WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Sidney Crosby was on the ice when the puck dropped in Game 5 between the Capitals and Penguins on Saturday night. That much we knew.
But up until the very moment Verizon Center public address announcer Wes Johnson read off the starting lineups, Crosby's status was in question following a hit he took to the head from Matt Niskanen in Game 3.
It was the question that everyone wanted to know the answer to, but was an answer that very few had.
"Yeah I mean you wanna just get back out there," Crosby said after the Capitals defeated the Penguins 4-2 in Game 5 to trim Pittsburgh's series lead to 3-2.
"I tried to just go with the flow ... you don't want too many expectations when you're gonna come back. But in the playoffs, you don't want to be watching."
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Crosby finished with an assist, three shots on goal and logged 19:10 of total ice time, but prior to the game, it was anyone's guess if he would suit up.
"We didn't know if he was playing or not until he took the ice right before the game," defenseman Brian Dumoulin said following the loss.
Dumoulin wasn't the only one. Crosby himself didn't get the official word until just around 7:00 p.m. ET.
"Basically just before the game started," Crosby said, when asked when he was given official clearance.
The reason that's important is because Crosby's status was anybody's guess. That's the difficult aspect from a team standpoint when dealing with concussions. A concussion could keep a player out one game or an entire season, something Crosby is all too familiar with. He played in just 56 games over the course of the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons because of two concussions he sustained. He also suffered a broken jaw in march 2013 and suffered yet another concussion at the beginning of the 2016 season.
Crosby knew he wanted to be on the ice for Game 5, but he, and thousands of others, had no clue if he would be good to go.
"It [concussion protocol] has come a long way. You know, I don't think there was much out there about concussions.Ithink year after year people are trying their best but concussions are tricky things. It's kinda been a process for everyone."
Crosby could have missed the remainder of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs, or he could have missed just one game.
The latter took place, and while Penguins let a 2-1 lead turn into 4-2 loss, a healthy Crosby was back in the lineup and will have more time to rest before Game 6,
That type of clarity and confidence is invaluable for the Penguins with a one-game advantage.