PITTSBURGH -- Sidney Crosby walked into the Pittsburgh Penguins dressing room in the early evening and said nothing.
No speech from the captain. No words of encouragement. Only stoic silence.
It was his way of setting the tone for Game 3 of the Stanley Cup final. His way of leading on the most important hockey night of his young life.
"I wanted to leave a sense of desperation," Crosby said after scoring two goals in the Penguins' 3-2 victory over the Detroit Red Wings last night, providing life for both the Pens and a much-hyped best-of-seven final.
"I wanted to make sure I had a good game. I wanted to be quiet, but I have to leave a sense of confidence out there. I had to lead by example. That's all I was trying to do."
Whatever he didn't say worked in the favour of the young Pens, who looked completely outmatched in the first two games of the series, but bravely and barely hung on to win at home last night.
"We needed this one," Crosby said. "We all earned it."
It wasn't just a win for the Penguins. It was a statement of sorts. They were, at times, lucky. They were, at times, dominant. But to get the win is enormous for a young team that had to have been unsure of itself heading into Game 3.
"For a lot of these players, it's their first win in the Stanley Cup final," said coach Michel Therrien who also had his maiden win in the final. "It's huge for them, huge for their confidence. Confidence- wise, that's a huge win for those young kids."
It was the Penguins' 17th consecutive home win and it means there is still a possibility this will be a series of substance. It was clearly not the best night for the Wings, who still almost came back to tie the game late and had to be upset with their erratic, if not lackadaisical, play.
"You have to give them credit," said Wings' coach Mike Babcock, not overly impressed by what he saw. "They found a way to win."
And maybe the Wings found a way to lose.
How big was the win for Crosby and the Penguins? Well, it's something Wayne Gretzky didn't know in his first trip to the Stanley Cup. Those Edmonton Oilers of 1983 were swept away by the New York Islanders, the way some thought the Penguins would be swept away here.
Now Crosby owns something Gretzky doesn't have: And like the Gretzky of days gone by, Crosby came up with his biggest game when his team needed him most.
"You're looking for your best player to bring his 'A' game and certainly Sid did that tonight." Therrien said.
And Crosby wasn't alone. Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, shaky in the first two games of the series, played exceptionally well last night.
Veteran Gary Roberts, benched in the opening game (a mistake) was doing all that a 42-year-old could be expected to do last night. At times, he played with Crosby and Marian Hossa. At times, he caused havoc in front of the Detroit net. And his punishing hit deep in the Wings zone helped set up Adam Hall's 3-1 goal, a puck that banked in off Chris Osgood from behind the net.
"He played for real, that guy," Therrien said of Roberts. "He is a real hockey player. It's fun to see Adam Hall and Roberts get together for the winning goal."
It was fun to see Crosby and Evgeni Malkin playing on the same line halfway through the first period when the Penguins needed a lift and some energy. Whatever Crosby was called upon to do, he succeeded. Right there on the NBC -- the Nobody But Crosby network.
"Coaches probably cringe they see a game like that," said Crosby. And maybe coaches do. But it was fun for the fans, a great night for hockey.