The Pittsburgh Penguins
hope the addition of Marian Hossa
will lead to a long playoff run. More goaltending like the kind they got from Ty Conklin
on Tuesday night won’t hurt, either.
Hossa wasn’t in the lineup at the Nassau Coliseum for the Penguins’ game with the New York Islanders. Nor were Eric Christensen or Colby Armstrong, who were sent to Atlanta in the deal that brought Hossa to Pittsburgh. That left the Penguins shorthanded for part of the game, until minor-league callups Nathan Smith and Connor James showed up during the second period.
Luckily for the Penguins, Ty Conklin was there — and at the top of his game. Conklin stopped 50 shots, including all 23 he faced in the first period, as the depleted Penguins beat the Islanders 4-2 to pull within a point of New Jersey for the Atlantic Division lead — despite the continuing absence of Sidney Crosby, who’s been sidelined since Jan. 18 with a high ankle sprain.
"I haven't seen a goalie steal a game like that this year," Penguins defenseman Ryan Whitney said. "He is probably our MVP since Sid went out, he and Malkin. It's not something we want to make a habit of though."
The Islanders came out firing, taking the game’s first 13 shots. But the Penguins grabbed the lead at 10:50 when Evgeni Malkin, who has carried the offense while Sidney Crosby’s high ankle sprain heals, beat Rick DiPietro with a wrist shot from the slot. Jeff Taffe’s rebound goal at 17:52, during a two-man advantage, gave the Penguins a 2-0 lead after a period in which they were outshot 23-6.
"I thought we carried a majority of the play," said Islanders coach Ted Nolan, whose team outshot Pittsburgh 52-21. "We had our chances and they had their chances, which they seemed to bury. We were a little snake-bitten on our goal scoring ability. We had our chances, we just couldn't capitalize. I wanted us to go after them hard, and I think we did."
The Isles halved the margin when rookie center Frans Nielsen tipped in Jeff Tambellini’s pass at 10:26 of the second period, but the Islanders couldn’t get the equalizer despite three power plays in the period and seven in the first 40 minutes.
“We killed penalties really well,” Conklin said. “When we had to buckle down, we did.”
Trent Hunter hit the crossbar behind Conklin early in the third period before the Penguins put the game away on goals by Jordan Staal and James. With the outcome settled, the Islanders finally got a power-play goal when Ruslan Fedotenko knocked in a rebound with 1:17 remaining.
"I'm not really sure we played our best game," Conklin said. "We got some breaks, a couple of crossbars, and a couple of good chances they missed, too."
The loss left Isles coach Ted Nolan frustrated, especially with his team’s power play, which went 1-for-9.
"Our power play had a chance to get us the lead early, but we didn't move the puck, we didn't move our feet and we didn't execute the plays we worked on from the start of the year," Nolan said. "It certainly let us down. There was no working together. Guys were on the other side and not supporting each other."
Meanwhile, the Penguins await the arrival of Hossa, who’s expected to be in the lineup when they visit Boston on Thursday night.
"It's a privilege for us to get help like that, and we're going to be ready to play well and make a long run," Whitney said. "We're a good team, but we just got a lot better."
No one was more excited than Conklin.
“It’s a big statement from out management that they expect big things,” he said. “We’re excited about it.”
Material from wire services and team online and broadcast media was used in this report