Penguins Crush Islanders in Opener
PITTSBURGH – Pascal Dupuis scored twice, Marc-Andre Fleury made 26 saves, and the top-seeded Pittsburgh Penguins opened the playoffs with a 5-0 romp over the New York Islanders on Wednesday night.
Beau Bennett, Kris Letang and Tanner Glass also scored for the Penguins, who had no trouble against the upstart Islanders even with star Sidney Crosby sidelined by a broken jaw. Pittsburgh hardly needed its captain to continue its mastery of the Islanders, who made their first playoff appearance since 2007.
Fleury earned his sixth career playoff shutout.
The Penguins, the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, beat Evgeni Nabokov four times in the game’s first 22 minutes, including goals by Letang and Dupuis 32 seconds apart early in the second period to send Nabokov to the bench after he stopped just 11 shots.
Kevin Poulin came on in relief and surrendered a soft goal to Glass.
Game 2 is Friday in Pittsburgh.
The Penguins hoped to have Crosby back for the first time since he was struck in the face by a puck on March 30 in a game against the Islanders. Doctors, however, declined to clear the NHL’s third-leading scorer, feeling his jaw wasn’t healed enough for contact.
Considering the way his teammates picked up the slack on the first night of what the Penguins hope is a two-month march to the Stanley Cup, there is no need to rush Crosby back.
Pittsburgh rolled to the top of the East even though Crosby missed the final quarter of the season. The Penguins were bolstered by the arrival of trade deadline acquisitions Jarome Iginla, Brenden Morrow, Jussi Jokinen and Doug Murray.
All four players are searching for their first Cup title, and all four made an immediate impact in the series opener. Iginla and Jokinen both had two assists, and Morrow and Murray helped bottle up New York’s quickly improving offense.
Islanders star John Tavares failed to find much room to maneuver and didn’t muster a shot on goal all night. Those who did get pucks in on Fleury didn’t fare any better.
Pittsburgh was one of the NHL’s best defensive teams toward the end of the season and kept it going on Wednesday, keeping the Islanders under wraps even after taking a big lead.
New York coach Jack Capuano insisted his roster – featuring 16 players making their postseason debuts – was ready based on the fact the Islanders had been fighting for a playoff spot for the better part of two months.
The rookie Bennett earned a start over veteran forward Tyler Kennedy due in part to his quick maturation during the season. Playing on one of the NHL’s deepest rosters, the 21-year-old has shown a deft touch around the net and a penchant for avoiding mistakes.
He paid off coach Dan Bylsma’s vote of confidence, needing only 25 seconds of ice time to score his first playoff goal.
The Islanders had nearly killed Brian Strait’s penalty when a clearing attempt hit linesman Greg Devorski at center ice and stopped. Evgeni Malkin brought the puck into the zone and lost control, but Bennett chased it down and raced in on the right side before flipping a shot over Nabokov’s shoulder from in close to give the Penguins the lead 3:30 in.
Dupuis made it 2-0 about 10 minutes later following a mad scramble in front. Craig Adams bullrushed Nabokov at the left post, setting off a chaotic sequence that ended with Dupuis smacking the puck out of the air from 10 feet out. It sailed by a badly out of position Nabokov and into the net.
The situation quickly got worse for New York after the first intermission. The 37-year-old goalie – making his 81st playoff start – had no chance on Letang’s wrist shot from the left circle 1:19 into the second period. Dupuis followed by pouncing on a rebound off Mark Eaton’s shot from the point to push Pittsburgh’s edge to 4-0 and send Nabokov slowly skating to his bench in favor of Poulin.
Bruins 4, Maple Leafs 1
BOSTON (AP) – Nathan Horton scored the go-ahead goal late in the first period and the Boston Bruins used a revived offense to beat the Toronto Maple Leafs in their playoff opener.
The Bruins scored more than three goals for the first time in 10 games. They closed the regular season on a 2-7 skid that dropped them to the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference.
That set up a first-round matchup with fifth-seeded Toronto, the first time the teams have met in the postseason since 1974. The Maple Leafs, who are in the playoffs for the first time since 2004, lost four of their last six regular-season games.
Wade Redden also scored in the first period for Boston, and David Krejci and Johnny Boychuk added goals in the second.
James van Riemsdyk had given Toronto a 1-0 lead with a power play just 1:54 into the game.
Horton gave the Bruins a 2-1 lead at 19:48 of the first period.
Redden, obtained from St. Louis on April 3, took a shot from the top of the right circle. Horton, sidelined the previous five games with an upper body injury, lifted his stick and deflected the puck past goalie James Reimer.
After video review, it was determined that his stick stayed below the crossbar.
Redden tied it at 16:20 with a slap shot from the top of the left circle that went between Reimer’s left arm and left pad.
After Horton gave the Bruins the lead, Toronto had a good chance to tie it. But Tyler Bozak, who missed the previous two games with an upper body injury, was stopped on a breakaway by goalie Tuukka Rask at 8:40 of the second period.
Krejci extended the lead at 10:25 when he gathered a loose puck in the crease, spun around and put a 15-foot shot past Reimer.
The Bruins made it 4-1 just over three minutes later on a shot from the right point by Boychuk.