WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- Sidney Crosby's shoulder was sore.
Or maybe it was his back, given how he's been carrying these Penguins through a quarter of the NHL schedule.
Whichever the case, the captain skated as if he'd been set ablaze all through this Tuesday night at Bell MTS Place. He bounced back immediately from an early ailment -- athletic trainer Chris Stewart appeared to be treating a shoulder or upper arm -- to flatten counterpart superstar Patrik Laine, to whirl and win countless 50/50 pucks, to set up teammates with the sweetest of setups and, of course, to do this ...
... only to see his teammates do so, so much less.
And then, that changed.
Riley Sheahan, Derek Grant and Zach Aston-Reese would score the final three goals, one more than their previous combined season total, including Aston-Reese's winner with 5:12 remaining, in a 4-3 rally over the Jets that simply had to be the most satisfying of the season. Because not only was there ACTUAL SECONDARY SCORING, but there also was grit galore -- big-time blocked shots, barging to the battle areas, in-your-face inspiration all over the rink -- the kind Mike Sullivan's been convinced for a while is coming.
Well, here it was. Listen to the man:
That, my friends, is a Sullivan unlike any I've seen all winter. That's the Sullivan who won those Stanley Cups his way. That's the Sullivan who's never stopped believing his way is the right way. And in the three hours before that rather passionate display -- OK, at least the final period and change -- he watched it play out.