Coach Michel Therrien talked to the Penguins before their 5-2 victory against the New York Islanders at Mellon Arena last night, just like he always does.
There were a few things he neglected to mention, though.
He never told his players to make certain they were badly outshot.
To be sure to take plenty of penalties.
And to avoid generating a single shot on goal if they happened to end up with a five-on-three advantage. Let alone that they should make a point of giving up a goal while they had two extra men.
"None of the above came up," defenseman Ryan Whitney said.
No, the Penguins took it upon themselves to do all of that. Even so, they managed raise their record to 20-17-7 and move into 10th place in the Eastern Conference playoff race, three points behind Tampa Bay and the New York Rangers, who are tied for seventh.
Sidney Crosby, who got the winner at 3:28 of the third and scored again later, finished the game in the penalty box after being assessed a diving minor at 19:33. He went down after being speared by Islanders winger Jason Blake, who was not penalized but who Therrien feels should be suspended.
"We're really upset," he said. "It was a cheap shot. On top of it, we're the ones who get the penalty. I hope the NHL makes the right call. We're not going to accept [teams trying to injure] our best player."
That wasn't the only time the Islanders went after Crosby, although there was no question about the legality of a crushing check he absorbed from Islanders defenseman Brendan Witt midway though the first period.
Crosby had just taken a pass from Whitney on his side of the red line and was turning toward the New York end when Witt dropped him with a ferocious, but clean, check.
"I just got caught looking back for the pass," said Crosby, who had barely touched the ice, when Whitney, followed a millisecond or so later by Ryan Malone, went after Witt.
"It doesn't matter if it's a clean hit," Whitney said. "The best player in the league gets crushed like that, you know you're going to go in and do something."
Malone ended up trading punches with Witt -- and picking up an instigating minor and 10-minute misconduct for his trouble -- and the Islanders, after all the other minors had been handed out, ended up with a four-minute man-advantage that ultimately was abbreviated by a hooking minor.
Crosby wasn't the only Penguin to put two pucks behind Islanders goalie Mike Dunham; Erik Christensen, who didn't have a point in the previous six games, did that, too.
"In warm-ups, I felt good," Christensen said. "I can always tell when my legs and everything feels in sync. It's not just your body, but your mind. I felt really relaxed out there, for whatever reason."
That mind-set helped him to account for six of the Penguins' 22 shots -- the Islanders finished with 33 -- and to give them a 1-0 lead at 2:32 of the opening period.
The Penguins had a chance to pad their advantage when they were awarded a five-on-three power play for 96 seconds early in the second period, but they not only failed to get a shot on Dunham -- a remarkable feat in its own right -- but gave up a three-on-five goal.
The Elias Sports Bureau could not determine when -- if ever -- the Penguins had allowed one, and will continue researching the matter today.
There's no question about the most recent one, though: Ex-Penguin Richard Park scored it at 1:57, chasing down a lead pass and beating goalie Marc-Andre Fleury from above the right dot.
The Penguins had another five-on-three that lasted for 49 seconds a few minutes later, and again failed to get a puck on goal, but Michel Ouellet put them ahead, 2-1, when he scored from the inner edge of the right circle during a power play. It was Ouellet's first goal in 13 games.
Arron Asham countered for New York at 17:44, however, and Therrien made no secret of his displeasure with how things stood at the second intermission.
"He told us, straight-up, that he was very disappointed," Christensen said.
The Penguins got the message, and Crosby put them in front to stay with a power-play goal at 3:28. Christensen gave his team some badly needed breathing room at 8:45, and Crosby punched in a Mark Recchi rebound at 13:45 to cement a victory the Penguins hadn't seemed capable -- or deserving -- of earning for much of the evening.
"When you have games like that, good teams find a way to win," Crosby said.
"We're not going to sit here and complain about [getting] two points."Peter Diana, Post-Gazette
Sidney Crosby skates past Islanders goalie Mike Dunham last night at Mellon Arena. Crosby scored two goals in the Penguins' 5-2 win.
Click photo for larger image.
Dave Molinari can be reached at DWMolinari@Yahoo.com .