WASHINGTON D.C. -- Over a decade into production, it's a show that keeps on delivering. Sure, some of the buildup when Sidney Crosby faces Alex Ovechkin gets old. Anything that has as much age as this rivalry sometimes does.
Then they take the ice, as they did Thursday night, and it's a giant reminder of why we can't take our eyes off these two. Crosby and Ovechkin showed again Thursday that they still know how to put on a peak performance when the pressure is highest -- this time a playoff series that might just determine who raises the Stanley Cup this spring.
Crosby started it, in the Penguins' 3-2 Game 1 win, scoring twice in the first 64 seconds of the second period. He was buzzing. Even after those goals, when he had the puck on his stick, there was a feeling of electricity. Like another one was coming at any moment.
Ovechkin's answer later that same period drained that electricity. It started with a monster hit by Capitals defenseman John Carlson on Evgeni Malkin, which resulted in Ovechkin's first goal of the series, one that began a Capitals comeback that showed they won't back down in this series. If you ever doubted how badly Ovechkin wants this, watch the sequence in the final three minutes, with Ovechkin's helmet off as he bangs away at Pens goalie Marc-Andre Fleury in a desperate attempt to tie it.
You couldn't help but watch Crosby and Ovechkin go toe-to-toe in Game 1 and feel that we should enjoy it just a little bit more this year. When Crosby and Ovechkin both had hat tricks in Game 2 of the 2009 Stanley Cup playoffs, it was amazing. It was remarkable, but it seemed it was just the start of something great.
Now, as it happens, there's a bit of nostalgia and a bit of a feeling that we should enjoy it while it lasts -- because these are the battles that might end up defining an era of NHL playoff hockey.