Penguins’ Sidney Crosby moves into NHL scoring lead, hits milestone with another multi-point game

For all the talk about goaltending or matchups or that speed and age have been working against the Pittsburgh Penguins in recent postseasons, perhaps their captain serves as the proverbial weather vane for the return fortunes.

Over the prior three playoff runs from 2019-21, Sidney Crosby combined for six points.

In less than a week this postseason, Crosby has already blown way past that. No wonder the Penguins are winning again in the playoffs.

Crosby had a goal and two assists during Monday’s 7-2 Game 4 first-round playoff series win against the New York Rangers. Crosby has had at least two points in each of the games of the series, a major reason why the Penguins lead it 3 games to 1.

“He’s playing a real complete game on both sides of the puck,” coach Mike Sullivan said. “He’s playing an inspired game; I think he inspires the group just through his actions when he’s on his game the way he is right now. ”

Crosby has nine points in four games, a total that moved him into a tie with the Boston Bruins’ Brad Marchand for the NHL postseason scoring lead when Monday’s game ended. (Later Monday night, Colorado defenseman Cale Makar had a three-point game to move ahead of Crosby and Marchand with 10 playoff points.)

Crosby accumulated a mere three goals and three assists over the past three postseasons combined. It’s not entirely a coincidence the Penguins went 3-11 in games and 0-3 in series over that span.

Crosby is a three-time Stanley Cup champion and two-time Conn Smythe Trophy winner as NHL postseason MVP, but that did not stop some Monday from positing that he might be playing the best playoff hockey of his career in this series.

“He’s played some real good hockey in the playoffs in my time here,” Sullivan said in response to an inquiry along those lines, “so that the bar is really high.”

Sullivan did allow, though, that Crosby “is playing really well for us.”

The stats prove it. When Monday’s game ended, Crosby had a wide three-point lead in the NHL playoff points at even strength (eight). He led the playoffs in assists and faceoffs won and was fourth in the league in minutes played and sixth in faceoff win percentage.

According to naturalstattrick.com, Crosby ranks among the top five of all players in the postseason in myriad possession metrics measuring team performance when a player is on the ice at 5-on-5: goals, shot attempts, shots on goal, scoring chances , “High-danger” scoring chances and “expected goals for.”

In many of those metrics, the only players (or among the only players) ahead of Crosby are those with whom he most often shares the ice: linemates Bryan Rust and Jake Guentzel and / or defensemen Kris Letang and John Marino.

“I think everybody wants to play well in the playoffs, and I’m just trying to go out there every night and compete,” Crosby said. I thought (in Game 4), we generated some good chances as a line and executed on a few. So we just want to continue the same way. ”

Crosby’s tear of a series has strengthened his Hall of Fame statistical résumé, too. He reached 200 career playoff points Monday, one behind Jaromir Jagr for fifth all-time. His 129th career playoff assist on Monday tied Nicklas Lidstrom for fifth in NHL history. His 16th career three-point playoff game matched teammate Evgeni Malkin for second-most among active players, and his 20th career postseason power-play goal tied Kevin Stevens for third-most in Penguins history.

“It’s playoff hockey,” Crosby said, “so you just try to go out there and compete the best you can.”

Keep up with the Pittsburgh Penguins all season long.

Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chris by email at cadamski@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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