The Pittsburgh Penguins need Sidney Crosby - there are no two ways about it. Any shot of him injured is shot to an entire franchise and fan base who have become reliant on his elite set of skills. The worst fears were realized on Monday night, when Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals turned violent, leaving the captain on his face sprawled out on the ice in the first period before exiting the game against the Washington Capitals.

Scary moment

In the first period of Monday's game, Crosby was checked from behind as he neared Capitals goalie Braden Holtby. As he fell forward slightly, Capitals defender Matt Niskanen - seemingly on reflex - gave a cross-check right to the face of the Penguins star.

Crosby immediately went down hard, with his left leg making an odd movement and Niskanen somehow ending up on top of him. Niskanen was immediately assessed a five-minute major and game misconduct, forcing his ejection from the competition.

Crosby immediately left the game, ostensibly with a head injury, though his leg may have required some examination as well. He managed to skate off on his own, but was sprawled out on the ice for several tense moments. When the second period began, the captain did not skate out with the team. The Penguins stated that an update would not be available until the conclusion of the game, suggesting that Crosby will not be taking the ice again tonight.

History of head injuries

Making the head injury even more frightening for Penguins fans is his history with concussions and head injuries.

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At the turn of the New Year in 2011, Crosby had his bell rung in consecutive games. He wound up missing the final 41 games of the season. They didn't go away the following season, forcing him to miss 60 of the 82 games during the season, showing how badly concussions can affect him.

Those issues crept back up before the start of this season. Before the season opener (ironically against the Capitals), Crosby was diagnosed with yet another concussion. He missed the first six games of the season before returning to the ice and returning to his dominant self. There's no indication yet on how badly this latest incident will affect Crosby - maybe he'll wake up feeling fine and pass all of his tests and return to the ice for Game 4. If he's out for an extended period, however, the Penguins may have to kiss their Stanley Cup aspirations goodbye for the current campaign.