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Islanders host playoff game for first time since 2007

by John Kreiser


(Best-of-7 series tied 1-1)


Big story: After rallying for a 4-3 victory in Game 2 to earn a split of the first two games, the New York Islanders will host their first home playoff game since 2007. They haven't won a postseason game at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum since 2002.

Team Scope:

Penguins: After steamrolling the Islanders 5-0 in Game 1, the Pittsburgh Penguins got an extra boost for Game 2 with the return of captain Sidney Crosby, who hadn't played since suffering a broken jaw on a deflected shot against the Islanders on March 30. Consol Energy Center was roaring as Crosby scored twice in the first eight minutes to give the give the Penguins a 3-1 lead after the opening period. But they were unable to score again and allowed three unanswered goals to the Islanders.

Despite his superb return -- he was named the game's No. 2 star -- Crosby said he was feeling the effects of missing 13 games.

"All right," he said after a slight hesitation when asked how he felt. "I think that there's definitely a little bit of rust. But there's not a lot of time, so I've got to find a way to create things out there and be better."

With the quick turnaround, Crosby said the Penguins can't think about blowing a lead in a game that could have put the inexperienced Islanders in a huge hole.

"It's the playoffs. You lose games sometimes," he said. "We have to make sure we learn pretty quickly from this one, though. It's not the way we want to play, and we definitely have room to improve."

Islanders: The scared, nervous team that was overwhelmed by the Penguins in Game 1 was nowhere to be found Friday night. Even while falling behind 3-1, the Islanders kept pushing the tempo and attacking the net, making the Penguins play defense. New York finished with 42 shots and used a couple of fortuitous bounces off the end boards to overtake the Penguins and even the series. Kyle Okposo's game-winner came on a shot from the slot that missed the net but caromed off the end boards into the crease, where it deflected off goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury and into the net.

It was the sixth time in 26 road games this season in which the Islanders won after trailing by two goals.

"We've had a few wins like that, where we had a slow start and battled back," said center John Tavares, who had an assist in Game 2 and was a factor all night long. "That's been the story of our season. We had a great second half of the game. We really brought it, and found a way to get it done. That was a big win for us, and we're looking forward to getting back home in front of our fans."

The Islanders appeared to relax after falling behind in Game 2 -- they just went out and played. It's a formula they need to continue on Sunday.

"We have to keep things loose and have fun," defenseman Andrew MacDonald said after Saturday's practice. "We're trying to enjoy this as much as we can."

Who's hot: Crosby had a pair of goals Friday, giving him 22 goals and 77 points in 42 games (regular-season and playoffs) against the Islanders. … Islanders goaltender Evgeni Nabokov stopped the last 25 shots he faced in Game 2 after allowing three goals on Pittsburgh's first eight shots.

Injury report: Pittsburgh played Game 2 without all-star forward James Neal, who went out with a lower-body injury in the opener, and defenseman Brooks Orpik, who hasn't played in the series due to a lower-body injury. Neal skated briefly at practice Saturday before leaving early; Orpik and center Evgeni Malkin did not skate at all … The Islanders report no injuries.

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