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Aftermath: Penguins 5, Islanders 3

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins
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Well, how many times can you write about how this team refuses to quit and keeps coming up with comeback victories? Here's once more. The Penguins have notched 10 come-from-behind wins this season, most in the NHL. They did it in a familiar fashion, by exploding in the third period. No team in the league has been better in the final frame.

But this game truly belongs to Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Both men willed their team to victory and were simply unstoppable in the third. It was a big win against a hot Islanders team. Not only did Pittsburgh get the two points, but didn’t even allow division foe New York to get one.
Evgeni Malkin registered his third-career hat trick and Pittsburgh came up with its league-leading 10th come-from-behind victory of the season with a 5-3 final against the New York Islanders at Nassau Coliseum on Wednesday.

The Islanders scored the game’s first three goals but the Penguins scored five unanswered goals, four in the third period, to defeat New York. Pittsburgh trailed 3-1 in the third period when Malkin, who had four points in the game, setup Sidney Crosby for his eighth goal of the year to make it 3-2. Malkin netted the game’s final three goals for the natural hat trick.

Crosby finished the game with a goal and two assists. Defenseman Brooks Orpik notched his fourth-career two-point game (G-A) and rookie goaltender John Curry won his first career game after relieving Dany Sabourin in the second period.

The Islanders got goals from Doug Weight, Tim Hunter and Bill Guerin.

Evgeni Malkin celebrates with teammates after scoring the game-winning goal
(photo by Getty)
What Worked: Malkin and Crosby
Penguins head coach Michel Therrien usually puts Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin on a line together when Pittsburgh is trailing in a game. His move paid off big time when the duo scored four goals in the third period to turn a 3-1 deficit into a 5-3 win. Neither man would allow the team to lose this game and they dominated the entire period. Malkin finished with four points (3G-1A) while Crosby had three (1G-2A).

What Didn't Work: Penalty Kill
The Penguins penalty killing unit is usually one of the team’s strong suits. However, they allowed two power-play goals on four opportunities against the Islanders. On one of those situations Mike Zigomanis – a key penalty killer with his faceoff abilities and defensive zone discipline – was in the penalty box. If you’re going to win on the road, your special teams has to lead the way. Although in fairness, Pittsburgh turned the game around with a great kill late in the second period. 
This isn’t the first time Evgeni Malkin has notched a four-point game this season. However, it may have been his most dominant performance to date. The Penguins looked dead for the opening half of the game, but Malkin’s tenacity and determination altered the flow of the game. It started with a great effort on a penalty kill. All on one shift he cleared the puck twice and had two great scoring chances. One shot hit the post while the other sailed just wide.

Malkin took over in the third period. He made a great backhand pass to Crosby to setup Pittsburgh's second goal. Then he scored the Penguins’ third, fourth and fifth goals. He scored on a quick shot high in the slot on a three-on-one advantage to tie the game. Malkin’s second goal occurred compliments of a great effort by Crosby. Malkin nailed a one-timer as he fell down to give the Penguins the lead. Malkin capped the game with an empty-net goal.

It was an inspiring performance from Malkin. Even though the team was down 3-0 and had little life, Malkin took the team on his back and led by example. His hustle and effort inspired his teammates and Pittsburgh dominated the game from that point on. Malkin showed his emotions with a fist pump after scoring the game-winning goal and he's grown into a true leader on the team.
The Penguins new-look power play made their presence felt early. On their first opportunity early in the game, the team notched five shots and created a lot of chances. Tyler Kennedy and Matt Cooke fought for loose pucks and went to the front of the net. The Penguins also started firing more shots from the point when there was an opening. Pittsburgh talked about simplifying the power play – translation: more shots – and the early going shows they’ve committed to that approach.

The Islanders scored the game’s first goal on a power play. Doug Weight was robbed initially by Dany Sabourin’s left pad as he came sliding across the crease. However, Weight pinball-ed the rebound off of the goal post, off of Sabourin’s left pad, off of his right pad and into the net.

Trent Hunter, a perennial Penguin killer, once again lit the lamp against Pittsburgh on a freak play. Former Penguin Andy Hilbert tried to dump the puck into the Pittsburgh zone when Petr Sykora deflected it into the air. Hunter went to the slot where the puck was bouncing wildly. Kris Letang tried to handle the puck but it jumped through his legs. That’s where Hunter snapped off a quick backhander into the net for a 2-0 lead.

Maxime Talbot took a puck off his leg at the midpoint of the first period. He hobbled to the bench and did not return. Ruslan Fedotenko and Pascal Dupuis shared his duty on the top unit with Sidney Crosby and Miroslav Satan. That was until Crosby was paired with Sykora and Evgeni Malkin in the third period.

Eric Godard and Mitch Fritz went after each other off of a faceoff. The two men tangled for a lengthy brawl. Each man landed a few shots to the head but no knockout punch. No take down was registered either and the fight ended when both men were too tired to continue.

Sabourin made an intelligent play on a power play. A loose puck was sliding into the Penguins zone with speedy Islander Sean Bergenheim edging in for a breakaway. Sabourin came all the way out of his net to grab the puck above the faceoff dots. Instead of hurrying a pass, he coolly held onto the puck as Bergenheim skated by.

Sykora made a great defensive play in his own end. The puck bounced free from the near corner and onto Weight’s stick. He was in the circle and was turning his body to get in position to get a shot on net. Sykora raced in from behind to poke the puck off of Weight’s stick before he could shoot.

Guerin blew a one-timer past Sabourin for his 396th career goal. The Islanders were on a power play when Guerin notched his ninth goal of the year. 19-year-old rookie Josh Bailey made the setup pass for his second assist in the game.

