The Penguins wasted leads of 2-0 and 3-2, allowing the Islanders to tie the game on Travis Hamonic's sixth-attacker goal with 35 seconds left. But following a scoreless overtime, Kunitz salvaged the win by scoring against Al Montoya in the third round after Marc-Andre Fleury stopped all three New York shooters. That assured the Penguins of finishing no worse than fourth -- with the home-ice advantage against Tampa Bay in the first round.
"I like home ice in the playoffs," an understated Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "There are things about the game I didn't like, but our team found a way to win. It's a big win."
The Penguins also pulled even with the Philadelphia in the race for first place in the Atlantic Division. Both teams have 104 points with one game remaining -- the Flyers own the tiebreaker and can clinch by beating the Islanders at home on Saturday night. Pittsburgh ends its regular season Sunday in Atlanta.
Mark Letestu had snapped a 2-2 tie with 7:39 left, and Mike Rupp added a goal and assist for the Penguins, who went 4-1-1 against the Islanders and avenged a penalty-filled 9-3 beating in their last trip to the Nassau Coliseum. Two of the four wins came after regulation.
"They play us hard," Bylsma said. "They've been able to do some things against us and we've had to fight tooth and nail to get every point we got from them."
Letestu took a backhanded pass in front from Rupp and scored past Montoya a little over 4 minutes after Blake Comeau got the Islanders even at 2-2 with his second goal of the night.
The Penguins are in a good position heading into the playoffs despite being without star forwards Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin for large parts of the season. Pittsburgh also lost forward James Neal on Friday -- Bylsma said he's day to day.
Zbynek Michalek also scored, and Fleury played well in the rematch of the Feb. 11 game.
With NHL Vice President Colin Campbell in attendance this time, the Penguins and Islanders squared off for their first fight of the night sooner than in the previous meeting. Pittsburgh's Eric Godard dropped the gloves with Trevor Gillies on the faceoff following Rupp's goal that made it 1-0 at 8:57. Both players received fighting majors and misconduct penalties.
"The refs were obviously setting a tone and made sure it wasn't out of hand like last time," Godard said. "I know what they were trying to do. They were just letting the guys know that they have the game under control."
Arron Asham of the Penguins and Islanders counterpart Zenon Konopka dropped the gloves in front of the penalty box at 11:57, with Konopka picking up an extra two minutes and a misconduct for instigating the fight. But after that, the teams stuck to hockey.
"Sometimes the buildup and the anticipation is far greater than what really happens on the ice," Bylsma said. "The refs did a pretty good job of letting everyone know how the game was going to be called right off the hop. It was pretty much just a hard-fought hockey game."
Added Isles coach Jack Capuano: "It was a good, clean hockey game. I think fans got their money's worth. Both goaltenders stole the show, but in the skills competition they got the goal."
Comeau had an easy time in tying the game after speedy Michael Grabner raced with puck behind the net and found Comeau alone in front, for a patient shot into an empty net at 8:14 of the third. The power-play goal was the second allowed by the Penguins in 26 shorthanded opportunities over eight games.
Comeau had cut New York's deficit to 2-1 with 4:42 left in the second when he put in a rebound of Moulson's shot.
"Moulson was where he had to be, in front," Comeau said. "He got the rebound and tried to put it in. I got the rebound and put it in.
"The second goal was great speed by Grabner. I tried to find the open hole in the slot and he ended up finding me."
Rupp put the Penguins in front with his eighth of the season. After Pittsburgh had a couple of whacks in front at a loose puck, it bounced outside the crease to Rupp, who scored with a backhander.
Michalek made it 2-0 at 11:11 off a crisp feed from Kris Letang during a power play. Letang faked a shot from the center of the blue line and slid a pass to his left to Michalek, who wound up and fired a one-time from the left point that beat Montoya. It was the defenseman's second goal and third point in three games.
Material from team media and wire services was used in this report
|Mike Rupp (8) ASST: Eric Godard (2), Craig Adams (11)|
1 - 0 PIT
|PPG - Zbynek Michalek (5) ASST: Kris Letang (42), Tyler Kennedy (24)|
2 - 0 PIT
|Blake Comeau (23) ASST: Matt Moulson (21), Jesse Joensuu (3)|
2 - 1 PIT
|PPG - Blake Comeau (24) ASST: Michael Grabner (18), Travis Hamonic (21)|
2 - 2 Tie
|Mark Letestu (13) ASST: Mike Rupp (8), Arron Asham (6)|
3 - 2 PIT
|Travis Hamonic (4) ASST: Kyle Okposo (14)|
3 - 3 Tie
|1||P. Parenteau||K. Letang|
|2||J. Tavares||A. Kovalev|
|3||B. Comeau||C. Kunitz|
|Jordan Staal Roughing against Radek Martinek|
|Zenon Konopka Tripping against Mark Letestu|
|Eric Godard Misconduct (10 min) against Trevor Gillies|
|Trevor Gillies Misconduct (10 min) against Eric Godard|
|Eric Godard Fighting (maj) against Trevor Gillies|
|Trevor Gillies Fighting (maj) against Eric Godard|
|Micheal Haley Clipping against Ben Lovejoy|
|Zenon Konopka Fighting (maj) against Arron Asham|
|Arron Asham Fighting (maj) against Zenon Konopka|
|Zenon Konopka Instigator against Arron Asham|
|Zenon Konopka Misconduct (10 min) against Arron Asham|
|Brooks Orpik Unsportsmanlike conduct against John Tavares|
|Brooks Orpik Cross checking against John Tavares|
|Blake Comeau Tripping against Kris Letang|
|Radek Martinek Hooking against Maxime Talbot|
|Arron Asham Too many men/ice - bench|
|Paul Martin Hi-sticking against John Tavares|
|Mike Rupp Hi-sticking against Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau|
|Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau Hi-sticking against Zbynek Michalek|
|Maxime Talbot Holding against Radek Martinek|
|Zbynek Michalek Holding the stick|