GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The previous time the Penguins played at Jobing.com Arena, they dazzled a standing-room crowd with their offense, including a mind-blowing goal by Sidney Crosby as he corkscrewed to the seat of his hockey pants.
That was 21 months ago.
What a difference last night.
Crosby, now the team captain and face of the NHL, left a 4-1 loss against the Phoenix Coyotes in the third period with an undisclosed injury.
It appeared he got jabbed in the rib area at one point, and that is what Fox Sports Arizona reported, but someone affiliated with the team denied that was the problem -- but offered no other specifics.
"I don't even know what happened ... besides some discomfort," Crosby said. "I decided in the third period I couldn't do much."
The 2006-07 league scoring champion and MVP had no points, one shot and had played 15:56 when he left the game.
Crosby, who missed 28 games last season with a high ankle injury, would be a key loss, but he did not sound like he expects to miss a great length of time.
"It's day to day," he said. "It's a little different scenario. I don't quite look at it like [last year's injury], but it's not fun."
A Spartan crowd watched this season's version of the Penguins continue to struggle to score, even when Crosby was playing.
They fell to 0-2-1 on a road trip that concludes tomorrow in St. Louis.
The Coyotes went into the game bent on stopping Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
"As I told our guys [yesterday], when you play guys of that caliber, you make life difficult for them, and by that I mean you make them play the 200 feet, you make them play defense, you make them bang for pucks in their own zone," Coyotes coach Wayne Gretzky said. "You can't just sit back on them. You make them play the game. You can't stop guys like Malkin or Crosby; you just hope to contain them as much as you can."
Stop them, they did, as neither had a point.
The Penguins didn't get their first shot until 15:34 of the first period, a long-range fling from Mike Zigomanis while the Penguins were short-handed. Phoenix goaltender Mikael Bryzgalov easily stopped that -- and their only other shot of the period, a 30-footer by defenseman Brooks Orpik at 17:31.
At that point, the Penguins had five shots over their previous 40 minutes of play, 13 over their previous 90, with one goal. They had three shots Tuesday in the third period of 2-1 loss at San Jose and 11 for the game.
The Coyotes didn't seem to do a lot that was special, just effective forechecking and backchecking that allowed then to control the puck a lot more than the Penguins.
"If we can have puck possession, that's a big part of the game now," Gretzky said.
Things finally opened up for the Penguins in the second period, starting with a first-shift push in which Bryzgalov stopped a rip by Ruslan Fedotenko off a feed by Crosby.
That didn't keep the Coyotes from taking the lead when Olli Jokinen's shot from the right circle scooted behind Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury at 7:53 of the second period.
That was two seconds after a Phoenix power play expired. Earlier in the power play, Crosby and Jordan Staal looked like they were going to get sprung, along with defenseman Kris Letang, on a short-handed three-on-one situation.
That was thwarted as the Coyotes kept the puck in the Penguins end, and the Penguins never cleared it, leaving a tired bunch on the ice for the goal.
Miroslav Satan tied it with a power-play goal, his team-leading fifth of the season, 37 seconds later. Malkin one-timed a pass from fellow point man Alex Goligoski that bounced up off the crossbar. Satan batted it out of the air into the net to make it 1-1.
Phoenix regained its lead, 2-1, when Shane Doan banged a shot behind Fleury from the bottom of the right circle at 17:59 of the second period.
With 20 shots in the second period, the Penguins doubled their total from their previous three periods.
With Crosby gone and Satan done after taking a 10-minute misconduct penalty, Phoenix made it 3-1 at 14:49 of the third when Kevin Porter pounced on a loose puck beside the net and scored his first NHL goal. Doan added an empty-net goal with 58.2 seconds left.
Shelly Anderson can be reached at email@example.com or 412-263-1721. First Published October 31, 2008 5:00 AM