Penguins hold on, win, 3-2
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UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- The Nassau Coliseum scoreboard said the Penguins had a 3-2 lead.
The clock said there were five minutes, 54 seconds left in regulation.
Logic said the game was pretty much over.
After all, the New York Islanders had just been sentenced to play all but 54 seconds of the remaining time shorthanded, thanks to the match penalty Chris Simon received for attempting to injure Penguins winger Jarkko Ruutu by knocking his legs out from under him and stepping on his foot.
At that point, the Penguins (16-14-2) didn't doubt that they would win -- which they eventually did, 3-2 -- but also didn't have any idea how close they would come to needing overtime. Or losing in regulation, for that matter.
The Islanders, desperate for a tying goal, controlled play while they were a man down and, if they had converted on any of several chances they created -- particularly a Mike Sillinger breakaway with 3:20 to play -- the Penguins would have had a lot more to discuss in a players-only meeting they called after the game.
"It just kind of went backwards on us," center Jordan Staal said.
Coach Michel Therrien said the Penguins nearly lost their lead because they "didn't have the right attitude," but declined to elaborate.
"We might have sat back a bit," center Sidney Crosby said. "When you have a five-minute power play with five and a bit left, sometimes it's easy to think the game is over."
Simon, who was suspended 25 games for attacking Ryan Hollweg of the New York Rangers with his stick March 11, can expect to hear from the league office about his actions against Ruutu.
Ruutu was in obvious pain immediately after the incident and following the game, but declined to say whether he believes the league should punish Simon.
"It's sore, but that's all I have to say about it," he said. "I'll let the league make the [decision]."
Ruutu's status for the Penguins' game against the New York Rangers Tuesday at Madison Square Garden is not clear. Neither is the prognosis for defenseman Rob Scuderi, who left the game midway through the second period because of an ankle injury.
Goalie Dany Sabourin nearly turned up on the medical list, too. He stopped 27 of 29 shots despite battling a flu-like ailment similar to the one that forced defenseman Sergei Gonchar to miss the game.
"I was sick [Friday night]," Sabourin said. "I [vomited] a couple of times. I woke up this morning and [vomited] again. I felt better as the day went on."
He presumably felt even better after watching his teammates exploit a series of almost-comical misplays by the Islanders to get the first goal of the game.
New York defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron had uncontested control of the puck to the left of the New York net, but threw a pass that caromed off the side of it.
Islanders goalie Rick DiPietro left his crease to collect the puck, only to have his clearing attempt carom of Penguins winger Tyler Kennedy -- and skid directly to Crosby, who flipped it into the empty net at 2:48 for his 15th.
"I liked [the bounce], that's for sure," said Crosby, who had failed to score on any of his nine shots in the Penguins' 4-1 loss to Ottawa Thursday. "After last game, I'm never going to take scoring for granted. It was nice to start off with an easy one like that."
Defenseman Ryan Whitney made it 2-0 at 6:35, when his shot from the outer edge of the right circle glanced off the skate of Islanders defenseman Brendan Witt and past DiPietro.
The Penguins' strong start was negated during a 45-second span early in the second period, as Richard Park (4:57) and Josef Vasicek (5:42) scored to pull New York even.
The Penguins, though, got the deciding goal when Kennedy rapped in a shot from the left side of the net after Staal deked past New York defenseman Bruno Gervais and fed the puck into the crease.
"I'd like to say I was [trying to pass to Kennedy]," he said. "But, no."
Didn't matter. Kennedy got his sixth goal, and the Penguins got a victory that raised their record inside the Atlantic Division to 4-8-1.
"We knew that, toward the start of this year, we had a tough start in our division," Crosby said. "Hopefully, we can build on this one."
First Published December 16, 2007 12:00 am