PITTSBURGH - Petr Sykora scored with 2:28 remaining and the Pittsburgh Penguins, badly missing the injured Sidney Crosby, played dismally most of the game but still beat the last-place New York Islanders 1-0 on Wednesday night.
With the two Atlantic Divisions teams threatening to go into overtime scoreless, defenceman Sergei Gonchar threw the puck from the right circle toward a crowd in front of the net, and Sykora gathered it and stuffed it in the side of the net before goalie Yann Danis could react.
Sykora's 23rd goal ended Danis' five-period shutout streak and was the only score allowed by Danis on 68 shots over two games. Danis made 40 saves in shutting out the Devils 4-0 on Saturday night, his second career shutout.
Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, pulled after giving up five goals during a 5-2 loss in Washington on Sunday, made 21 saves for his third shutout this season and the 13th of his career. A slumping Fleury yielded 13 goals in his last three games.
The Islanders have been held to six goals while losing their last six road games and are 1-19-1 away from home since Nov. 22.
Pittsburgh, winning its third in four games, closed within two points of the Eastern Conference's eighth and final playoff spot despite playing so poorly offensively most of the game that interim coach Dan Bylsma resorted to double-shifting NHL scoring leader Evgeni Malkin against the NHL's worst team.
Crosby, tied for second in scoring with 79 points, injured his groin Sunday but practised a day later. He left the ice early during practice Tuesday when the groin problem became more bothersome, and he pulled himself off the ice again Wednesday during the pre-game skate.
Pittsburgh, which has 20 games remaining, opens a five-game road trip in Chicago on Friday night and it is uncertain when Crosby will be ready.
The Penguins, who won the Islanders' last visit to Pittsburgh 9-2 at home on Dec. 11, struggled to find any offence in the first two periods without Crosby. They were so desperate to find some scoring, Malkin once played a shift with fourth liners Chris Minard and Bill Thomas.
Malkin was held to one shot despite playing 24 minutes four seconds, or more time than any Pittsburgh player but Gonchar (26:26)
Pittsburgh did so little in the opening 40 minutes that their best offensive player was defenceman Kris Letang, who had three good scoring chances - and once broke up an Islanders 3-on-1 break on defence - after sitting out the previous three games.
The Islanders' lack of offence was predictable, although they did have a handful of good chances they couldn't convert - including an Andy Hilbert shot early in the third that ran along the goal line before striking the left post. Minard also hit the crossbar for Pittsburgh.
Notes: The Penguins also were without D Ryan Whitney, who left the team for personal reasons but is expected back Friday. ... The Islanders beat Pittsburgh 3-2 in a shootout on Feb. 16, Bylsma's first game. ... Pittsburgh is 3-1-1 under Bylsma. ... Pittsburgh is 0-for-19 on the power play in the first period in its last 14 games. Both teams were 0-for-3 overall with the man advantage.