Colorado Avalanche star Nathan MacKinnon had not scored in the first three games of the Stanley Cup Finals against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
His slide finally ended on Wednesday when he scored on a power play in the second period. Before Game 4, MacKinnon had only had two assists in the last series and was feeling the pressure to score some goals.
To clear his head, MacKinnon turned to Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby for advice. Hailing from the same corner of the woods in Nova Scotia, the two star forwards usually train together in the off-season and are known for staying in touch.
While Crosby would most likely prefer to play his sidekick in the Stanley Cup Finals, he still watches the action and picks up the phone when MacKinnon rings.
“Nathan MacKinnon is on the phone with Sidney Crosby between games and Sid is telling him not to push himself too hard,” NHL insider Kevin Weekes revealed on The Pat McAfee Show ahead of Game 4.
“He tells him to keep doing what he’s doing, to play to his strengths. Elite players who are highly productive players expect so much from themselves and sometimes push themselves too hard. So maybe just simplify the game.”
MacKinnon would be wise to listen to his friend who knows a thing or two about what it takes to win at this time of year. Crosby is a three-time Stanley Cup winner, having lifted the prestigious trophy in 2009 and then consecutive years in 2016 and 2017.
MacKinnon showed no outward signs of frustration during his scoring slump, showing his maturity as a player. Crosby’s influence on the 26-year-old is evident as he faces the biggest challenge of his career.
The Avalanche now have the edge and return to Colorado where they can win their first Stanley Cup in 21 years on home ice in Game 5 on Friday. MacKinnon could turn to Crosby again as he found himself at the center of the controversial overtime goal that led to the Avalanche’s 3-2 win.
In a picture-perfect ending, Nazem Kadri scored the winning goal with a partial breakaway on his debut Stanley Cup Finals. While Avalanche goalie Darcy Kuemper put the puck on the ice, one Avalanche player — MacKinnon — had not yet completed his substitution. Kadri’s record could easily have been waved off for too many men for a penalty.
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