The ways Sidney Crosby directly affected the box score on Saturday can be be summed up in short phrases: Secondary assist. Drew a penalty.

But there were layers to his performance that won’t stand out in the Capitals’ 4-2 win, and could very well help the Penguins finish off this series in Pittsburgh on Monday night. Crosby returned to game action just five days after suffering a concussion in the first period of Game 3. Game 5 was his quietest 60-minute performance of the series, as he played 19:10 and put three unmemorable shots on goal. The Penguins top line of Jake Guentzel, Crosby and Patric Hornqvist was held scoreless at even strength, something the Capitals did not do in Games 1 or 2 of the series.

And still, Crosby provided a reminder of how his return could dictate the outcome of this series. The Penguins led 3-1 in the series and 2-1 in the game heading into the third period Saturday, then the Capitals scored three unanswered goals to extend their season. That now gives the Penguins a chance to advance on their home ice, and having Crosby in the lineup is a crucial component of that.

“I felt good, some chances there we just missed,” Crosby said after the game, turning a question about himself into a team assessment. “Some nights you just don’t execute as well and there were some chances we had there a few times, and you know we just didn’t execute.”

Crosby, widely considered the best hockey player in the world, led the NHL with 44 goals in the regular season. He was naturally guiding the Penguins’ offense at the start of this series, scoring twice in Game 1 (in a 52-second span) and collecting two assists in Game 2. But a cross-check by Matt Niskanen put him on the shelf for nearly two full games, and the offense slowed as a result.

In Games 3 and 4, the Penguins scored two five-on-five goals, two six-on-five goals and a power-play goal. The five-on-five goals were not all too encouraging, as Hornqvist burned a defensive pair that shouldn’t have been on the ice together, and Guentzel banked a fluky goal off Dmitry Orlov’s skate and past Braden Holtby. The power-play goal was also an outlier, as it was the Penguins’ second goal in their past 13 five-on-four advantages to that point.

In welcoming their star captain back to the ice, the Penguins were able to reconfigure their offensive depth and improve their power play. Crosby’s return bumped Evgeni Malkin back down to the second line, and he was mostly joined by Chris Kunitz and Phil Kessel on his wings. This proved important on Carl Hagelin’s first-period goal, as Hagelin was skating on the fourth line and against the Capitals’ new-look third line of Alex Oveckin, Lars Eller and Tom Wilson. It was a very favorable matchup for Hagelin’s breakneck speed.

The next sign of Crosby’s return was the glimpse of a much sharper power play. Early in the second period, Crosby, Malkin, Kessel and Hornqvist looked like they were playing a mocking game of keep away with the Capitals’ penalty kill. Four passes in four seconds led to a wide-open Kessel knocking in a weak-side goal, and Crosby was credited with the secondary assist.

Later in the game, Crosby’s ability to possess and feed from behind the net led to a Nate Schmidt holding penalty. He may have not lit up the scoreboard on Saturday, but he bolstered all four of the Penguins’ lines, tightened up their power play and also helped them gain a five-on-four advantage they didn’t cash in on.

“They’re a talented group,” Penguins Coach Mike Sullivan said after Game 5. “And when [Crosby’s] out there with them they’re that much more dangerous.”

Sullivan was specifically talking about the Penguins’ power play. Yet the sentiment could be applied to his whole team.

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