Kunitz leads Penguins over Islanders, 6-1

Chris Kunitz scored three goals to lead the Penguins to a 6-1 victory against the New York Islanders at Consol Energy Center tonight.

It was his second hat trick of the season and fourth in the NHL.

The Penguins have won five consecutive games and are 18-8.

Kunitz, who also had two assists to finish with a career-best five points, was the dominant figure in the game, but hardly was the only Penguins player to have a productive evening.

Center Sidney Crosby piled up five assists, tying his career-high, and winger James Neal chipped in with a goal and two assists. Pascal Dupuis scored two goals and defenseman Kris Letang had a pair of assists.

The Penguins played without center Evgeni Malkin, who sustained an unspecified injury during their 5-4 shootout victory in Toronto Saturday. His injury was to be re-evaluated during the game, with an update planned afterward.

The Penguins also scratched defensemen Deryk Engelland and Robert Bortuzzo.

Malkin's place in the lineup was taken by Joe Vitale, a healthy scratch for the previous two games, while Dustin Jeffrey filled his spot between Beau Bennett and Neal on the No. 2 line.

Dupuis gave the Penguins a 1-0 lead with his 10th goal of the season and third in three games at 7:10 of the opening period.

He was near the boards and just above the goal line to the right of the net, but his bad-angle shot caromed off New York goalie Evgeni Nabokov and into the net.

Assists went to Crosby, whose scoring streak has reached eight games, and Kunitz.

The Penguins subsequently failed to capitalize on a two-man advantage that lasted for 81 seconds, but one second after Islanders forward Brad Boyes returned to the ice, Kunitz got a feed from Neal and beat Nabokov from the edge of the crease for his 15th.

Crosby, who began the evening averaging exactly two points per home game against New York, received the second assist.

Kunitz picked up another man-advantage goal at 16:41 to make it 3-0, as Neal again set him up for a virtual tap-in from the front lip of the crease. Crosby picked up the second assist, his third point of the game.

The Islanders managed just four shots on goal during the opening period and didn't get their first during the second until 8:07.

They made it count, however, as Boyes beat Penguins goalie Tomas Vokoun from inside the right dot during a two-on-one break to slice the Penguins' lead to 3-1.

Nonetheless, the Penguins put the game away with a burst of offense a few minutes later.

Kunitz completed his hat trick at 13:34, when he punched a Kris Letang rebound past Nabokov, and just 16 seconds later, Neal chased down a Letang clearing pass and beat Nabokov from the right hash mark for his 17th.

Islanders coach Jack Capuano replaced Nabokov with Kevin Poulin after the second intermission.

Dupuis closed out the scoring with his second of the game at 6:39 of the third, as Crosby set him up at the inner edge of the right circle after Kunitz forced a New York turnover.

The Penguins are off until Tuesday, when they will face Boston at 7:38 p.m. at Consol Energy Center.

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First Published March 11, 2013 1:45 AM


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