PITTSBURGH -- Watching it over and over again, the injury to Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby could have been caused by so many things. There's a stick to the head from Alex Ovechkin, there's a twisting leg as he starts heading down, there's the final blow to the head from Washington Capitals defenseman Matt Niskanen -- all of which left Crosby writhing on the ground in front of a stunned home crowd.
The details will emerge as to why he didn't play another minute after that first-period sequence, one that might change the course of this postseason.
But it was undeniable that it lit a fuse on this game, on this series, and gave the Capitals a new life following their 3-2 overtime win that cut the Penguins' series lead to 2-1.
If you're looking for signs this Capitals team is different, it was this game. They were engaged emotionally in a way they weren't previously in this series. And the late-game surge by Pittsburgh could have sunk them. It didn't. The bonus is that it was Kevin Shattenkirk, who has struggled in this series, getting the winner on a blast from the point in OT.
Capitals coach Barry Trotz has been saying all postseason that this group is different -- and finally it showed.
This rivalry also found another height in Game 3, with the Capitals getting the Penguins to engage in ways the Columbus Blue Jackets never were able to lure them in the first round. There were scrums after the whistle, there were late hits -- things the Penguins resisted in the past while focusing only on hockey. Sometimes it takes the most heated rival to get it out. Maybe it takes losing your captain.
The NHL is a better place when Crosby is on the ice, but for better or worse, this series shifted the moment he left it.
Crosby left and the Capitals arrived.