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Islanders' strategy to contain Sid: Bang Crosby

The Islanders' Scott Mayfield, right, checks the Penguins'

The Islanders' Scott Mayfield, right, checks the Penguins' Sidney Crosby off his skates during the second period in Game 1 of an NHL Stanley Cup first-round playoff series in Pittsburgh on Sunday. Credit: AP/Gene J. Puskar

Sidney Crosby had four shots on goal in the first period for the Penguins in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series against the Islanders on Sunday.

Then he began the second period with a highlight-reel goal, reaching around Andy Greene with one hand on his stick to tip in a long shot by Brian Dumoulin.

At that point, the Islanders had had quite enough. Soon Scott Mayfield was hammering Crosby with a big hit, and Cal Clutterbuck was cross-checking him to the ice.

He never did get another shot on goal after that early second-period score, and the Islanders won, 4-3, in overtime.

So it goes for Sid the Former Kid, who at 33 might be the Pens’ best hope of avoiding another playoff frustration against the Islanders.

He already has been a bigger factor than he was in the Islanders’ sweep of Pittsburgh in 2019, when he famously managed only one assist and was minus-4 for the series.

But that was an anomaly. In his long, complicated history against the Islanders, he has 122 regular-season points — the most for any current player against any one team.

Now it is playoff time again, and that is all that matters, both for the Islanders as they seek their first Stanley Cup since 1983 and Crosby as he seeks the fourth of his career.

The good news for the Islanders is that Barry Trotz’s defense-first group should be well-suited to the task.

The Islanders were credited in Game 1 with a 72-47 advantage in hits, including Leo Komarov’s 14 (!), plus nine for Matt Martin and eight for Ryan Pulock.

Asked on Monday whether the Islanders were trying to rough up Crosby, Martin said, "A guy like that obviously gets a lot of attention all over the ice, not only from a physical standpoint but just how quickly he can hurt you if you lose track of him. So he’s certainly a guy that gets extra attention.

"We just tried to be physical with everybody, and really that’s a big part of who we are as a team, who we are as a line, and we wanted to come out and be hard on all of them. Obviously this has the makings to be a long series, so we want to continue that type of pressure, continue to be heavy on them and wear them down a bit that way.

"If you give them time and space — not just Crosby, a lot of the guys on their roster — and you’re not physical on them, they’re capable of making plays and making you pay for it."

Before Game 2 on Tuesday, Greene said of the Crosby goal, "Obviously, a great play by him. Tried to kind of get him off balance there, and that’s always why you try to go for the stick first.

"Just missed it, and at that point I was trying to knock him off balance and not be able for him to get a good look, and obviously with him it doesn’t take much and he got his stick on it."

Greene entered the NHL in 2006-07, the season after Crosby, and as a longtime Devil has seen a lot of him. He confirmed that being physical always is a priority — or at least attempting to be.

"You try to force him into different spots and different areas where it’s a little bit tougher for him, whether it’s to beat you one-on-one or make a great play," Greene said.

Easier said than done. But the Islanders might just be the ones to do it.

After Game 1, Trotz said, "You know what I think of Sid. Sid is the gold standard. I was trying to take away his time and space, which you always want to do . . . We respect what he can do, but we’ve got to make sure that we limit his ability to do some of those things."

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