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Islanders will play Penguins in Eastern Conference First Round

New York has home-ice advantage, won three of previous four playoff meetings

by David Satriano @davidsatriano / Staff Writer

The New York Islanders will play the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

New York (48-27-7) finished second in the Metropolitan Division, two points ahead of third-place Pittsburgh (44-26-12), and will have home-ice advantage in the best-of-7 series.

The teams split four games this season (each going 2-1-1).

"We really wanted home ice," Islanders goalie Robin Lehner said. "We've seen how special the [Nassau] Coliseum's been and all the fans and it's going to be a really fun series. They're a good team. It's going to be a good challenge. If we stick to our game, I like our chances."

Video: Previewing the Islanders-Penguins First Round matchup

Phil Kessel had six points (two goals, four assists), and Sidney Crosby (two goals, three assists) and Jake Guentzel (five assists) each had five for Pittsburgh. Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang each scored two goals. Matt Murray was 0-1-1 with a 3.72 goals-against average and .829 save percentage. Casey DeSmith was 2-0-0 with a 2.01 GAA and .924 save percentage.

Brock Nelson, Anders Lee and Jordan Eberle each scored two goals, and Ryan Pulock had four assists for New York. Lehner was 1-0-1 with a 1.72 GAA and .939 save percentage in two games. Thomas Greiss was 1-1-0 with a 3.85 GAA and .877 save percentage in three games.

Video: #ThirstForTheCup: Islanders clinch a playoff spot

The Islanders have won three of the four previous playoff series between the teams, but the Penguins won the last time the teams met in 2013, winning an Eastern Conference Quarterfinal in six games.

The Islanders, who ranked last in the NHL last season allowing 293 goals were first this season, allowing 191. It is their first playoff appearance since 2016, when they won their first playoff series since 1993, defeating the Florida Panthers in six games in the first round before losing in six games to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Mathew Barzal led the Islanders with 62 points (18 goals, 44 assists) this season. Nelson had 53 points (25 goals, 28 assists) and Lee had 51 (28 goals, 23 assists). Lehner (25-13-5, 2.13 goals-against average, .930 save percentage, six shutouts) and Greiss (23-14-2, 2.28 GAA, .927 save percentage) were among the NHL leaders in GAA and save percentage.

Crosby led the Penguins with 100 points (35 goals, 65 assists). Kessel had 82 (27 goals, 55 assists) and Guentzel, who led Pittsburgh with 40 goals, had 76 points. Malkin had 72 points (21 goals, 51 assists). Murray was 29-14-5 with four shutouts, and DeSmith was 15-11-5 with three shutouts.

Pittsburgh qualified for the playoffs for a 13th straight season, the longest active streak in the NHL. They were defeated by the Washington Capitals in six games in the second round last season after winning the Stanley Cup the previous two seasons.

"I'm excited about the opportunity that we have," Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. "I think we have a real good hockey team. We just have to make sure that we play the game the right way and we compete, and we control what we can to be at our best."

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