PITTSBURGH – Sidney Crosby’s second Olympic experience was last dramatic and just as rewarding.
Crosby returned from Sochi, Russia, with his second Olympic gold medal, this one as the captain of the Canadian team. Leading a national team certainly brings a different sense of responsibility, but the same expectation.
“I think everybody feels a sense of pride, but also a sense of relief knowing you were able to do what everybody expected,” Crosby said Wednesday. “It’s not easy to win, but to be able to go in there with the goal of winning and achieve it is a great feeling.”
Now, Crosby and fellow Canadian gold medalist Chris Kunitz are ready for a return to normalcy in the NHL, joining head coach Dan Bylsma and five Olympic teammates, including Russia’s Evgeni Malkin, as the first-place Penguins prepare for a stretch run that features 24 games in 46 days.
“It’s good to get into a routine again,” Crosby said. “Managing rest is something we definitely have to keep in mind.”
Canada steamrolled through Sochi, allowing three goals in six games for its third gold medal in the last four Olympics and record ninth overall.
“Everybody talks about our defense, but I think we were able to control the puck a lot in the offensive zone and when you do that teams don’t get a lot of time or energy to come against you,” Crosby said.
The Canadians, who became the first team to go unbeaten through the Olympic tournament in 30 years, never trailed, a dominating effort that culminated in back-to-back shutouts of the United States and Sweden in the semifinals and gold medal game.
“The last three games, especially, we were at our best, but I think we got better as it went on,” Crosby said. “The scores were close, but we felt like we controlled the last three games and played the way we wanted to.”
Once again, Crosby’s shining moment came in the gold medal game, this time during the second period against Sweden when he deked goaltender Henrik Lundqvist to the ice before depositing a backhander across the line.
“We hadn’t had a two-goal lead that often up to that point and with the way we had been playing to get a two-goal lead was nice,” Crosby said. “I think that was going through my mind more than the fact that I hadn’t scored yet.”
It didn’t carry the weight of his Golden Goal, the 2010 overtime game-winner against the Americans, but Crosby’s first goal of the tournament effectively clinched the gold medal for the defensive-minded Canadians.
“It was a great experience,” Crosby said. “Obviously, winning makes it better.”
It was a different experience for Malkin, who came up empty at the Olympics after the host Russians were eliminated on their home soil in the quarterfinal round by Finland.
“It’s not easy, it’s always tough,” Malkin said. “I remember in Vancouver we lost and now it’s worse.
“Of course it’s pressure, we played at home. I know everyone played hard, 100 percent, we played together and I think it’s tough to have lost.”
Bylsma understands Malkin’s disappointment and challenged his star forward to channel the emotion and try to help the Penguins to a deep run in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
“They had the Olympics at their venue,” Bylsma said. “This was their gold medal to win. There’s disappointment. I talked to Evgeni and probably the third thing out of his mouth (was) Stanley Cup. We need to come back here and focus on that.”