Marc-Andre Fleury blocks a shot by the Islanders' Mikhail Grabovski during the second period at Consol Energy Center Saturday night .
Andre Fleury blocks a shot by the Islanders' Mikhail Grabovski during the second period Saturday night.
Sidney Crosby stretches for the puck in the first period of play against the Islanders at Consol Energy Center Saturday,
Sidney Crosby celebrates after scoring his second goal of the match in the second period Saturday night.
Olli Maatta tries to gain control of the puck as the Islanders' Nick Leddy defends Saturday.
Evgeni Malkin with the puck during the first period.
David Perron looks to pass the puck as the Islanders' Anders Lee chases him down during the first period.
Sergei Plotnikov tangles with the Islanders' Nick Leddy during the third period Saturday.
By Dave Molinari / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Coach Mike Sullivan and his staff will review video of the Penguins’ 5-2 victory against the New York Islanders Saturday night at Consol Energy Center, just like they always do.
But if they’re looking primarily for letdowns and lapses and other teachable moments, they probably can fast-forward through just about the entire tape.
For aside from a bit of a letdown after they built a 5-0 lead, the Penguins’ all-around effort was nearly flawless, and almost certainly their best 60-minute showing of the season.
“We played pretty well, from start to finish,” center Matt Cullen said.
Pretty well? That’s a pretty harsh assessment, considering:
• Their power play scored twice against a penalty-killing unit that had allowed one goal in its previous 16 games.
• Center Sidney Crosby continued his scoring resurgence, getting two goals to run his total in the past five games to five.
• Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury returned after sitting out eight games because of a concussion and showed no signs of his extended layoff, stopping 38 of 40 shots.
• Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang put up three assists each — giving both back-to-back three-point games — while Cullen scored their first short-handed goal since Nov. 4.
“It was a great effort, overall,” Letang said. “Everybody chipped in.”
The Penguins have won consecutive games for just the second time since mid-November and improved their record to 19-15-4, lifting them into a tie with Ottawa for ninth place in the Eastern Conference. They and the Senators are three points behind eighth-place New Jersey.
Fleury said he learned Saturday morning that he would be starting, and acknowledged that he could feel the effects of being out since Dec. 14, even though it wasn’t evident in his play.
“It felt fast at the beginning,” he said.
Fortunately for Fleury, his teammates kept play for most of the first period near his former backup, Islanders goalie Thomas Greiss.
Phil Kessel put the Penguins in front to stay, 1-0, at 3:34 of the first, and Crosby added a power-play goal at 16:35, as the Penguins averaged a shot per minute in the opening period.
“It’s nice to be able to play with the lead,” Sullivan said. “That helps everybody.”
And just about everybody helped to turn that two-goal edge into a 5-0 lead before the 15-minute mark of the second.
Crosby struck again at 10:25 of the second, beating Greiss from the right dot on a power play and Cullen delivered the back-breaker 32 seconds later, scoring from inside the right dot while the Penguins were killing a hooking minor to Conor Sheary.
That drove Greiss from the game and his replacement, Christopher Gibson, gave up No. 5 when Patric Hornqvist deflected a Brian Dumoulin shot past him at 14:40. New York center John Tavares spoiled Fleury’s shutout bid at 15:19 — and ended a run of 10 unanswered Penguins goals that stretched to the second period of their 5-2 victory New Year’s Eve in Detroit — but the Penguins made certain the outcome was settled long before Islanders defenseman Nick Leddy closed out the scoring with 56.3 seconds left.
And they don’t have to watch video to realize it.
“We’re doing a lot more positive and good things out there,” Cullen said. “There’s a lot of things we can still get better at, but I think it’s a big step forward for us.”
Dave Molinari: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @MolinariPG.
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