Crosby went down on the ice from the crunching check, which came immediately after he gathered a loose puck in the Rangers’ defensive end. Crosby quickly regained his feet and tried to play on. But he could not. He went to the bench and sat, lowered his head, and then left for the locker room with roughly seven minutes to play in the period.
Shortly thereafter, the Rangers unleashed a barrage of goals in succession from Adam Fox, Alexis Lafrenière and Trouba, who danced in from the point for a nifty backhand goal that added insult to Crosby’s injury.
One of the most decorated players of the last 20 years, Crosby has won three Stanley Cups with the Penguins, two Hart trophies as the most valuable player in the league and two Conn Smythe trophies for the most valuable player of the playoffs.
But he also has a history of head injuries, the most serious of which occurred in 2011. To many skeptical New York fans, he also has a history of flopping in a perceived effort to draw penalties. But in this case, Crosby never even looked to the referees for a call.
There was no penalty issued on the play, but the National Hockey League’s office of player safety could examine it and impose a fine, if not a suspension, to Trouba on Thursday. From Pittsburgh’s perspective, it would behoove the league to keep their best, most skillful players on the ice.
In the first four games of the series, Crosby had two goals and seven assists.
But not all the Penguins were convinced the play was dirty. Marcus Pettersson was also asked if he thought Trouba acted with intent to harm.
“Honestly, I didn’t see it,” he said. “But I don’t think so. Both teams are playing hard.”
The violent blow was levied one game after Gerard Gallant, the Rangers coach, had chastized his team for being “soft” in Game 4 in Pittsburgh, a game the Penguins won easily. Gallant was not asking hit players to take cheap shots, rather to compete harder, fight for pucks along the boards, and show more commitment on defense. They did all that.