Crosby's overtime goal gives Penguins 4th win in row



UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Sidney Crosby broke down his game-winning goal in pretty cold, clinical terms.

Talked about how he got possession of the puck outside the offensive blue line, then waited for teammate James Neal to clear the zone. How he had a chance to build up some speed, and how the New York Islanders defensemen were caught flat-footed as he moved in.

He glossed over a few of the details, like how he managed to slip between those defensemen before throwing a backhander past New York goalie Anders Nilsson to complete the Penguins' comeback from a two-goal deficit.

Neal, though, offered a different perspective on the sequence that gave the Penguins a 3-2 victory Tuesday night against the Islanders at Nassau Coliseum.

And on the guy who scored the goal.

"I can't say that's the first time I've seen him do that," Neal said. "His ability to stay with pucks and go by people is better than anybody I've ever seen.

"He's the best in the league at getting on pucks and staying with it. He's just an unbelievable player."

Crosby also still is the NHL's leading scorer, because his two goals pushed his points total for the season to 38. That's one more than teammate Evgeni Malkin, who contributed a pair of assists.

The victory extended the Penguins' winning streak to four and raised their record to 19-9-1.

Although Crosby's winning goal at 3:44 of overtime clinched a second point for the Penguins, a save goalie Marc-Andre Fleury made early in the third period made it possible for them to stretch the game past regulation.

New York was holding a 2-1 lead, thanks to a couple of first-period goals by Kyle Okposo, and killing a penalty when Islanders forward Frans Nielsen was awarded a penalty shot after being whacked from behind by defenseman Kris Letang on a breakaway.

If Nielsen had converted the penalty shot, the Islanders' two-goal lead would have been restored and the momentum the Penguins had gotten from a Neal power-play goal with 15.6 seconds left in the second would have evaporated.

But Fleury -- who had given up a suspect goal when Okposo beat him from the top of the right circle at 12:55 of the first -- denied Nielsen, and 67 seconds later, Crosby scored the first of his goals to pull the Penguins even, 2-2.

"That save wins us the game," Neal said. "That's an unbelievable save. Especially against a guy like Nielsen, who's really good at shootouts. Probably one of the best on their team, if not the best."

That save also provided a little psychological salve for Fleury, who was playing in the Coliseum for the first time since losing his job as the Penguins' go-to goalie in their opening round series against the Islanders this spring.

The Coliseum crowd was as merciless as it was small, and serenaded him with a sing-song "Flur-ee" chant throughout the early portions of the game.

Especially after Okposo got his goals, including the long-distance one that gave New York a 2-0 advantage.

"I just didn't see it," Fleury said. "It was in the clear, then he pump-faked and, I don't know, somebody skated by, and ... it went under my glove."

That was the nadir of his night, though, and the Islanders didn't get another puck past him the rest of the way.

And as the fans filed out of the Coliseum after Crosby ended the game, few, if any, seemed inclined to taunt Fleury.

"It feels good," Fleury said. "A win's a win, but after what happened here last year and the people getting on me a little bit, it was fun just to get the win and calm them down a little bit."

Fleury, it should be noted, knows a bit about winning on Long Island, where he is 6-1-1 in his past eight starts.

Early on, however, there wasn't much reason to believe he'd be able to avoid a loss this time, because the Penguins were lethargic and error-prone through much of the first period.

"It definitely wasn't the start we wanted," Crosby said. "But we stayed patient."

And they were rewarded. Eventually.

"We battled back and forth between playing the right way and getting away from it, but the bottom line is, we found a way to win," Neal said.

"And it's good for our team to be able to do that."

Dave Molinari: Dmolinari@Post-Gazette.com or Twitter @MolinariPG


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