Sidney Crosby takes a shot on Islanders goalie Evgeni Nabokov.
By Dave Molinari and Shelly Anderson Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- A second game in less than 48 hours after missing more than a month had Sidney Crosby doing some wishful thinking Sunday as the Penguins headed to overtime.
"I don't know what was going through my mind there," the center and team captain said. "I was hoping we found a way to do it, but if we were going to do it, hopefully quickly.
"It's tough going into intense, emotional games like that right off the bat and going into overtime. It's tough, but it's great to get into it like that. You're jumping all the way in."
Penguins players, Byslma preparing for game 4
The Penguins' Jarome Iginla, Paul Martin and head coach Dan Bylsma discuss the team's upcoming game against the Islanders. (Video by Matt Freed; 5/6/2013)
Crosby, wearing an extra shield to protect his surgically repaired jaw, not only made it through his second game back, but also set up Chris Kunitz's overtime goal in a 5-4 win against the New York Islanders at Nassau Coliseum.
Crosby had been skating and, more recently, practicing but was thrown into game action Friday after being cleared medically Thursday.
He responded with two goals in a Game 2 loss and three assists in Game 3.
"I'm not going to say I felt in the best shape I ever have," Crosby said. "It's good to go through that. The more you go through those tough games and those longer games, I think the better you feel and the better shape you get in. That's the only way to do it -- going through it the hard way."
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma seemed fine with Crosby relying a little more on his skill while he gets back into game shape.
"He hasn't played a ton of hockey in the last month, so is he at the top conditioning level he would be at the time of his injury? I don't think he's totally there," Bylsma said. "But playing-wise and skill-wise, I think he's shown quite a bit in the two games he has played."
Poke from the bench
About midway through the second period, a play carried Penguins winger Matt Cooke to the boards in front of the Islanders bench. Before he could skate away, rugged New York defenseman Matt Carkner jabbed him.
Carkner, it should be noted, was seated on the bench, not among the players on the ice.
"The blade of his stick," Cooke said. "I think it's a really dirty play. He tried to plead his innocence, but we all know who it is."
Carkner got a minor bench penalty for interference and Cooke, who responded with a couple of shoves, got a roughing minor, leaving the teams even at four skaters each.
"I don't know what they expected me to do when I get stuck in the face by somebody on the bench," Cooke said. "I don't know what the ref wants me to do.
"Thankfully, they took both of us [to the penalty boxes] at least."
Another early start
The Penguins' win in Game 3 raised their record for afternoon starts this season to 9-1.
And while no one would have known it from the miserable start Sunday, Bylsma suggested their success in day games likely is due, in part, to them having so many of them.
"We have a lot of experience with odd-time games, be it noon or 1, those types of games," he said. "It's not odd for us to prepare for this game.
"If you played one 12 o'clock game, I think guys would be uncomfortable with it. But if ... 10 percent of your games are at odd times, 1 o'clock or 12 o'clock, you're somewhat accustomed to it.
"It's enough of a routine that you know what to expect and you know what to do."
Despres sees some action
Rookie defenseman Simon Despres made his first appearance of the series, replacing Deryk Engelland.
He logged just 6:12 of ice time and was used sparingly in the third period and not at all in overtime.
Still, he seemed happy to be involved.
"That was fun," Despres said. "A good atmosphere. The fans were very loud and we found a way to win."
A raucous atmosphere
Although the Penguins tend to draw a lot of their fans to road games, the Nassau Coliseum crowd was loud and overwhelmingly pro-Islanders, waving orange rally towels left on each seat for the team's first home playoff game since 2007.
"Chills," Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic said. "We knew the towels were there and all that. Even driving here [in the] morning. It was 9:30 or 10 o'clock and it was completely packed.
"That's the nice thing about playing here on the island. We've got great fans. Unfortunately it's been six years since we've had a playoff game, but they did an unbelievable job. It really sent chills up my spine after the national anthem."
The Penguins have scored at least one power-play goal in eight consecutive playoff games, a franchise record. ... The Penguins have not won the opener of a playoff series then lost the next two games since a 1995 series against New Jersey. ... In addition to defenseman Brooks Orpik and winger James Neal, both of whom have undisclosed injuries, the Penguins scratched forwards Tyler Kennedy, Joe Vitale and Dustin Jeffrey, along with Engelland and fellow defenseman Robert Bortuzzo. Orpik, wearing a sweatsuit, worked out on the ice with conditioning coach Mike Kadar about two hours before the game. ... About 2,000 tickets for Game 5 will go on sale at 10 a.m. today. Game 5 is set for 7:08 p.m. Thursday at Consol Energy Center. Tickets will be available online at www.ticketmaster.com, at the arena box office, all Pittsburgh-area Ticketmaster locations or by calling Ticketmaster at 1-800-745-3000.