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Endgame: Islanders 5, Penguins 3

by Michelle Crechiolo / Pittsburgh Penguins

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Post Game: Dan Bylsma
Post Game: Sidney Crosby
Post Game: Jordan Staal
Post Game: Marc-Andre Fleury
Pens-Islanders In-Game Blog
Penguins Report: Game Day at NY Islanders
What for Watch for: Pens vs. Islanders

After falling to the Islanders 5-3 on Tuesday in Pittsburgh, the Penguins had hoped for a different outcome in the rematch between the two teams on Thursday at Nassau Coliseum.

The Penguins battled to the end to try and come away with the victory. Pittsburgh made it a one-goal game with 1:31 left in regulation when Evgeni Malkin – on the ice as the extra attacker for goalie Marc-Andre Fleury – slammed home his career-high tying 47th goal to cut the Islanders’ lead to 4-3.

But Josh Bailey – who had a five-point night with two goals and three assists – would get an empty-netter with just 4.7 seconds left to give New York a 5-3 victory and a sweep of the home-and-home series with division rival Pittsburgh.

“They’re pretty opportunistic,” Fleury said. “Sometimes we controlled the play very well, then they’d come down in our zone. They have a good group of forwards and they’re dangerous around the net making those little plays in front. They got a few (goals) like that tonight.”

The Penguins had wanted to come out with a better effort tonight after being dissatisfied with their play – especially in the defensive zone – on Tuesday.

But Thursday just wasn’t their night.

“We talked about it a lot. We expected the guys to have a better effort,” center Jordan Staal said. “It just wasn’t there. We have to definitely find a way to get our game back and do the things we need to do to win games.”

The Penguins will have another chance to get back on track in less than 24 hours when they head to Buffalo to face the red-hot Sabres on Friday.

“When things go your way for a while, it’s tough to be losing like that,” Fleury said. “Got to learn from it and just try to put it behind us and be ready for (Friday) night.”

The Penguins have fallen behind in the race for first place in the division and the conference, as the Rangers have pushed their lead over Pittsburgh up to five points. But Staal says that catching the Blueshirts isn’t their focus – getting back the details of their game is.

“We’ve got to worry about our game,” he said. “The standings will be the standings. We want to win games. Right now, we’re not playing our best hockey and we’re losing games. That’s definitely something we’ve got to address first.”

Pascal Dupuis prides himself on bringing energy, passion and leadership to the Penguins’ lineup each night, and those qualities certainly shined on Thursday against the Islanders.

Dupuis scored his third shorthanded goal this season in the second period to extend his career-high point streak to 12 games. Dupuis, who has nine goals, six assists and 15 points over that span, is now tied with Carolina’s Eric Staal and the Islanders’ John Tavares for the NHL’s longest streak this season.

On the play, Dupuis forced a turnover in the neutral zone with a hit that allowed Craig Adams to collect the puck. Dupuis battled through a sea of white and broke to the net, receiving a pass back from Adams. Dupuis wired a shot far side past goalie Al Montoya to even the score at 1-1.

Early in the second period, the Penguins and the Islanders lined up for a faceoff in New York’s defensive zone. After Marty Reasoner won the puck back to Upper St. Clair native Dylan Reese, the defenseman’s clearing attempt hit Sidney Crosby under the visor.

The Penguins captain went down to the ice for a few scary moments, with blood spurting onto the ice and on his jersey. But Crosby got up and skated to the dressing room to get medical attention, and returned to the game no worse for wear with 10:13 left in the middle frame.

Crosby – who said following the game that he did not need stitches – finished with 17:28 of ice time, including 4:46 power-play minutes.

Head coach Dan Bylsma switched up his line combinations for Thursday’s contest. He reunited Crosby with Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis.

That meant Steve Sullivan moved to left wing on a line with Malkin and James Neal, a trio that was put together in training camp and had success during the first half of the season.

Matt Cooke, Jordan Staal and Tyler Kennedy reunited on a very effective third line while Eric Tangradi, Craig Adams and Arron Asham made up the fourth line.  

“Evgeni with James Neal and Steve Sullivan can be a very effective line on both ends of the rink,” Bylsma said. “Kunitz, Crosby and Dupuis can be a top line in the league with the way they play. Jordan Staal, Matt Cooke and Tyler Kennedy can be on the ice and play against any other line in the league. That’s what we know we can get from those three lines.”

Author: Michelle Crechiolo
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