To borrow a refrain from an old Aerosmith tune, the Penguins’ train kept a rollin’ at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum Tuesday night. Buoyed by the return of superstar Evgeni Malkin and Marc-Andre Fleury’s 20th career shutout, the Pens bounced the New York Islanders 3-0 for their fourth-straight win.
If the 10,681 patrons in attendance were anticipating a carryover of hostilities from February 11, when the two clubs totaled a whopping 346 minutes in penalties, they were in for a letdown. The teams stashed the tire irons and brass knuckles (not to mention heavyweights Steve MacIntyre and Trevor Gillies) and concentrated on hockey. The result was a relatively tame affair that featured only six minor penalties.
The contest started off with a bang—albeit one of a different kind—as New York winger Kyle Okposo and Pens forward Pascal Dupuis exchanged wide-open chances in the first minute of play. Moments later Deryk Engelland sent a message when he took a vigorous run at the Islanders’ Matt Martin—one of the chief antagonists in last season’s brawl.
Despite being out-shot, 13-7, through the opening 20 minutes, the Pens drew first blood at 17:06 thanks to a hustling play by Dupuis. The hard-working winger pried the puck loose from a scrum in the Penguins’ zone and moved it to Brooks Orpik. The rugged defenseman lugged the puck up the boards and found a streaking Dupuis with a perfect lead pass at the Islanders’ line. “Super Duper” ripped the rubber past goalie Evgeni Nabokov on the stick side for his third goal of the season.
The Pens made it 2-0 just 21 ticks into the second period, when a pair of former Islanders teamed up to beat their ex-mates. Arron Asham picked off a wayward clearing pass high in the New York zone and dished the puck to Richard Park. The speedy little forward knifed through the slot and rifled the puck home.
Trailing by two goals, the Islanders continued to apply good pressure. Their best chance came with six minutes remaining in the period, when Josh Bailey teed up the puck from the right hash mark. Fleury calmly squared up to the snake-bitten youngster and made a big save.
“Flower played a phenomenal game and definitely kept us in it until we found our game,” Park said.
Number 29 continued to frustrate the Islanders during the third period. With time running out, New York coach Jack Capuano pulled Nabokov for an extra attacker. Sporting a nasty cut on the bridge of his nose, Jordan Staal coolly flipped the puck into the empty cage to seal the victory.
Fleury (33 saves) earned the No. 1 star … The Penguins killed two New York power plays … Pittsburgh boasts an astounding penalty-killing rate of 97.2 percent on the season (35 for 36) … Dupuis (a goal and an assist) was voted No. 2 star … Park earned third-star honors for the second game in a row … Dan Bylsma (121-58-21) coached his 200th game for the black and gold … Sidney Crosby, Tyler Kennedy, Mark Letestu, Steve MacIntyre, Zbynek Michalek, and Brian Strait were scratches.
The Penguins (7-2-2) and Islanders (3-4) square off for a rematch at CONSOL Energy Center Thursday night. The Pens have dominated the Isles (20-4-2) in the last 26 games.
*Be sure to check out Rick’s new book, “100 Things Penguins Fans Should Know and Do Before They Die” at TriumphBooks.com. It features 296 pages of bios, stories, anecdotes and photos from the team’s colorful past in a compelling, easy-to-read style. Whether you’re a die-hard booster from the days of Jean Pronovost or a big fan of Sid and Geno, this book is a must have for any true Penguins fan.
Don’t forget to check out Rick’s first book, “Total Penguins,” at TriumphBooks.com. A complete and comprehensive book on the team’s rich and storied history, it’s filled with season-by-season summaries, player profiles and stats, bios on coaches, general managers and owners, photos from the “Post-Gazette” archives, and much, much more.