The frustration showed in the Pittsburgh Penguins' dynamic duo, both during and after a 3-0 loss to the Boston Bruins in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final on Saturday night at Consol Engery Center.
"It was pretty emotional, and we get into it a little bit," Crosby said of a spate of after-whistle skirmishes. "But that's not something we go out there looking for -- that's more of a result of the way the game kind of escalated."
Held without a point for the third time in 10 Stanley Cup Playoff games this season, the only place Crosby's name appeared on the score sheet was in the form of a first-period interference penalty and with a slashing minor during the game's final two minutes.
But Crosby displayed plenty of other visible signs of frustration during Pittsburgh's second loss in its past eight games. At one point, a linesman had a long conversation with him after he slashed a Bruins player during a faceoff. As time expired in the first period, he slashed Boston defenseman Zdeno Chara and yapped with the Bruins' captain. Then, when the second period ended, he got in Tuukka Rask's way as the Bruins goalie was skating off the ice, making contact and sharing words before getting into another animated conversation with Chara.
During that same sequence, Malkin got into a rare fight -- with a combatant for whom fights are just as rare, Bruins center Patrice Bergeron. It was a bout with the kind of star power perhaps not seen in the Stanley Cup Playoffs since Malkin squared off with Detroit Red Wings forward Henrik Zetterberg as time expired during Game 2 of the 2009 Stanley Cup Final.
One of the few postseason fights in the past decade that featured similarly high-profile players was the Jarome Iginla -- then of the Calgary Flames -- against the Tampa Bay Lightning's Vincent Lecavalier during the 2004 Stanley Cup Final. Iginla now plays for the Penguins.
"You don't see it very often, but (Malkin is) a fierce competitor and so is Bergeron," Iginla said. "I didn't expect to see it right there, but I guess it shows we're in the playoffs and how much everybody wants to win."
Despite not recording a point, Malkin appeared at his scoring champion-level best throughout much of the game when it came to skating and creating chances. He had a game-high five shots on goal.
But all of those came during the first two periods -- before his fight. Malkin's decline in play after the skirmishes at the end of the second period (Chris Kunitz and Boston's Rich Peverley received coincidental unsportsmanlike conduct minors at 19:55 of the second) mirrored that of Pittsburgh as a whole. Pittsburgh entered the second intermission with a 22-17 edge in shots and down by a goal. In the third period, Boston out-shot the Penguins, 13-7, and outscored them 2-0.
"I don't think the situation at the end of the second period was in our favor," Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma said.
"That's not something we certainly want to be into. We don't want to make the game that way; we want to play 5-on-5. Starting really at that point in time, with going off the ice, it did I think get us off our game."
Crosby suggested it was the officials who allowed the Bruins to pursue the after-whistle tussles that ultimately got the Penguins off their game.
"You know what, it's tough, they're letting a lot go out there," Crosby said. "The more and more it gets like that, the more things are going to escalate. You can only kind of control and channel that so much, but if you keep letting guys do that stuff, you're just going to push the envelope. That's something we obviously want to stay away from, but it's a natural thing when it gets like that."