PITTSBURGH -- First, Ken Hitchcock killed Sidney Crosby with kindness by praising him in the morning and then his St. Louis Blues surprised the Pittsburgh Penguins in overtime in the evening.
Yes, there was a letdown in Crosby's second game back from his 10 1/2 - month absence due to a concussion. The emotion from Monday's impressive four-point season debut from Crosby was gone in No. 87's play and his teammates.
But give the Blues some credit for their 3-2 win in extra time. They suffocated their opponents in the opening 40 minutes, created turnovers and took advantage of some sloppy play from the Penguins.
"He plays for Pittsburgh, but [Canada] won a gold medal," said Hitchcock, when asked after the game about his morning praise for Crosby. "He scored the biggest goal for our country ever. I'm never going to take that away from him.
"He's a great player, a great person. He was a huge part of bringing the guys together."
No 2nd game magic
Crosby played 18 minutes and 41 seconds, just shy of three minutes more than in this first game back against the New York Islanders on Monday.
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma used several different line combinations to get Crosby and his team going. But the Penguins' captain was held to only two shots on goal and he exhibited some frustration with three minor penalties.
Two of Crosby's penalties resulted in Blues power plays. The other was after a scrum ensued when he got involved with St. Louis centre David Backes and even took a jab at the Blues forward with his stick.
"He grabbed me," Crosby said. "That's what you expect in a scrum. I wasn't surprised it was him."
Crosby wasn't pleased with sitting the box on the two other occasions.
"I don't mind if they call it tight as long as they call it tight both ways," he said.
The Penguins went 1-for-3 in man-advantage situations, while the Blues were 0-for-5.
"It was just a matter of a lot of mistakes on our part," Crosby said.
Hitchcock happy with team's play
Hitchcock called the first 40 minutes the best two periods his club had played all season. But in the third period, the Blues were engaged in a track meet with the Penguins. Not a good thing when St. Louis played the previous night back home.
But Blues defenceman Alex Pietragnelo bailed out his team with the winner with 53 seconds left in overtime on a nifty setup from St. Louis forward Vladimir Sobotka.
Hitchcock is now 5-1-2 at helm of the Blues. Before the big win, he was asked for his thoughts on Crosby. The two were together on the 2010 Canadian men's Olympic hockey team.
Crosby, of course, was the hero for his overtime winner in the gold-medal final when Canada won gold at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. Hitchcock was an assistant coach on Mike Babcock's staff.
"He's such a good player, such a good person," Hitchcock said. "There's leaders, and then there's leaders of players. He gets along with the guys good. It's not surprising. Everything he does has got class to it. I just like the way he leads the guys."
"Some guys get it with their teammates. Some guys are leaders in the media and some guys are leaders with management or coaches or a combination. He just digs in with the players, he has fun with the guys. He led the fun parade in the Olympics, brought everybody back into the Village.
"He connected everybody with the other athletes in the village and made a huge difference for us moving forward."
Crosby like 'the 'Pied Piper'
Hitchcock relayed a story about Crosby's leadership after Canada's 5-3 loss to the United States in the preliminary round. The Canadian players were given the option of either staying in a hotel with their family or taking up residence in the athletes' village. After the loss to the U.S., Crosby convinced those who weren't in the athletes' village to move in.
"It was 8 o'clock in the morning and we are going for breakfast and he's coming back with the whole crew," Hitchcock said. "He was like the Pied Piper, everybody followed him back into the village. He was coming back with suitcases and there were about 10 guys following him.
"By just his presence and his disposition, he just brought everybody into the village. It made a huge difference. Everybody was having fun together. You talk about building chemistry, the chemistry became instant. Everybody started hanging out on the 12th floor and having fun together.
"The coaches really appreciated that, It made a huge difference."
While Hitchcock was satisfied with the two points, earlier in the day he claimed Crosby owed him some money. At the championship ring ceremony in Edmonton a few months after the Vancouver Games, somebody played the old bucket full of water over the door trick on Hitchcock when he entered his hotel room.
"Hey, you owe me $40!" Hitchcock said with a smile as Crosby and his father Troy walked by when Hitchcock was holding court outside the Blues dressing room.
"Why?" Crosby asked.
"Because my feet were wet at the ring ceremony," Hitchcock replied. "And don't be giving me that about 'get the right guy' ... your room was right across the hall."
Crosby laughed and then claimed his innocence.
"I don't get involved in that kind of stuff because once you start you can't stop."
A few hours later, Hitchcock got the last laugh as Crosby was shutout. The Blues are one of only four NHL teams that Crosby hasn't scored a goal against. The others are San Jose, Chicago and Edmonton.
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