PITTSBURGH -- It was a night that will be remembered around the hockey world, with the Penguins' Sidney Crosby getting two goals and two assists in his return after missing 101/2 months because of a concussion.
It may well prove to be a memorable night for the Islanders, too -- the night when they crossed from a struggling team to one that is completely lost and in need of changes.
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Crosby, who opened the scoring with a beautiful rush past Andrew MacDonald and a roofed backhand past Anders Nilsson 5:24 into the game, rose to the occasion, as he's done so many times. And the Isles, who have not scored in the last 141:45 over seven-plus periods and have been outscored 11-0 in their past two games, shrunk from the moment.
Crosby's goal came on the first shot against the Isles for the fifth time in their 18 games; it also was the fifth time they have been shut out.
"Just not enough emotion. We get down, or something bad happens early, and we just get down on ourselves on the bench and can't get back into it," said Matt Martin, who threw a game-high nine hits. "We have to have the confidence to know we can come back. We don't have as much talent as some other teams, but we have to be able to outwork them."
Aside from a few good shifts while the score was 1-0, the Islanders didn't work hard enough. Nilsson, making his first NHL start, had 31 saves and allowed a couple of goals that he should have stopped, but it was far from his doing.
The sellout crowd in the Consol Centre rose to give Crosby a huge ovation before the game began, and the Islanders wilted.
Crosby fed Brooks Orpik for a knuckled slap shot that beat Nilsson high at 16:29 of the first to make it 2-0, and Evgeni Malkin tucked in a power-play rebound 3:17 into the second to push the Isles further back.
From then on, the Islanders played their role as Monday night's Washington Generals, watching and waiting for Crosby's next bit of magic as the Penguins controlled the play completely. All that was missing was a rendition of "Sweet Georgia Brown" on the PA system.
It was a similarly effort-free night in Los Angeles a little more than a year ago that prompted Garth Snow to replace Scott Gordon with Jack Capuano. The Islanders don't seem prepared to pull the trigger on another new coach, but something has to change as they sink further behind the top teams in the East less than one-quarter into the season.
"We just don't compete hard enough -- that's a basic thing," Frans Nielsen said. "We talk system, blah blah blah, gotta do this, do that, but it comes down to outworking the other team. If you do that, good things will happen. We're losing so many one-on-one battles out there."
Crosby, who capped the scoring with a backhander through traffic 2:06 into the third, called it "the easiest game I've had to prepare for" and added before he finished his postgame news conference: "It was a memorable night for sure."
It may be for the Islanders, too, but in a very different way.