullivan offered scant details on Thursday other than to say Crosby would continue to be evaluated. Sullivan declined to get into specifics about whether the three-time Stanley Cup champion was dealing with another concussion, saying only Crosby has an upper-body injury.

While Sullivan stressed his group has what it takes to win regardless of who is in the lineup, the reality is the Penguins are not the same when Crosby’s familiar No. 87 isn’t doing the little things – and the big ones too – that have made him a singular force for the better part of two decades.

It was evident in the immediate scramble after Crosby’s departure. Pittsburgh allowed three goals in less than three minutes and struggled to generate any consistent pressure on New York goaltender Igor Shesterkin after the Rangers took the lead for good in the third period.

Crosby spent two years grappling with post-concussion issues a decade ago, cutting right into the middle of his prime. He’s been largely healthy since 2013, though he did miss a second-round game against Washington in 2017 after taking a cross-check to the head from Capitals defenseman Matt Niskanen.


Pittsburgh pulled out a 3-2 victory with Crosby in street clothes before going on to win the series in seven games and a second straight Stanley Cup a month later. The Penguins also held their own early this season while Crosby recovered from wrist surgery.

“We’ve always had a mindset here that there’s a next-man-up approach,” Sullivan said.

There will be a first-line center for Pittsburgh on Friday night, likely Evgeni Malkin if Crosby is unavailable. Malkin, like Crosby, is one of the pillars the franchise is built around. Yet Crosby’s play during the first four-plus games of the series showcased that even during the back half of his Hall of Fame career, he is a commanding presence in his 15th postseason.

Crosby had two goals and seven assists before getting injured. Earlier this week he became the sixth player in NHL history to reach 200 career points in the postseason.

AWARDS:  Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews and Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid are two of the finalists for the Hart Memorial Trophy, the NHL’s most valuable player award.

New York Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin is also in contention for the prize awarded “to the player adjudged to be the most valuable to his team.”


Matthews, who earned this season’s Maurice (Rocket) Richard Trophy as the NHL’s leading goal-scorer, had career highs with 60 goals and 46 assists.
He became the 21st player in NHL history – and first in a decade – to score 60 goals in a season.

McDavid, who earned the Art Ross Trophy as the league’s top scorer this season, also established career highs with 44 goals and 79 assists.

The reigning Hart Trophy winner, McDavid never went more than three games without a point.

Shesterkin, who earlier this week was selected as a finalist for the Vezina Trophy, as the NHL’s best goaltender, had a 2.07 goals-against average, .935 save percentage and six shutouts.


FLAMES 3, STARS 1: Mikael Backlund, Andrew Mangiapane and Trevor Lewis all scored in the third period, leading Calgary over Dallas to take a 3-2 lead in their first-round playoff series.

Jacob Markstrom made 20 saves for the Flames, who can win the series Saturday in Dallas. If necessary, Game 7 would be back in Calgary on Sunday.

Jason Robertson scored for Dallas, and Jake Oettinger stopped 29 shots.

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