Following that goal Sabourin was replaced by John Curry. It marked Curry’s NHL debut. He made his first career save on a shot by Jeremy Colliton. Sabourin made 11 saves on 14 shots. Curry finished with 11 saves and no goals against to earn his first-career win.

The turning point of the game came in the later stages of the second period with the Penguins on a penalty kill. Malkin had one of the best penalty kills of his career. First, he raced into the New York zone with Matt Cooke on a two-on-one. Malkin opted to shoot and nailed the post. He collected the puck in his own zone and skated it all the way to the Islanders net. He used his classic curl and drag through the legs to get around Guerin and sent a shot just over the crossbar. He then raced back into his own zone to intercept a pass and clear the puck.

The Penguins had another great scoring chance on that same penalty kill when Jordan Staal had a breakaway. Islander defenseman Chris Campoli couldn’t handle a pass at the blue line. Crosby picked up the puck and sent it through Campoli to Staal, who raced ahead of everyone to receive it. He snapped a quick shot in the high slot that Joey MacDonald knocked aside with his blocker.

Dupuis negated two icings in the game with great hustle. It’s not something that will garner a lot of attention but he deserves credit for the effort.

Just as I finished typing above, Dupuis’ hustle resulted in a crucial late second-period goal. He collected a loose puck in the slot. His shot on net was blocked by Brendan Witt. Dupuis snatched up his own rebound and setup Brooks Orpik for a one-timer from the blue line. The shot appeared to change direction, but nonetheless went into the net to give Pittsburgh its first goal of the game with 18.7 seconds left in the second period.

Crosby had the Penguins’ apparent second goal disallowed following a replay review. Malkin made a great tip pass that sent Crosby down the ice at full speed. Crosby got around Guerin and was one-on-one with MacDonald. His shot was initially stopped as Crosby’s momentum took him into the far post. The net was dislodged but the puck appeared to be over the line before that. The referee waived off the goal on the spot. After a review though, the referees agreed there was no goal because they judged Crosby interfered with MacDonald. No penalty was assessed but the goal was not counted. 

Crosby officially earned that goal back 2:35 mintes later on a great setup play by Malkin. Crosby skated into the zone along the far boards and dropped the puck to Malkin. Crosby then went around the net and set up at the far post. Meanwhile, Malkin took the puck and skated around two Islanders. New York cheated his way and left Crosby all alone. Malkin sent a hard backhand pass across the slot. Crosby nailed the puck under the left arm of a diving MacDonald.

Malkin and Crosby connected again on the game tying goal. Malkin started the play with a beautiful breakout pass from his own zone to Crosby over the red line. Crosby gained the zone and then pulled up high. Guerin and Bergenheim got caught standing still and watching Crosby. Malkin took a pass and went right around both players. All of a sudden, Pittsburgh had a three-on-one with Sykora on the left and Kris Letang on the right. Witt dropped to take away Malkin’s pass option to Sykora. Malkin opted to shoot and blew the puck past MacDonald.

The Penguins got their first lead of the game 50 seconds after tying it. Islanders defenseman Andy Sutton took the puck from behind his own net. Crosby thieved the puck from behind him. MacDonald dropped to the ice with Crosby breathing down on him while Malkin came streaking down the slot all alone. Crosby sent a falling down, backhand pass that Malkin – who was also falling down – one-timed between MacDonald’s pads.

Malkin registered his third-career hat trick with an empty-net goal with 17.5 seconds left in the game. It was a natural hat trick as he notched all three in a row within a 8:39 span. On two empty-netters earlier this year, Malkin opted to pass to Jordan Staal. He didn’t have a clear pass to Crosby in this instance, so he took the shot.
> Pittsburgh improved to 13-5-3 on the year, with a 7-2-1 mark on the road. The Penguins are now 8-1-1 in November. Pittsburgh has won five straight road games.

> Pittsburgh registered its 10th come-from-behind victory of the season, most in the NHL, and second against the Islanders.

> The Islanders scored the game’s first three goals. The first was a power-play goal from Doug Weight at 7:45 of the first period. Trent Hunter scored his ninth goal of the year only 1:10 later to give New York a 2-0 lead. The Islanders took a 3-0 lead on Bill Guerin’s power-play goal at 9:26 of the second period. The Penguins answered with five unanswered goals. Brooks Orpik converted a one-timer with 18.7 seconds left in the second period. Sidney Crosby scored his eighth goal of the season at 6:18 of the third period. Malkin followed that with a natural hat trick in a 8:39 span. He notched scores at 11:03, 11:53 and 19:42 to give Pittsburgh a 5-3 win.

> Pittsburgh outshot the Islanders by a 30-25 margin. Pittsburgh has only been outshot once in its past 10 games, and is 8-1-1 during that stretch.

> Malkin’s third-career hat trick gave him a team-leading 10 goals on the season. His four-point night adds to his NHL leading 35 points (10G-25A). Malkin’s 25 assists are also a league best.

> Crosby registered a three-point night with a goal and two assists. Crosby quietly climbed the rankings and is now fourth (tied) in the league in scoring with 28 points (8G-20A). His 20 assists are the second most (tied) in the league.

> Rookie goaltender John Curry made his NHL debut when he entered the game at 9:26 of the second period. He made 11 saves for his first career win.

> Brooks Orpik tied a career high by scoring his second goal of the season. Orpik’s next goal would set a new career high. Orpik also notched an assist for his fourth career two-point game and second on the season.

> Maxime Talbot suffered an undisclosed injury in the first period. He left the game and did not return.
1. Evgeni Malkin, PIT
2. Sidney Crosby, PIT
3. Trent Hunter, NYI
"We played hard in the third period. It was a good game."
- Evgeni Malkin told FSN


Author: Sam Kasan

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