Friend of the blog Doug Mittler was out at Nassau Wednesday, what follows is his write-up after the Isles' upset of the NHL's top team, the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Islanders took one of the storylines away from Saturday’s Winter Classic, stopping Sidney Crosby’s scoring streak at 25 games in a 2-1 shootout win Wednesday night at Nassau Coliseum.
Three days before the NHL’s showcase event at Heinz Field featuring Crosby and Washington’s Alex Ovechkin, Crosby saw his string of success, the longest in the NHL since 1992-93, snapped by the unlikeliest of opponents.
The Penguins superstar entered the game with 18 goals and 44 assists in 32 career games against the Islanders. The 62 points ties for his most points against an opponent along with Philadelphia.
“Obviously they have a lot of great players so you can’t just focus on him. We wanted to watch him and Franzie (Frans Nielsen) was on him all night,” said the Islanders Josh Bailey, who opened the scoring with a second-period goal. “Obviously there is some motivation there. You want to be the one to stop the streak when a few dozen other teams didn’t.”
Crosby, who had 26 goals and 24 assists during the streak, was held without a point for the first time since Nov. 3 at Dallas.
Rob Schremp, who scored the first shootout goal, says the Isles had a blueprint for Crosby.
“We didn’t give him much room and did a good job of closing the gaps. We kept him in tight corners and we kept him on the outside,” Schremp said. “When you give him room, he gets those quick shots off and that’s when he’s most effective.”
In goal for the Islanders was Rick DiPietro, who hadn’t played since Dec. 16 due to swelling on his surgically repaired knee and finished with 37 saves through overtime.
“This was a big spot for us. When you play against a club with that much talent it has to be a full team effort,” DiPietro said. “We did a good job in the neutral zone and blocked a lot of shots.”
Crosby’s best scoring chance came late in the first period when he was left wide open on the left side and hit the crossbar off a pass from Tyler Kennedy. In the second period, Evgeni Malkin was stopped by DiPietro from point-blank range.
The Islanders had been torched for seven goals in a loss to the Rangers Monday and entered the night allowing 3.26 goals per game, the second highest total in the NHL. But the Islanders have looked a lot better in recent weeks, allowing a combined three goals in the three-game winning streak that ended Wednesday.
In addition, coach Jack Capuano was forced to modify his defense after GM Garth Snow traded James Wisniewski to Montreal for draft picks earlier this week. Wisniewski was tied for the team lead with 21 points, but was also a minus-18.
Wednesday’s highly entertaining game attracted a season-high 14,345 fans to Nassau Coliseum, marking the first time in five home games the team drew as many as 10,000. At least a portion of the crowd was there to see Crosby, and the Isles clearly took pride in shutting him down.
“He’s a great player,” Capuano said. “We’ll be known as the team that snapped the streak, but I’m sure they’ll be another.”