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Aftermath: Penguins 1, Islanders 0

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins

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 The Penguins desperately needed a victory to stay in the midst of the postseason race. The game was even more important with a five-game road trip on the horizon. The Penguins needed to get a big win at home against a struggling Islanders team and they did without Sidney Crosby and Ryan Whitney.

Pittsburgh never gave up in the contest and finally converted the winning goal with 2:28 remaining in regulation, thanks to Petr Sykora. The goal may have been Pittsburgh's biggest score of the season because it keeps them right in the hunt. A loss or overtime loss to the Islanders would have been a crushing defeat.

The Penguins climbed a little higher in the standings with the win but there is no time to catch their breathe. Now the Penguins will embark on an 11-day road trip through Chicago, Dallas, Tampay Bay, Florida and Washington. This will be a critical week in the Penguins season and the playoffs are on the line.
(AP) - 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 Division teams threatening to go into overtime scoreless, defenseman 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.
Pos. Team              GP   Record    Pts
4.     Philadelphia   59   33-17-9    75
5.     Montreal          61   32-22-7    71
6.     NY Rangers   62   31-23-8    70
7.     Florida             60   30-22-8    68
8.     Buffalo             61   31-24-6    68
9.     Carolina          62   31-26-5    67
10.   Pittsburgh      62   30-26-6    66

Team Notables:
Philadelphia: Defeated Los Angeles, 2-0.
NY Rangers: Fell, 2-1, in a shootout at Toronto.
Montreal: Off-day: Plays at Philadelphia, Friday at 7 p.m.
Florida: Off-day: Plays at NY Rangers, Thursday at 7 p.m.
Buffalo: Off-day: Plays at Carolina, Thursday at 7 p.m.
Carolina: Off-day: Hosts Buffalo, Thursday at 7 p.m.

Evgeni Malkin tackled Petr Sykora after he scored the game-winning goal late in the third period
(photo by Getty)
What Worked Well: Perseverance
The Penguins had a number of scoring chances throughout the game but couldn’t capitalize through the game’s first 57-plus minutes. The team didn’t let the frustration get the best of them. They continued to press and press and were rewarded with the winning goal late in the third.

What Could Have Gone Better: Beating Danis
Islanders goalie Yann Danis was hot coming into the contests after recording his second career shutout with 40 saves against New Jersey. He frustrated Pittsburgh through the first 57-plus minutes of the game and kept them off the scoreboard. But the Penguins finally beat the netminder at the end. 
Petr Sykora may have scored the biggest goal of the season for the Penguins. Pittsburgh desperately needed to win this game. A loss would not have mathematically eliminated the team, but the Penguins needed to win to stay in the middle of the postseason race. Sykora was in perfect position – right above the crease – when a rebound shot came to him. Sykora tallied the score to save Pittsburgh’s season.
Petr Sykora broke a scoreless tie in the third period with less than three minutes left in regulation. Evgeni Malkin made a great play at the blue line to keep the puck in the Islanders zone. Sergei Gonchar grabbed the puck, skated to the low near circle and sent a shot on net. The puck fell above the crease with New York netminder Yann Danis out of position. Sykora was there to bury the winning goal. Pittsburgh 1, New York 0.
The Penguins were missing two important puzzle pieces against the Islanders. Pittsburgh played without the services of center Sidney Crosby and defenseman Ryan Whitney. Crosby injured his groin in the club’s previous game. He tested it for a couple days but wasn’t healthy enough to go. Whitney left the team to return to Boston for a family matter.

Evgeni Malkin nearly broke a scoreless tie in the third period with a monstrous slap shot. The puck deflected off of a stick and off of the crossbar behind netminder Yann Danis.
> Pittsburgh improved to 30-26-6 on the year, with a 17-11-2 mark at Mellon Arena. Pittsburgh has won eight of its last 10 home games. The Penguins are now 3-1-1 since Dan Bylsma was named interim head coach.

> PIT, P.Sykora (23), 17:32 3rd period: Penguins 1, Islanders 0.

> Evgeni Malkin tallied an assist against the Islanders to extend his NHL lead in points to 88 (27G-61A). Malkin’s 61 assists are a league-best and a new single-season career high. In his last 22 games, Malkin has collected 12 goals and 16 assists for 28 points. Malkin has notched a point in 17 of his last 20 games.

> Sidney Crosby did not play against New York with a groin injury. He is second (tied) in the league in scoring with 79 points (23G-56A) and his 56 assists are second most in the league behind teammate Malkin’s 61. In Crosby’s last 21 games, he’s posted eight goals and 21 assists for 29 points in that span.

> Marc-Andre Fleury made 21 saves to record his 14th career shutout. He's won three of his last four games.

> Petr Sykora tallied his 23rd goal of the season and eighth game-winner this season. His eight game-winners are tied for second-most in the league (three players with nine).

> Sergei Gonchar tallied an assist against the Islanders. He is currently riding a five-game scoring streak (2G-3A). He has notched a point in five of his six games since returning from injury.

> Jordan Staal played in his 200th consecutive game.

> Mellon Arena sold out for the 97th straight game with a standing room only attendance of 16,975.
1. M.Fleury, PIT
2. P.Sykora, PIT
3. Y.Danis, NYI
"These games are the toughest to win because you expect
from yourself to win those games. So, this is one
of the toughest games just to (keep) your mind
in the game."
- Petr Sykora


Author: Sam Kasan

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