Crosby's return not enough to lift Penguins over Islanders in 4-3 loss


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The Penguins said from the time their first-round playoff matchup with the New York Islanders was set that they anticipated a long series.

For a while, that seemed mostly like an expression of respect for their opponents.

Based on the way the Penguins played in their 4-3 loss against the Islanders in Game 2 Friday night at Consol Energy Center, though, it might be more like wishful thinking.

Oh, the Penguins hardly are doomed to a first-round elimination for the third consecutive spring -- after all, the series is just tied, 1-1, heading into Game 3 at 12:08 p.m. Sunday at Nassau Coliseum -- but another early exit might be in their future if they replicate their performance from Game 2 a few more times.

New York's 42-33 advantage in shots underscored -- indeed, might have understated -- how the Islanders dictated play, as the Penguins squandered the emotional lift they got from Sidney Crosby's return and the tangible one he provided by scoring their second and third goals.

Crosby, who had missed the previous 13 games because of a broken jaw, played 23 minutes, 21 seconds and had a 14-12 mark on faceoffs to go with his two goals.

"I thought he didn't miss a beat," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "He skated well. He was on pucks. He was strong. I thought he was very good."

Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury wasn't bad for much of the game, either, but misplayed a puck on what became the winning goal at 12:23 of the third period.

The score was tied, 3-3, when New York's Kyle Okposo launched a shot that went wide of the left post, then ricocheted off the back boards and hit Fleury before skidding across the goal line.

"Kind of a fortunate bounce off the boards," Okposo said. "And it just kind of trickled into the net."

Fleury faced just 26 shots in the Penguins' 5-0 victory in the opener, but had 42 thrown at him in Game 2. And that wasn't the only thing that changed over 48 hours.

Many of the Islanders seemed to have stage fright in Game 1, but Friday night they were composed and focused and disciplined, even as the Penguins were building an early 3-1 lead.

"We did a lot of good things [Friday night] from a structural standpoint," New York coach Jack Capuano said.

That had been true Wednesday of the Penguins, and winger Pascal Dupuis suggested the roots of their Game 2 loss might have stretched to that lopsided victory.

"You win, 5-0, you steamroll a team, and you think it's going to be easy the next game," he said. "But it's not like that in the playoffs. You have to show up, you have to battle, you have to make the right plays."

The Penguins made a few of those early, beginning with the first shift, when Evgeni Malkin backhanded his own rebound past goalie Evgeni Nabokov.

They seemed poised to take over when Crosby steered in a Jarome Iginla feed at 3:19, but Matt Moulson got New York back in the game at 7:04, as his centering pass from the right side went off the stick of Penguins defenseman Paul Martin and into the net. The goal initially was credited to Brad Boyes, but replays showed he hit Martin's stick blade, not the puck.

Crosby countered almost immediately, flipping a shot from along the goal line to the right of the net at 7:22 to restore the two-goal edge. Still, the scoreboard did not reflect what was going on beneath it.

"I don't even know if we can say we started well," Dupuis said. "[Fleury] kept us in there, and the pucks we put on net went in."

The Penguins lacked not only urgency but discipline; Deryk Engelland picked up two unnecessary penalties and Douglas Murray got another in the first 20 minutes. They escaped that period with a 3-1 lead, but New York's 20-12 edge in shots was not a statistical quirk.

"We got down early, but our energy was still up on the bench," Islanders winger Matt Martin said. "We thought we were playing pretty well."

And the Penguins were well aware that they were not.

"We had plenty of chances to turn things around, and we didn't," forward Craig Adams said. "We just continued to play the way we were playing."

So it was no surprise when New York got goals from Colin McDonald (5:12) and Martin (10:37) in the second period to tie the score, and Okposo eventually scored the goal that grabbed the home-ice advantage the Penguins had worked for three months to earn.

"We were preparing for a seven-game grind of a series," Bylsma said. "And now we're in one."

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Dave Molinari: Dmolinari@Post-Gazette.com or Twitter @MolinariPG. First Published May 4, 2013 1:45 AM


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