Crosby goes down, but Penguins keep streak going

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The Penguins had a lot of things go right in the first 14 games of their current winning streak.

And almost as many go wrong in No. 15 Saturday.

The most significant was that they lost center Sidney Crosby just 88 seconds into their 2-0 victory against the New York Islanders at Consol Energy Center, when a Brooks Orpik shot deflected off New York's Brad Boyes and slammed into Crosby's mouth.

"What bad luck," Penguins goalie Tomas Vokoun said, pointing out the painfully obvious. Emphasis on painfully.

Crosby dropped to the ice, and a handful of his teeth did likewise. He went to the locker room and, from there, to a hospital, where an oral surgeon was reported to be making extensive dental repairs.

"It's an unfortunate part of the game," defenseman Mark Eaton said. "But the game goes on."

There was no immediate word on any additional injuries -- facial fractures or a concussion, for example -- although fixing his teeth got priority over examinations for any other medical concerns.

Remaining in the hospital overnight was a possibility, although a close acquaintance said, "He will be OK."

Crosby's status for the Penguins' next game, Tuesday night at home against Buffalo isn't known, and he might not be the only first-liner in danger of missing it.

Left winger Chris Kunitz got a major penalty and game misconduct for checking from behind at 18:23 of the third period, after he knocked Islanders center Josh Bailey head-first into the boards from near the goal line.

Kunitz was not available for comment after the game, but coach Dan Bylsma said he felt the contact actually was shoulder-to-shoulder, not by Kunitz from behind Bailey.

"They had a shoulder-to-shoulder battle, and Chris won the battle," he said.

"So [Bailey] ended up going into the boards, not in a particular way you like to see a player go into the boards."

Whether Kunitz will be asked to discuss the incident with Brendan Shanahan, who handles supplemental discipline for the league, is not known. A hearing would have to be held before the Sabres game.

Islanders coach Jack Capuano declined to comment on the hit, but said Bailey was tested for injuries and "he's OK."

Although the Penguins had no way of knowing they would lose Crosby and Kunitz, they entered the game all too aware that they were missing two of their top defensemen, Paul Martin and Kris Letang.

Martin is scheduled to have surgery today to repair a broken bone, believed to be in his left hand or wrist, and is expected to be out about six weeks.

He has joined Letang, who is expected to return this week from an apparent toe injury, on injured-reserve.

The guys the Penguins started without -- and lost as the game went along -- nearly overshadowed the debut of winger Jarome Iginla, who took a spot on the second line little more than 12 hours after arriving from Calgary.

He played 17 1/2 minutes and was credited with three shots and two hits. Not a bad performance, by any means, but a few teammates had much bigger games.

Vokoun stopped 35 shots to become the first goaltender in team history to record back-to-back shutouts and extend the Penguins' shutout streak to three games, a franchise first.

The Penguins have not given up a goal in the past 208 minutes, 24 seconds, another team record, and Vokoun has not allowed one in 162 minutes, 42 seconds, which is both a personal- and franchise-best.

"That's been a focus for us all year, keeping the puck out of our net and playing well defensively," defenseman Matt Niskanen said. "We're getting the payoff right now."

Vokoun's work earned him recognition as the game's No. 1 star, but a case could be made that Matt Cooke deserved a recount.

He isn't a first-liner, but certainly looked the part on this day.

Cooke did some exceptional penalty-killing, particularly when the Penguins were down two men for 1:55 late in the second period and early in the third, and scored the only goal the Penguins would need to run their winning streak to 15, matching the second longest in league history.

"Probably the best game I've seen him play," Vokoun said.

Cooke clearly was a major factor in the Penguins raising their home winning streak to a franchise-record 12 games, as well as becoming the first NHL team to make it through a month that includes 10 or more games with a perfect record.

Still, this victory -- which James Neal sealed by scoring his first in the past 10 games at 13:04 of the third -- was a true team effort, with contributions from all 19 players involved.

Or, 18. Or, eventually, 17.

"We did an outstanding job of battling that one out," Bylsma said.

"Gutting that one out."

Lots of guts, to be sure. And more than a little of Crosby's blood.

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First Published March 31, 2013 4:00 AM


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