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Aftermath: Penguins 6, Islanders 1

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins
  
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QUICK ANALYSIS
 
The city of Pittsburgh has been in a state of mourning since the tragic loss of three Pittsburgh Police officers – Eric Kelly, Stephen Mayhle and Paul Sciullo. But Pittsburgh is a resilient city that binds together during tough times.

“One of the things that Pittsburgh does well, is it takes care of its own and its fans are great and they take care of their sports teams,” interim head coach Dan Bylsma said. “Once you get here and you walk the streets it doesn’t take long to figure out and we’re a part of that. This is a time that we, as part of that big family that is this city, need to take care of our own and that’s what we’re trying to do. I think it’s important that we do that as a team and as an organization.”

The Penguins and their fans contributed over $100,000 worth of donations for the “Pittsburgh Fallen Heroes Fund” during the Islanders game. The fund was established by the Fraternal Order of Police to support the families of the three officers fallen in the line of duty.

“The city is in a situation where we deal with the loss of the cops and their families,” Bylsma said. “I think it’s great that the city is doing something, and the fans and the Pittsburgh Penguins. We talked about it as an organization and we asked the players to do something, and we’re doing something as a coaching staff, the staff and management as well.”

Penguins fans contributed $67,000 as they entered the arena in an amazing show of support. Penguins players and staff pitched in over $20,000 and an $8,400 check from 84 Lumber/Nemacolin Woodlands Resort brought the total to over $100,000.

The crowd observed a moment of silence before the game. After the game, the Penguins revealed honorary shirts – “Stood Together, Fell Together” – commemorating the fallen heroes under their jerseys, which were revealed as the team gave their jerseys to fans. 
 
WHAT HAPPENED
 
(AP) - Evgeni Malkin picked up two assists to lengthen his lead in the NHL scoring race and the Pittsburgh Penguins stayed in contention for home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs, beating the Islanders 6-1 Thursday night to assure New York of finishing with the NHL's worst record.

Malkin has 112 points - four more than last season's scoring champion, Alex Ovechkin of Washington. Both players have one game remaining. Ovechkin went scoreless during the Capitals' 4-2 victory at Tampa Bay.

The Penguins improved to 17-3-4 under interim coach Dan Bylsma and tied Carolina and Philadelphia with 97 points each in the race to finish fourth in the Eastern Conference and gain the home-ice edge for at least one playoff round. The Flyers have two games remaining, while the Hurricanes and Penguins each have one remaining.
 
PLAYOFF CHASE
 
 
Pos. Team GP Record Pts
4. *Philadelphia 80 43-26-11 97
5. *Carolina 81 45-29-7 97
6. *Pittsburgh 81 44-28-9 97
7. *NY Rangers 81 42-30-9 93
8. *Montreal
81 41-29-11 93
9. X-Florida 81 40-30-11 91
10. X-Buffalo 81 40-32-9 89

                     
Remaining Schedules:
X-Buffalo: (1) - Boston (Sat)
*Carolina: (1) - New Jersey (Sat);
X-Florida: (1) - Washington (Sat)
*Montreal: (1) - Pittsburgh (Sat)
*NY Rangers: (1) - @ Philadelphia (Sun)
*Philadelphia: (2) - @ NY Islanders (Sat); Ny Rangers (Sun)

* - clinched playoff berth; X - eliminated from playoffs
 
SHOT OF THE NIGHT

Goaltender Mathieu Garon made a split toe-save against New York (photo by Getty)
ESSENTIALS
 
What Worked Well: Motivation
It can be difficult to find motivation playing against the team with the worst record in the league. But the Penguins played hard and exploded for six goals to remain in contention for home-ice in the opening round of the playoffs.

What Could Have Gone Better: Nothing
For all intents and purposes, it was a perfect night and a perfect way to end the season. It’s been a great season for hockey.
 
DIFFERENCE MAKER
 
It’s only fitting to honor the fans for all their support during the season on “Fan Appreciation Night.” The fans were loud, enthusiastic and sparked the Penguins to a victory. Twenty three lucky fans received the “Shirts Off Our Backs.” Prizes were awarded throughout the game, but the highlight was the post-game ceremony where 23 fans, chosen at random, received the Penguins’ jerseys from the game.
 
SCORING SYNOPSIS
 
The New York Islanders struck first with a power-play goal five minutes into the game. Doug Weight’s shot from the right circle was deflected and caromed across the ice and right to Frans Nielsen in the far circle. Nielsen buried a shot past a sprawling Mathieu Garon. New York 1, Pittsburgh 0.

Defenseman Philippe Boucher, who missed the last 30 games with a foot injury, tied the game with his first goal of the season. Evgeni Malkin grabbed a loose puck behind the Islanders net and pushed a centering pass to Ruslan Fedotenko in the slot. An Islander defender tied up Fedotenko’s stick and the puck slid right to Boucher in the high slot. The veteran blueliner roofed the puck into the top right corner. Pittsburgh 1, New York 1.

