The Islanders continue to find new, crushing ways to lose. Tuesday night a familiar foe, Sidney Crosby, did them in.
After scoring the tying goal on a power play with 12 minutes left in the third period, Crosby danced past rookie defenseman Calvin de Haan and flicked a backhand past Anders Nilsson at 3:44 of overtime, a 3-2 loss that was somewhat different than Saturday's overtime defeat by the same score, but similarly painful.
The Islanders grabbed the lead late on the Capitals on Saturday, only to cough it up in the final minute on a shorthanded goal and lose in OT. Tuesday night, Kyle Okposo scored twice to stake the Islanders to a 2-0 lead after a period, but the Penguins, led by Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, chipped away and left the Isles 0-5-2 in their last seven as they head out for a grueling, five-game road trip to five of the Western Conference's toughest spots.
"We've got to find a way to get two points," Okposo said. "We got a big [penalty] kill in OT and we've got to find a way to pull one out."
With John Tavares off for a cross-checking penalty in the final minute of the second, Malkin made a flip pass behind the Islanders net to James Neal, who beat Nilsson before the Islanders goaltender even knew where the puck was. There were 15.6 seconds remaining in the second.
The Penguins pushed the Islanders back on their heels in the third. Nilsson was sharp -- he finished with 31 saves -- but the Penguins got another opening when Aaron Ness clipped Malkin with a high stick.
Frans Nielsen was denied on a penalty shot during the Isles penalty kill, his stuff shot stopped by Marc-Andre Fleury.
Just 1:07 later, on the same Islanders minor, it was tied.
Malkin had a shot blocked, but he gathered it and sent it to Crosby, whose one-timer went through Nilsson's pads.
"We sat back too much," Okposo said, "and when it got to 2-2, we said, 'Time to go play again.'"
The Isles remained aggressive after the tie and seemed to get a break with 1:47 left in regulation, when Malkin took issue with a whack from Tavares and dumped the Isles captain in full view of the officials, taking a cross-checking minor that would last the rest of regulation.
The Islanders generated very little with that power play and then handed all the momentum back to Pittsburgh. Thomas Vanek, dumped in the slot twice by hacks from Kris Letang, took out his frustrations with a two-handed slash on Matt Niskanen, nullifying the power play with 23.4 seconds left in regulation and setting the Penguins up for a four-on-three advantage in OT.
"That one is probably on me," Vanek said. "I lost my cool. It's frustrating when you see the ref 15 feet away and two blatant slashes on me, but I shouldn't have lost my cool. I cost our team the win."
The Islanders did kill off the penalty, but they could not hold off Crosby. He stole a clearing pass by Thomas Hickey meant for Tavares, circled quickly and had de Haan, playing just his second game of the year, on his heels. Crosby put the puck through the young defenseman and, with a quick flick of his wrist, had the puck behind Nilsson.