-- The clock ticked mercilessly toward the end of Sidney Crosby
's 25-game point streak Wednesday night as the New York Islanders
and Pittsburgh Penguins
battled through a hard-fought third period, followed by a five-minute overtime.
The crowd of 14,345, the largest (and loudest) this season at the old barn on Hempstead Turnpike, was revved up in hopes their Islanders could beat the big, bad Penguins -- the top team in the League standings and a club that has dominated the Isles for the last four-plus seasons.
But they were also conscious of something else. Every second that ticked down was one second closer to the end of Sidney Crosby
's 25-game point streak, the longest in the NHL since 1992-93.
Like the fans, by then Crosby was aware of the streak as well.
"Probably late, when guys are kind of cheering you on, hoping that you'll get it, looking for you," Crosby said when asked about being conscious of the streak during the game, which ended in a 2-1 shootout victory for the Islanders.
Before that, he said, the streak wasn't a part of his thinking.
"I think over the course of the game, and even in the last few weeks especially, I've tried to go out there and do the same things," he told a mélange of media that included HBO, which was filming its "24/7" documentary on the build-up to Saturday's Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic at Pittsburgh's Heinz Field.
"I rely on good habits and the things I do in practice to help execute in situations, so for the most part I wasn't (thinking about the streak), but probably towards the end -- you probably want to press a bit."
Crosby's streak began with two goals in Anaheim on Nov. 5 -- two nights after he was blanked in a 5-2 loss at Dallas. Game No. 25 was perhaps the most spectacular; Crosby scored twice and added a pair of assists in a 6-3 victory against the Atlanta Thrashers
at the brand-new Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh.
But one night later, at one of the few remaining NHL buildings for which the title "old barn" fits, it ended with Crosby limited to two shots on goal. His closest chance came late in the first period, when he beat Isles goaltender Rick DiPietro
cleanly but rang the crossbar.
He also had some excellent setups, including a couple to Evgeni Malkin
, that were gobbled up by DiPietro.
"It's always easy to look back," Crosby said of his chances in the game. "There were times over the span (of the streak) where I got points when I didn't have as many chances as I had (Wednesday). It's a funny thing the way it works sometime."
The Islanders were perhaps the least-likely team in the NHL to stop the streak. Crosby came to the Coliseum having piled up 62 points, the most he's had against any other team.
"It would have been nice to keep it going," Crosby said. "It was one of those games. It was low scoring and both goalies played well. There were chances to be had. It didn't go in."
Crosby ended up with 50 points -- 26 goals and 24 assists -- in the 25 games, exactly two points a night. His coach, Dan Bylsma
, freely admitted that he was sorry to see it end.
"It's a big deal to get points in that many games in our game today," Bylsma said. "The streak was incredible, and I'm sure we'll see another one if he keeps playing like he is."