It had to happen sometime.
Sidney Crosby will be shaving his now-infamous mustache, as his point streak has ended at 25 games. It may come as a surprise that the team to put a stop to the streak was the New York Islanders (10-19-6), who rank 29th in the NHL but fought hard to defeat the first-place Penguins (25-11-3) 2-1 in a shootout.
A lack of production in the first seemed to slow the Pens down early. Both penalties called on New York were matched by Pittsburgh, allowing only 4-on-4 situations with no actual power play opportunities. The Pens ended the period with 12 shots on goal to the Islanders’ 10.
“Our first period was a see-saw back and forth. They did some good things,” said Head Coach Dan Bylsma.
Even when the Penguins did see a man advantage, they were unable to capitalize. By the end of the second period they were 0-for-1 on the power play, although right-winger Chris Conner did score the team’s only regulation goal from center Tyler Kennedy. The Pens had another 12 shots in this period compared to seven from the Isles, and things were looking up.
Generating as many chances as possible in the third would be the key to victory, and surely Crosby would come through…right?
Well, the Pens had to go on the penalty kill twice without getting any power play chances of their own, and while this would seem like no problem for one of the top PKs in the league, Bylsma claims it was a momentum stopper.
“Some penalties in the third prevented us from really ramping it up,” the Penguins coach said. “We had to kill off a couple.”
By overtime, the Pens seemed desperate, and Bylsma was laying the Crosby-Evgeni Malkin combination on thick, but the Isles were there to shut them down. This is perhaps the biggest factor in the Pens’ loss – the “two-headed monster” was kept in its cage.
It is impossible to not largely credit Islanders’ goaltender Rick DiPietro. He was on top of puck all night and did not allow a lot of rebound chances for Pittsburgh. In the shootout, he allowed goals from defenseman Kris Letang (from whom he had stopped a penalty shot in the third) and Malkin, but blocked Crosby and center Mark Letestu.
“DiPietro, you have to give him credit,” said Bylsma. “We had some shots with traffic and he swallowed up a lot of rebounds, didn’t give us many second-chance opportunities. I think the only one we got was the one we stuffed in to tie the game. He played really well and their team played hard.”
As for Crosby, he is disappointed but understands that some games just don’t go his way – or the team’s.
“It would have been nice to keep it going, but it was just one of those games – low scoring. Both goalies played well, and that’s pretty much it. There were chances to be had, but they didn’t go in,” he said. “It’s always easy to look back and there were times when I got points this year or over the span of (the streak) where I didn’t have as many chances as I did tonight.
“It’s a funny thing the way it works sometimes…as a team I think we played not terrible, but there’s still another level and that goes for me too.”
The Pens will now focus their attention on reaching that level for Saturday’s Winter Classic against the Washington Capitals.