Powerless Penguins fall to Islanders, 4-1

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The Penguins wouldn't say so, but it didn't seem fair that the NHL forced them to play four of their first five games this season on the road.

And, for that matter, seven of their first 10 and eight of the first 12.

It looked to be the kind of scheduling that could put a team at a severe competitive disadvantage.

And so it has.

Not because the Penguins have had too few games at home, however, but because they haven't had enough in other places.

They are 3-1 on the road but, after a 4-1 loss against the New York Islanders Tuesday night, 0-2 at Consol Energy Center.

That record doesn't begin to reflect how bad they've looked in those games, and many in the record crowd of 18,657 weren't shy about offering a caustic assessment of what they witnessed.

"You can't say they weren't right in booing us," said winger Pascal Dupuis, who scored the Penguins' only goal with 69 seconds left in regulation. "You don't want to hear it.

"At the same time, a slap in the face maybe won't hurt."

The Penguins are one of just three NHL clubs that has failed to win a game on home ice this season. Nashville is 0-0-2 and Toronto -- the first visitor to take two points out of the Penguins' building this winter -- is 0-2.

The Penguins have lost three consecutive games to New York for the first time since Feb. 19-Nov. 3, 2007, and were beaten by the Islanders here for just the fourth time in the past 23 meetings.

A lots of factors shaped the outcome -- neither New York goalie Evgeni Nabokov's 37-save performance nor his teammates' solid effort should be overlooked -- but nothing had more of an impact than the Penguins power play, which ran the gamut from awful to abysmal during its nine minutes of work.

"Poor passes, poor execution," right winger James Neal said. "We were kind of all over the place."

Since scoring a pair of power-play goals in each of their first two games, the Penguins are 1 for 14 with the extra man.

That includes a five-minute advantage after New York's Colin McDonald got a boarding major and game misconduct for a hit on Penguins defenseman Ben Lovejoy at 18:54 of the second.

Not coincidentally, they began the season 2-0, but are 1-3 in the games that have followed.

It was evident early what kind of night the power play would have, as the Penguins were awarded the first two man-advantages of the game, but were outshot, 2-1, in that span.

While there's no disputing the skill level on their No. 1 unit, which has Sidney Crosby. Evgeni Malkin and Chris Kunitz up front, with Neal and Kris Letang on the points, even the most gifted group isn't very menacing when it fails to get into the attacking zone and set up.

"When we did get in, it was a quick look and then they were clearing it down," Neal said. "It was a tough one, from the first [power play] on."

It didn't help the Penguins that they had as much trouble containing the Islanders power play than they did coaxing any sort of production out of their own, as New York scored on both of its opportunities.

The Penguins had opened the scoring in each of their first five games, but that streak ended at 16:01 of the first period.

Islanders center Casey Cizikas put his team in front to stay by wrapping a shot around the right post that went off the skate of goalie Marc-Andre Fleury before settling in the net.

Michael Grabner got the winner at 6:46 of the second, stealing the puck from Penguins defenseman Deryk Engelland at the left point in the Islanders' end and beating Fleury on a breakaway.

After that, Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said: "We didn't play with a lot of emotion. We didn't bounce back from that. We didn't execute very well."

The Islanders did and, just 40 seconds after Neal was sent off for hooking at 14:42, John Tavares got the puck in the right circle and stuck a shot under the crossbar behind Fleury to put New York up by three.

Perhaps just to rub it in, the Islanders rang up another man-advantage goal less than two minutes later. Former Penguins prospect Matt Moulson scored that one, rapping a puck past Fleury from the front lip of the crease at 17:15, 70 seconds after Tyler Kennedy was called for cross-checking.

The game effectively was over at that point. The booing was not, and the Penguins understood why.

"We're not putting a very good product out there," Kunitz said. "They're coming to watch supposedly a good team that goes out and plays, and we're not doing that right now.

"That's what we've got to expect if that's how we're going to play."

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Dave Molinari: Dmolinari@Post-Gazette.com and Twitter @MolinariPG. First Published January 30, 2013 5:00 AM


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