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Islanders masterful in shutting down Penguins' stars

Sidney Crosby #87 of the Pittsburgh Penguins skates

Sidney Crosby #87 of the Pittsburgh Penguins skates off the ice as Anders Lee #27 of the New York Islanders celebrates with teammates on the bench after scoring an empty net goal during the third period in Game Three of the Eastern Conference First Round during the 2019 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at PPG PAINTS Arena on April 14, 2019 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Photo Credit: Getty Images/Justin Berl

PITTSBURGH — Sidney Crosby had 100 points in 79 games in the regular season. He has zero in three playoff games against the Islanders.

“Really?’’ Islanders defenseman Johnny Boychuk said after his team’s 4-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday gave them a 3-0 lead in their first-round playoff series. “I didn’t even know that.

“That’s the thing: We’re not worried about what other teams are doing; we’re worried about what we’re doing. That’s the mentality we need to have and to keep having to have success.’’

Boychuk and his mates have done a masterful job of taking Crosby and his line out of the series. According to Islanders team statistician Eric Hornick, it is the first time the Islanders have ever held Crosby without a point in three straight games — regular season or playoffs.

But Islanders coach Barry Trotz denied tailoring the game plan for the series around shutting down the Penguins’ captain and leaving it to other people to beat them.

“The strategy is to stop everyone,’’ Trotz said. “There isn’t any focus on one particular guy. I think when you’re the ice against anybody in this league, you take care of your own business. I think we’ve been doing that.’’

The Islanders have allowed two goals in the last two games, which means Crosby isn’t the only one not scoring for Pittsburgh.

The Penguins scored the first goal of Sunday’s game when Garrett Wilson deflected a shot by Marcus Pettersson past Islanders goalie Robin Lehner at 12:54 of the first period.

Jordan Eberle tied the score 28 seconds later and Brock Nelson scored the go-ahead goal 62 seconds after that. Pittsburgh never really threatened to score again.

The Islanders allowed only 26 shots on goal in Game 3, down from the 33 they allowed in their 3-1 win in Game 2 and way down from the 44 they allowed in their 4-3 overtime win in Game 1. And of the 26 shots the Penguins did get Sunday, many of them hit Lehner right in the Islanders logo on the chest of his jersey.

Still, the Islanders spoke, stone-faced, about how the Penguins gave them plenty to worry about.

“Don’t kid yourself. They had some chances,” Boychuk said. “Robin played well again, of course, as always, and he made some nice saves when we needed him to. They still got a lot of chances. He played well and so did the ‘D,’ and we have to forget about this one and worry about the next game.’’

Crosby, who has 66 goals and 185 points in 163 playoff games, said that if the Penguins are going to dig their way out of the hole they’re in, he needs to do more.

“You’ve got to find ways to score goals this time of year,’’ he said. “It’s not easy, but you’ve got to find a way to do it, and obviously, we haven’t done a good enough job of that throughout these three games.’’

  

  

  

  

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