UNIONDALE, N.Y. (Feb. 5, 2013) – Trailing 3-0 early into the third period, the New York Islanders recorded a pair of tallies in a 35-second stint, which cut the deficit to one, but it didn’t prove to be enough Tuesday, as the Isles fell to the Pittsburgh Penguins, 4-2, in an Atlantic Division tilt at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, N.Y. As a result, New York has now lost its last two, and dipped to 4-4-1 on the young campaign.
Pittsburgh got out to a flying start, putting home the game’s first goal just 2:58 into the opening frame. James Neal fired a cross-ice pass from Sidney Crosby by New York netminder Evgeni Nabokov for a 1-0 edge. The Penguins didn’t stop there, as Crosby nearly doubled the visitors’ lead, but his stuff-in try, upon review by the referees, never fully crossed the line. The assist though gave the Pens’ captain his 10th helper of the season.
The Isles, who held a commanding 12-6 shot advantage in the first period, came on strong late. John Tavares nearly tied the contest with just over four minutes remaining, but his put-back try off a Mark Streit shot was knocked away by the left pad of Pittsburgh goalie Marc Andre-Fleury. Two minutes later, it seemed, with a raucous celebration, that Tavares had scored. However, an early whistle halted New York from tying it again.
In the second period, New York continued its solid play, posting a 12-8 edge in shots for the stanza. But, the Islanders, who earned three power-play chances in a spurt of 5:17, were still unable to convert. The Penguins made the hosts pay for their inability to beat Fleury, as Simon Despres, with 4:00 remaining, one-timed a Chris Kunitz feed past Nabokov’s glove for a 2-0 advantage, which Pittsburgh would take into the intermission.
Nearly two minutes into the third, Brandon Sutter stretched the Pens’ cushion to three. Off a 2-on-1 rush, he ripped a shot through Nabokov’s wickets. Matt Cooke was credited with the lone assist on the play. The Isles responded furiously though, netting two unanswered markers over a stint of 35 seconds, closing the gap to a margin of 3-2. Off a pair of broken plays, Michael Grabner and Brad Boyes bested Fleury on the backhand.
That burst immediately forced Pittsburgh head coach Dan Bylsma to use his timeout. After the short break, the hosts did not have much space, as New York had just three shots on goal in the next 10 minutes, including a near miss of the net by David Ullstrom. The Islanders got one final man-advantage, however, with 6:28 left in regulation. Kunitz went off for interference, but the Isles, who were 0-of-7 on the power play, could not score.
“Well, we came back from 3-0, but we had so many power plays, and just couldn’t capitalize,” Islanders captain Mark Streit stated. “They (The Penguins) worked really hard and had the confidence. We need to get shots on net, and score on the power play. The last 20 minutes of the game was the way we should be playing.”
New York defenseman Andrew MacDonald uttered similar words. “We had some pretty good success on the power play in Pittsburgh, but they made adjustments. We certainly need to get back to the drawing board.”
New York, following Kunitz’s penalty, would only tally one more shot on goal, while Pascal Dupuis wristed the puck into the empty net, sealing the Pens’ fourth-straight victory. Pittsburgh finished with 10 takeaways in the match, while the Islanders owned a 34-26 advantage in shots, and a 28-25 edge in the faceoff circle.
“I thought we played one of the best games of the year, five-on-five,” said Head Coach Jack Capuano. “On the power play, we need to get more shots…Had some good looks in the first, but it was not good enough. There’s no structure when you shoot the puck. You need to get bodies to the net…We just came out on the short end.”
Capuano and the Islanders return to the ice on Thursday (Feb. 7), as they square off with their Atlantic Division arch-rivals, the New York Rangers, at Madison Square Garden in New York, N.Y. The puck drops at 7 p.m.