There’s no substitute for production, especially when you make $12 million and are regarded as hockey’s best player.

But, despite being held without a goal for his 13th straight playoff game, Penguins captain Sidney Crosby was the best player on the ice last night. Crosby cranked a game-high six shots on goal and had jump that had previously lacked. Crosby provided one of the game’s most electrifying moments when he motored around New York Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh only to register a near-miss.

If Crosby plays like that tonight at Madison Square Garden, it’s tough to see him not scoring. More important, it’s difficult to imagine the Penguins losing.

Last night was a thoroughly dominant Penguins performance. The Penguins held a 35-22 edge in shots and, if not for a top-shelf evening by Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, would have won by a lopsided margin.

Marc-Andre Fleury wasn’t tested like Lundqvist, but held his ground in a tight game. His Game 4 hiccup against Columbus duly noted, Fleury has been among the least of the Penguins’ worries during these playoffs.

It will be curious to see where the fatigue factor lies tonight. Each team is playing its third game in four days. But the Rangers play their sixth game in nine days.

Crosby needs a goal. He didn’t speak with the media following last night’s game. That’s a rare snub by Crosby, the most accessible of superstars. His intention is easy to read: The win is the story, not Crosby’s 13-game futility streak.

A vocal, idiotic minority calls for knee-jerk stupidity via Twitter and talk shows: “Bench Crosby! Set an example!” Then you got the insults, some of which border on gleeful hysteria. Set ‘em up, then knock ‘em down.

But the majority was quite vocal at Consol Energy Center last night. The sellout crowd supported Crosby at every turn, the roar echoing and amplifying.

That’s as it should be. Crosby is the Penguins. The Penguins are Crosby. Frustration does no good. Not for the crowd, nor the captain. Last night, Crosby’s frustration gave way to an excellent showing. Can a red light be far behind?


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