Penguins win fourth in a row, down Islanders on the road, 4-2
February 6, 2013 10:00 AM
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Sidney Crosby sports the effects under his nose of getting hit by the puck early in the second period Tuesday night. Crosby returned before the period.
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Simon Despres, left, celebrates a second-period goal with Chris Kunitz in the Penguins' victory last night in New York.
Kathy Willens/Associated Press
Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury makes a save as Islanders center Keith Aucoin skates in front of the crease in the second period.
By Dave Molinari Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- The Penguins had a chance to make some history Tuesday night.
Had an opportunity to make a significant statement to the New York Islanders, too.
Ultimately, though, they had to settle simply for leaving Nassau Coliseum with a couple of points after holding on for a 4-2 victory against the Islanders.
Which, those other possibilities aside, was a reasonably satisfying reward for their evening's work.
Penguins numbers in their 6-1 start away from Consol Energy Center:
• Goals for: 26
• Goals against: 14
• Shots: 216
• Shots against: 210
• Save percentage: .938
• Goals against avg.: 1.98
After all, it stretched their winning streak to four games and raised their record to 7-3, good for first place in the Atlantic Division. What's more, the Penguins snapped a run of three consecutive losses to the Islanders and have earned at least one victory against every Atlantic team they must face.
Still, with less than 17 minutes to go in regulation, they owned a 3-0 lead and goalie Marc-Andre Fleury looked to have a good shot at his 23rd career shutout, which would be a franchise record.
A deflection goal by Michael Grabner at 3:14 of the third period aborted any chance of that, however, and a rebound goal by Brad Boyes 35 seconds later injected some genuine suspense into the game.
Had the Penguins been able to hold on for a decisive win, it might have given the Islanders the idea that they shouldn't have the temerity to believe that they are quite ready to compete with -- let alone, defeat -- the Penguins on such a regular basis.
The way things played out, however, New York can justifiably wonder how the outcome might have been different if it had been able to capitalize on one of its seven power plays.
That idea never made it past the hypothetical stage, however, because the Penguins' penalty-killers, led by Fleury, did perhaps their finest work this season.
That was particularly true during the second period, when they had to snuff three New York power plays and all but five seconds of a fourth.
"I don't think you can say enough about the penalty-kill tonight," coach Dan Bylsma said.
"[Fleury] stood tall in there, especially in the second."
Fleury finished with 32 saves and, after Brandon Sutter scored his second of the season from just inside the left dot at 1:44 of the third, seemed poised to hurdle Tom Barrasso in the team record book.
He had looked particularly sharp and was moving and reading plays well and repeatedly had thwarted quality scoring chances.
The goals by Grabner and Boyes put the Penguins' lead in genuine peril, however, and Boyes' shot had barely made it across the goal line when Bylsma called his timeout.
That gave his players a chance to refocus on protecting what was left of their lead, and the Penguins reacted precisely the way he had hoped.
"They were buzzing, and we knew we had to find a way to slow things down," center Sidney Crosby said.
"It was a good call by the coach, and the guys responded really well."
The Islanders had found a way to slow Crosby, albeit inadvertently, early in the second period, when he was struck in the face by a puck and had to leave the game for about five minutes.
Afterward, his nose was badly swollen and still leaking blood but Crosby said it was not fractured.
"A nice surprise," he said.
So was getting a goal from the power play just six seconds into the first of its three chances.
James Neal scored it at 2:58 of the opening period, as he got a feed from Crosby and beat New York goalie Evgeni Nabokov from inside the right circle.
That was the only goal for either side until late in the second period, when Penguins defenseman Simon Despres was set up in the slot by Chris Kunitz and threw a shot by Nabokov.
Sutter's goal seemed likely to do little more than pad the margin of victory, but New York roared back almost immediately to make it 3-2.
"I don't think we would have liked to have given them those two goals," Crosby said. "But they earned them, made some good plays."
Not quite enough to push the game into overtime, however, and Pascal Dupuis hit an empty net with 39 seconds left in regulation to secure the victory.
"They got two quick ones, but nobody panicked," Fleury said. "Everyone stayed calm and stuck with it."