Strange because Nabokov looked sharp in turning aside 30 shots, including three tremendous stops in the overtime. But the 36-year-old goalie apparently was feeling the effects of a lingering lower-body injury suffered at some point in the opening period and decided to call it a night prior to the tiebreaker. Nabokov has a record of 19-21 in shootouts during his 11 seasons in the League.
Rick DiPietro's first appearance this season came in a shootout against the Penguins, after Islanders starter Evgeni Nabokov took himself out after the overtime period in Pittsburgh. (Photo: Getty Images)
So in stepped DiPietro, who wound up making his first appearance of the season in the most pressure-packed scenario any goalie could imagine. Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin scored the only goal of the shootout in the second round as the Penguins completed their home-and-home sweep of the Islanders with a 3-2 victory.
"Nabby was fatigued … he wasn't feeling well, so I had to put Ricky in," Capuano told reporters after the game. "I'm not going to get into it … Nabby just couldn't go so Ricky went in."
When asked if Nabokov felt uncomfortable entering a shootout, Capuano shook his head.
"Nabby's not one of those guys who feels uncomfortable; none of our goalies feel uncomfortable," he said. "In situations like that, they are all great competitors. Since the start of the season, they've given us a chance to win."
Nabokov certainly had given the Islanders an opportunity to earn the victory and snap Pittsburgh's 11-game home winning streak against them dating back to 2008. He actually stopped 13 shots in the middle period, before the Penguins rallied from a two-goal deficit with a pair of goals in the third.
"It was bugging me … I was getting a little fatigued, didn't have much power and Jack knew about it and he pulled the trigger," Nabokov said. "Sometimes you have to be smart and make those decisions because you worry about the long run than short term. That's the reason he made his decision.
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said it made no difference who stepped in between the pipes during the shootout. His coaching staff had scouting reports on both goalies.
"In terms of scouting other teams' goalies, we just had to change up a little bit when No. 39 went in, that's all," Bylsma said. "We already talked about the goalies for a shootout and now it was a different guy going in. We just had to adjust a bit."
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Despite coming in cold, DiPietro, who was making his first appearance in net since allowing six goals in a 7-4 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on April 9, actually made a nifty glove save on the first shooter, Kris Letang. Malkin induced DiPietro out of his crease and as the goalie tried to poke check the puck, he slid a shot under his body. DiPietro then forced red-hot James Neal to fire high and wide.
"I love our goalies," Capuano said. "All three have played well and given us a chance so I have no issues. One guy couldn't go and I got all the faith in Ricky and Ricky was great. He almost had Malkin's but, obviously, if you don't score in the shootout, you are not going to win."
One bright spot in the game was the fact Matt Martin connected for his first goal of the season for the Islanders, giving his team a 2-0 lead 45 seconds into the third period.
"I really have no idea what was going on with the goalies," Martin told NHL.com. "I just saw Ricky go in and he did a good job -- he stopped two of the three. It's a tough position for a goalie … to go in like that. But he gave us a chance and that's all you could ask for.
Martin was upset over the fact the team couldn't take advantage of Nabokov's great play for three-plus periods.
"He's a great goalie and he's been around for a long time," Martin said. "I remember watching him in his San Jose days. Without him (on Thursday), the game might have been out of reach early. He gave us a chance to win and that's one we definitely have to win for him."
Capuano was noncommittal when asked if he would give DiPietro his first start of the 2011-12 season in the club's next game against San Jose -- Nabokov's former team -- on Saturday at Nassau Coliseum.
"I'm not sure yet," he said. "I'll evaluate it and then I'll have tomorrow to think about it and then let the goalies know."
Follow Mike Morreale on Twitter at: @mike_morreale