DENVER — For a moment, I had flashes of Jordan Staal dancing through my mind. Yes, Sidney Crosby scoring a hat trick reminded me of Staal.
It certainly wasn't to compare the two players' skill sets. Not to take anything away from old No. 11, of course. But when Crosby finished off his natural hat trick, spanning 5:35 plus an intermission, he let out a scream so primal that it gave me a physical chill as he curled past my shooting position, mouth wide and neck muscles at full workload.
Take a look at the top of the page again. Now look at Crosby's neck. "Primal" can be thrown around to describe something raw, but this was raw, raw. I don't know if "primal" is enough of a word. The look in his eyes, the scream ... seriously, I got chills. That doesn't happen often covering sports anymore.
A closer look? Sure:
It was in that moment I felt that the Penguins' captain turned the page on the season and started the team's next chapter ... just like Staal did in Detroit with a hat trick of his own in November of 2008.
Obviously, things didn't turn out well for the Penguins in this one, so it's not likely to be that point of the season which sticks out if they do end up making a Stanley Cup run.
Let's take more of a look at Crosby, and what I saw of him throughout the game.
THE GAME CHANGER
Crosby got the Penguins on the board when the Penguins were down 3-0 with less than a minute's ticks to play in the second.
It started with a broken stick in the defensive zone that let Jake Guentzel play a soft puck into the neutral zone and give Crosby more time than at a skills competition to pick his spot on Philipp Grubauer.
Crosby shot it, of course, but he managed to get the rebound from a bad angle and beat Grubauer.
Interestingly, the Avalanche challenged the play for goaltender interference. I say "interestingly" because I thought there was a better chance of Crosby being offside on himself than there was that he interfered with Grubauer. Nothing came of it, though ... well, not directly. More on that in a second. Good goal, Penguins on the board.
STILL NO INTERFERENCE?
It looked as though Grubauer was still hung up on the interference call as he spoke with referee Ghislain Hebert for a lengthy bit of time before just before Crosby made it 3-2.
Whether he disagreed with the decision or not, Grubauer got out of his rhythm leading to a faceoff, and it paid off for the Penguins when Crosby snuck a wrister in the apparent space between Grubauer and the goal post. Crosby gets his second in the final minute of the second, and makes it a contest.
I think we've already covered the third goal celebration, the emotion behind it, pretty well. But, if you look closely at the third goal itself, it ends up being mighty pretty.
It was easy not to notice what happened at first, because when Crosby screams like that ... you listen.
Take a look at the GIF above of Crosby fighting through an Avalanche duo and scoring his third. The puck is out in front of him and then he twists his wrists in a way that opens the stick blade up completely and he lifts the puck past Grubauer.
By opening up like that, it gave Crosby a chance to get the puck over the pad and guide it a bit in the process.
It's such an ... unnatural way of completing the natural hat trick and yet another example of Crosby being better with the tools of hockey than the competition is.
MATT SUNDAY GALLERY
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