Penguins See Home Winning Streak End
PITTSBURGH – Frans Nielsen scored twice and the New York Islanders won in Pittsburgh for the first time in more than four years with a 5-2 victory against the Penguins on Tuesday night.
Michael Grabner, David Ullstrom and Kyle Okposo also scored, and Josh Bailey had three assists to help the Islanders end Pittsburgh’s 10-game home winning streak with ease. Okposo, Ullstrom and Nielsen scored within a 6-minute span of the second period to break things open.
James Neal scored twice for the Penguins and Tyler Kennedy added a goal, but Marc-Andre Fleury gave up five goals on 18 shots before being replaced in the third by Brad Thiessen. Evgeni Malkin had two assists to boost his point total to 99, tops in the NHL.
Evgeni Nabokov stopped 30 of 32 shots before leaving after two periods with a lower-body injury. Al Montoya made the lead stand up as the Islanders provided a serious speed bump in Pittsburgh’s pursuit of the Rangers for the top spot in the Eastern Conference.
The Penguins have simply dominated the Islanders over the last few years, the two points earned for a victory a nearly foregone conclusion. Pittsburgh came in 18-2-2 in its last 22 games against New York and hadn’t lost to the Islanders at home since Dec. 21, 2007.
New York hadn’t put up much of a fight this season no matter the venue. The Penguins won all four previous meetings, including Sidney Crosby’s spectacular four-point night in his season debut on Nov. 21.
Yet with Pittsburgh streaking toward the playoffs trying to track down the Rangers, the Islanders were in no mood to roll over.
Nielsen took advantage off a long rebound off the end boards to drill the puck into a wide-open net just 3:12 in to give New York an early lead. Pittsburgh swarmed Nabokov early, yet the veteran turned away every opportunity and Grabner made it 2-0 when his wrist shot beat Fleury with just 3 seconds left in the period.
It took the Penguins all of 4:10 to erase the deficit, with Kennedy and Neal scoring within a span of 3 minutes. Suddenly Pittsburgh was rolling while the Islanders were, well, looking like the Islanders.
Then just like that, the bottom fell out for the Penguins.
Though the Penguins dictated play, the Islanders ripped off three goals in a span of 6 minutes late in the period behind an effective counter attack and some weird bounces.
Okposo put New York back in front when a pass to the point hopped over Pittsburgh defenseman Brooks Orpik’s stick, smacked into the boards at center ice and stopped. Okposo streaked by Orpik and flicked a wrister by Fleury.
Ullstrom’s power-play goal put New York up 4-2 and Nielsen capped the outburst by deking past Fleury on a breakaway that ended with Fleury’s mask rolling to the boards following a collision with teammate Paul Martin.
Fleury got up slowly and shook his head as he skated to retrieve his mask. He finished the period but spent the final 20 minutes on the bench as Pittsburgh tried to rally.
It never happened. Neal scored his 37th goal with just under 5 minutes to play but the Penguins would get no closer.