Reporting Colin Dunlap
PITTSBURGH (93-7 The Fan) – Sometimes there is doubt.
Was that really great?
Was that actually superb?
Was that truly one of the finest things I’ve ever seen in the throes of a sporting endeavor?
Or am I just someone who is excited; someone caught up in the crowd going crazy and a goal scorer scoring a goal. Or a hitter blasting a home run. Or a runner bursting through the line for a long touchdown.
Is this excitement manufactured because the situation dictates as such?
Then there are the no doubters.
The moments within sports that, as soon as they happen, you know you just observed greatness. You know you just witnessed something few performers can — and will — duplicate. You know you just saw something that — and not to be clichéd — but you will tell your kids about. And their kids.
Such an occurrence happened Thursday night at CONSOL Energy Center, beginning just a few ticks before, and then culminating precisely at, the 14 minute mark of the second period in what would become a Penguins 4-0 win in Game 5 of the opening round of the Stanley Cup playoffs against the Islanders.
Sidney Crosby (who else?) took in a short pass from Jarome Iginla at just about the red line, two Islanders — who will go on to live in infamy — tracking back on defense drawing the unluckiest assignment in all of hockey.
Crosby danced through into the attacking zone, dangling the puck in a carrot-like form in front of 24-year-old defensemen Thomas Hickey, who fell to the ice in an effort to limit Crosby’s surge.
To no avail, Lubomir Visnovsky, a 36-year-old who was trailing the play, tried his mightiest to catch up.
He couldn’t. He fell short.
When Crosby got his full footing after the ebb and flow of dangling the puck, and squared up on his forehand, goaltender Evgeni Nabokov stood just about zero chance, as well.
As the puck slid past Nabokov, the Penguins took a commanding 3-0 advantage.
The Penguins also cemented home a 3-2 series lead with the help of that tremendous goal.
But the goal did much more.
It provided the instant comparisons to a moment immortalized in bronze against these same Islanders on Dec. 20, 1988. That was when Mario Lemieux split defensemen Rich Pilon and Jeff Norton and bested goaltender Kelly Hrudey for a goal in a victory. If you need a reminder on how that sequence of events went down, just look outside the Consol at the statue affixed to the ground.
The Crosby goal from Thursday and the Lemieux goal from that night are strikingly similar.
For his part, when asked about the comparison of the two goals, Crosby said, “His was much nicer than mine,” of Lemieux’s. “He went through guys, stick-handled through them and stick-handled around the goalie, too. I had a few less moves and a pretty basic shot. I’ll take the goal no matter how it goes in.”
No need to be modest. This one, Sidney, was just as good.
And no one needed much time to understand something else — that it was one of the finest individual flashes of brilliance in Pittsburgh sports history.
That’s how it happens when the truly great moments happen.
No one needs any time to digest it; you just know it when you see it.
On Thursday night, we saw it.
Former Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Sports Writer Colin Dunlap is the featured columnist at CBSPittsburgh.com. He can also be heard weeknights from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Sports Radio 93-7 “The Fan.” You can e-mail him at email@example.com.