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Mike Harrington: Crosby makes major entry to highlight reel

When the tribute videos are running at the close of his career and the Hall of Fame montage is on display to celebrate his greatness, we will relive the goal we saw Sidney Crosby score Tuesday night in KeyBank Center.

It will be on an endless loop as one of the most ridiculous of No. 87's career. Roll out all your descriptives. Any of them would apply.

A one-handed backhand to the top corner? Flying down the middle of the ice at full speed? Who does that?

It was patently ridiculous.

Eventually, we'll find out how Crosby's mind works on a play like that. We didn't hear from him after the Pittsburgh Penguins' 3-1 win because he lost two front teeth when he was high sticked by Evander Kane with 1:25 left.

Crosby was headed for some dental treatment after the game, so his meeting with reporters that usually takes place as soon as Penguins' dressing room is open didn't happen. It was a bummer because there was a lot to talk about with No. 87. No matter. Plenty of others spoke in his stead.

"He does some pretty amazing things, things we screw around in practice doing," said Nick Bonino, who scored the tiebreaking goal with 5:29 left. "I'm pretty sure I could do that in practice but I'm not going to do it full speed splitting the 'D.' Things like that separate him from everyone."

"That's a world-class type of play," added goalie Matt Murray. "I was thinking how I would play a breakaway like that. it's tough because he's got it so wide that he can pull it pretty quickly. So you definiitely have to cheat to his forehand, otherwise you'll never stop it if he pulls it. It's a tough read. There's not many guys who can make that play."

Crosby took the puck in the Penguins end and had a full head of steam going through the neutral zone and into the Buffalo end. But the Sabres' matador defense -- as in wave him in -- offered little resistance either. Crosby blew by Ryan O'Reilly and split Zach Bogosian and Josh Gorges, who had left the middle of the ice open to preposterous levels for the final 10 seconds of a period.

Flying in on Lehner, you would have thought the normal play would be to go to the left to his forehand like Murray said. Crosby certainly read Lehner's mind too. Flipping the puck on the backhand using his right hand stunned the Buffalo goalie and everybody else in the building.

"I think most goalies in the league are going to read that he’s going to pull that back to his forehand," Lehner admitted. "That’s what I thought. There’s probably one or maybe two guys in the league that can score a goal like that."

It was Crosby's 41st goal of the season, tops in the NHL, and his 81st point pulled him within one of Connor McDavid for the scoring lead. He's going to finish with the second-highest goal total of his career and the Penguins are looking to become the NHL's first repeat Stanley Cup champions since the 1998 Detroit Red Wings.

"He had a ton of speed going through the middle of the ice and kind of rode through the seam," said Sabres coach Dan Bylsma, who had a front-row seat for many Crosby goals in Pittsburgh."It's something he's done many times before, squeaked his way in there, and it's a pretty amazing play.

"Not many guys can shoot it with one hand," said longtime Crosby teammate Chris Kunitz. "He's always been lethal with two hands on the stick. Now with one hand going over the goalie, I guess it works too."

Interesting that Kunitz talked about Crosby's use of the stick. Early in the first period, replays showed him using the stick to the nether regions from behind on O'Reilly, who gingerly skated to the bench to catch his breath and repair the octaves of his voice.

Crosby is known at times for those slimy kind of plays. He's got an edge. You surmised it but learned it for real on the Winter Classic all-access shows when you heard his on-ice chirping and foul-mouthed rants toward officials. Crosby has used the Sabres as a personal pinata over the years, with 16 goals and 51 points in 34 games -- including points in 24 of his last 26 games against them.

You look at what the Penguins have become and it's pretty awe-inspiring. They're 8-2-1 in March and lead the NHL since the 2005 lockout with 109 March wins. So they're clutch at crunch time. They're 11-0-1 in their last 12 against the Sabres.

The Penguins clinched a playoff spot for the 11th straight year Tuesday, which will become the NHL's longest active postseason run once Detroit is officially eliminated. The streak began in 2006-07, Crosby's second season, and includes seven 100-point seasons.

"He gets so many big goals for us. He's the type of guy that when the stakes are high, he's at his best," said coach Mike Sullivan. "We've needed him a lot with the situation our team is in with some of the injuries that we have. He's making those type of plays day in and day out that are making us competitive."

Like we saw Tuesday, they're not just day in and day out plays. They're the kind that live forever.

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