The Penguins took the lead on a fluky goal. Pascal Dupuis carried the puck in the offensive zone with Kris Letang charging to the net. Dupuis’ shot deflected off of a stick and appeared to hit the bodies of either Letang or the Islander in front of him. Either way, the puck then bell curved into the net around Joey MacDonald. Pittsburgh 2, New York 1.

Pittsburgh upped its lead on Matt Cooke’s tally midway through the second period. Jordan Staal had the puck at the bottom of the near circle and made a backhand pass to Cooke above the circles. Cooke one-timed the shot against the grain on MacDonald for the score. Pittsburgh 3, New York 1.

Bill Guerin scored a goal against his former team in the third period to add to Pittsburgh’s lead. Sidney Crosby made the play by stealing the puck from New York’s Bruno Gervais in the far corner of the New York zone. Crosby fed Guerin in the slot and the veteran forward netted the goal. Pittsburgh 4, New York 1.

The Penguins added to their lead with a power-play tally. Sergei Gonchar’s snap shot from the midpoint was re-directed by Crosby and into the net. Malkin notched an assist on the play to add to his league-leading total of 112 points. Pittsburgh 5, New York 1.

Pittsburgh tallied its sixth goal of the game on Tyler Kennedy’s 15th tally of the season. Kennedy carried the puck into the attacking zone before ripping the puck under the right arm of MacDonald. Pittsburgh 6, New York 1.
 
INTRIGUING NOTABLES
 
Pittsburgh penalty killers stepped up late in the second period, killing 1:46 minutes of a five-on-three advantage for New York in the final minutes of the second period. Goaltender Mathieu Garon made the save of the game with a split toe-save, just getting enough of the puck to steer it clear of the goal. It was a great chance for the Islanders to get back into the game but Pittsburgh and Garon shut the door.

Garon got some help from his goal posts in the game. Five times the puck clinked off the iron. But any goaltender will tell you that the reason the puck hit the post is because the goalie was in the proper position. Garon created his own “luck.”

Washington forward Alex Ovechkin went scoreless in the Captials’ 4-2 victory over Tampa Bay. Evgeni Malkin now holds a four-point lead, 112-108, in the NHL scoring race with one game reaming for each player.

The Penguins handed out their annual team awards before the game. Some notables: Good Guy (Sidney Crosby and Brooks Orpik), Comeback Player (Mark Eaton), Team MVP (Malkin). 
 
GAME NOTES
 
> Pittsburgh improved its record to 44-28-9 on the year and finish with a 25-12-3 mark at Mellon Arena. The Penguins are 15-2-3 in their last 20 games.

> Pittsburgh is 17-3-4 since Dan Bylsma was named interim head coach.

> 13 Players tallied a point in the game.

> Scoring Summary:
NYI, F.Nielsen PP (9), 5:05 1st period: Islanders 1, Penguins 0
PIT, P.Boucher (3), 14:15 1st period: Penguins 1, Islanders 1
PIT, P.Dupuis (12), 3:51 2nd period: Penguins 2, Islanders 1
PIT, M.Cooke (13), 8:19 2nd period: Penguins 3, Islanders 1
PIT, B.Guerin (21), 11:08 3rd period: Penguins 4, Islanders 1
PIT, S.Crosby PP (33), 12:36 3rd period: Penguins 5, Islanders 1
PIT, T.Kennedy (15), 16:58 3rd period: Penguins 6, Islanders 1

> Evgeni Malkin notched two assists to increase his NHL lead in points to 112 (34G-78A). Malkin’s 112 points sets a new career high (previously 106) and his 78 assists are a league-best and a new career high.

> Sidney Crosby scored a power-play goal and added an assist in the contest. He is third in the league in scoring with 103 points (33G-70A) and his 70 assists are second most in the league behind teammate Malkin’s 78.

> The Penguins boast two players with 100 or more points in one season in Malkin (112) and Crosby (103). It’s the seventh time in franchise history that more than one player has netted 100-plus points in the same season. The most recent occurrence was in 1995-96 when Mario Lemieux (161), Jaromir Jagr (149) and Ron Francis (119) accomplished the feat.

> Mathieu Garon made 28 saves to record the victory.

> Philippe Boucher played for the first time in 31 games. He tallied a goal and an assist for two points in his first game action in over two months. His assist was the 300th point of his career. He also recorded a plus-3 rating.

> Jordan Staal recorded an assist and tied a career high with a five-game scoring streak totaling seven points (2G-5A).

> Ruslan Fedotenko notched an assist. He has points in five of his last six games totaling nine (3G-6A).

> Tyler Kennedy notched a goal and an assist for a two-point night. He’s riding a career-best four-game scoring streak with six points (2G-4A).

> Mellon Arena sold out for the 107th straight game with a standing room only attendance of 17,132. The Penguins have sold out every game in the past two seasons. Pittsburgh is 69-29-9 in during that span.
 
THREE STARS
 1. E.Malkin, PIT
2. S.Crosby, PIT
3. M.Garon, PIT

 



Author: Sam Kasan

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