Sports

WORLD CUP

Sidney Crosby's dominance helps Canada send Russia packing

By Mike Zeisberger, Toronto Sun

TORONTO - 

This is why they put your image on a stamp like Canada Post did the other day.

This is why you are consistently named the captain of Team Canada -- and none of the other stars on the roster disagree.

This is why many of your teammates call you the best player in the world.

It’s because you are Sidney Crosby.

And it’s because you have the penchant for coming up big when your team needs it most.

Remember that Golden Goal in Vancouver that won Canada the Olympic title in 2010? We figured you did.

And now, on this September Saturday night six years later, here was Team Canada, overwhelming favourites in the 2016 World Cup of Hockey, suddenly trailing 2-1 when Evgeni Kuznetsov scored for Russia with just 3:36 remaining in the second period of this tournament semifinal. And the moment the puck hit the back of the Canadian net, what little atmosphere there had been inside the Air Canada Centre seemed to evaporate altogether.

Oh sure, there was electricity at a sporting event in downtown Toronto on Saturday. Only it was down the road at Rogers Centre, where the Blue Jays posted a dramatic 3-0 win over the New York Yankees thanks to a Jose Bautista three-run homer.

But, as so often has been the case, when things looked questionable for Team Canada, the Crosby Show took over.

Having scored Canada’s lone goal to that point, Crosby stripped Russian defenceman Andre Markov of the puck, then set up linemate Brad Marchand to tie the game 2-2 just 72 seconds after Kuznetsov had put the Russians ahead.

But the Team Canada captain wasn’t done.

Just 76 seconds into the third period, he set up Marchand yet again, this time putting Canada up 3-2.

It was a lead they would never relinquish.

Subsequent goals by Corey Perry and John Tavares gave Canada a three-goal lead and an eventual 5-3 victory en route to landing a spot in the best-of-three tournament final. Their opponent will be determined Sunday afternoon when Team Sweden and Team Europe face off in the other semifinal.

For Marchand, that tying goal late in the second period changed the game. And it was all because of Crosby. Because that’s what Crosby does.

“One of the things that makes him such a great player is his determination,” Marchand said. “He always makes big plays in big games. And when you see plays like that, that’s where the leadership comes in.”

“That tying goal was huge for us,” defenceman Shea Weber added. “(The Russians) had just taken the lead and the momentum was with them. And then Sid helped bring it back towards us.”

This is all you need to know about Crosby: Team Canada has now won 23 consecutive games in which the Pittsburgh Penguins captain has been in the lineup. If that’s not dominance, we don’t know what is.

During an interview with Postmedia prior to the tournament, Crosby was asked which players might make good linemates for him. He didn’t hesitate in his answer.

“Obviously I’ve played with (Patrice) Bergeron in a number of tournaments,” he said at the time. “And it would be cool with Brad Marchand, With him being from the same area (of Nova Scotia), I’ve skated a lot with him in the summer. I’m happy to see him on the team. It’ll be fun.”

It certainly wasn’t fun for Russian goalie Sergei Bobrovsky. By the end of the second intermission, Team Canada was outshooting Russia 33-9. The only reason the score was tied 2-2 at that point was the player his Columbus Blue Jacket teammates simply refer to as “Bob.”

But even Bob was no match for Crosby and his linemates on this night.

Crosby’s three-point effort makes him the leading scorer in the tournament with seven in four games. Keep in mind that he had a short summer, having played into mid-June en route to winning the Stanley Cup with the Penguins.

“I had to manage my rest,” Crosby said. “We had some good skates back in Nova Scotia. (Marchand) was there. It was a good way to prepare for this tournament.”

Marchand becomes an unrestricted free agent next summer. In his post-game press conference, he was asked if it would be cool to spend the rest of his career -- from that point on -- playing with Crosby in Pittsburgh. He showed outstanding veteran experience in declining to answer the question. But you have to wonder how much damage they could do together with the Penguins.

As a kid growing up in Nova Scotia, Marchand had heard about this wonderboy from the area named Sidney Crosby. One day after his own minor hockey game was over, Marchand noticed that Crosby’s team was playing next. So he stayed to see what all the fuss was about.

Crosby scored five goals.

He hasn’t slowed down since.

Those are the types of things that gets your face on a stamp.

And your team into the final of the World Cup.

mzeisberger@postmedia.com

twitter.com/zeisberger