-During an informal conversation with Sidney Crosby regarding matchups yesterday, it was learned that opposing centers tend to be a bigger issue for him than defensive pairings. For instance, tonight, he will probably face the Islanders' shutdown defensive duo of Travis Hamonic and Andrew MacDonald. He will also see a lot of Islanders center Frans Nielsen, presumably. As we've seen in the past, Nielsen can give him some fits.
-Presumably, that will open things up for Evgeni Malkin's line. Crosby joked that he would mind seeing opposing teams focus on Malkin more.
-We would anticipate the Penguins encountering a desperate team in the Islanders. New York has lost six consecutive games and things are starting to get a little hot for head coach Jack Capuano. Additionally, there isn't any love loss for the Penguins. This has a "weathering the storm" feel to it for the Penguins to start the game.
-Zach Sill seems set to replace Jayson Megna in the lineup on the fourth lines. We're not sure the move isn't warranted. Megna has shown little on the fourth line in the past handful of games.
-Yesterday, Pascal Dupuis was thanked for using the Post-Gazette as a prop in his new commercial for hockey equipment retailer Pure Hockey:
In the process, he was playfully given grief for not using the location section instead of the sports section. Dupuis informed a Post-Gazette employee the front of that's day sports section had a headline showing that the Penguins had lost a game. The front page of the main section (or A1) had a story about a horrible crime. Figuring neither would be ideal for the commercial, a fairly inert front page for the local section was used instead.
-The Islanders will start Anders Nilsson in net. You may recall him from Crosby's "comeback" game in 2011:
-The Penguins' starters are Sidney Crosby, Pascal Dupuis, Chris Kunitz, Deryk Engelland, Brooks Orpik and Marc-Andre Fleury.
-Their scratches are Robert Bortuzzo and Jayson Megna.
-Their Islanders' starters are Kyle Okposo, John Tavares, Thomas Vanek, Calvin de Haan, Thomas Hickey and Anders Nilsson.
-Their scratches are Eric Boulton, Radek Martinek and Brock Nelson.
19:32: Thomas Hickey booms a slapper from the left point,
18:21: Malkin has a one-timer from the right circle blocked by Nielsen.
17:29: Conner digs a puck out of the right wing corner of the New YOrk zone and tries to jam in the puck. Nilsson smothers it.
17:24: Off an offensive zone faceoff win by the great Joe Vitale, Derryk Engelland booms a slapper from the center point.
16:56: The great Joe Vitale flings a wrister from the left circle. Nilsson fights it off despite Sill crashing in.
15:56: Kyle Okposo has a chance to the left of the cage. Dupuis lifts his stick and prevents a shot.
15:44: Thomas Vanek whacks a slapper from the left circle. Fleury squares up and fights it off.
15:34: Stealing a puck off Hamonic, James Neal whips a quick wrister from the left circle. Nilsson eats it up.
13:31: Maatta flings a wrister from the right point. It is blocked in front.
12:11: Off a neutral zone turnover by Engelland, MacDonald chops a one-timer from the left point which is blocked.
10:41: Dupuis booms a slapper from the right circle. Nilsson squares up and eats up the puck.
10:27: Matta chops a one-timer form the left point wide to the near side.
10:07: Defense leads to offense. Kunitz turns he puck over just inside the Penguins' blue line. Hickey takes the puck and one-touches it to Vanek in the neutral zone. Vanek re-directs it to Tavares who reverses ice. Leading a rush into the offensive zone at center point, Tavares slides a backhanded pass to Okposo on the left wing. Okoposo pushes the puck with a backhander towards the crease. It hits off the stick of Maatta and deflects into Fleury. Letang and Tavares crash into Fleury who allows the puck to deflect into the cage. Officials rule a goal on the ice but consult the video to see if it went in through illegal means. A brief review confirms the legitimacy of the goal. Tavares and Vanek each get assists. Islanders 1-0.
8:26: Hickey has a slapper from the right point blocked by Conner.
7:05: Ouch. Just ouch. Okposo Okpos leads another rush through the neutral zone, gains the offensive zone at center point and slides a pass to Okposo on the right wing. With Tavares driving to the net, Okposo takes his time to wind up and fire a slapper from above the right circle. With Orpik screening, Okposo releases his shot. Fleury makes the save initially but allows the puck to squeak through his gear and into the cage. Fleury's body language afterwards was just ugly. He knew immediately he allowed a weak goal. It gives the Islanders a two-goal lead. Tavares and MacDonald get assists. Islanders 2-0.
6:49: Off some strong board work by Neal, Jussi Jokinen flings a wrister from the right half wall. Nilsson fights it off despite Malkin crashing in.
6:53: Off a faceoff win in the offenive zone by Casey Czikas, MacDonald whips a heavy wrister from center point. Fleury fights it off.
5:51: Dupuis is in the dressing room for undisclosed reasons according to Root Sports broadcaster Bob Errey.
5:24: Crosby, on with Neal and Malkin lifts a wrister from the left circle. Nilsson fights it off.
2:31: Vanek chops a slapper from the right point. It hits a stick and deflects off the end boards. The puck deflects to the left of the cage. Okposo is all over the puck and backhands it by Fleury on the far side and watches it clank off the far post. The Islanders are all over the Penguins' zone this shift.
1:55: The Penguins get an important power play as Vanek is called for holding Malkin's stick. Malkin, Neal, Letang, Kunitz and Crosby take the ice.
1:22: Off a feed by Letang, Malkin leans down and booms a one-timer from the right circle. Nilsson eats it up.
0:49: Letang whacks a one-time from the left circle wide on the near side.
0:37: The hole get sdeeper for the penguins as Ness high sticked Letang in the Islanders' left wing corner. That will give the Penguins a two-man advantage for 42 seconds. A goal here is a must. Letang, Crosby, Malkin, Neal and Kunitz take the ice.
0:11: Off a feed by Letang, Malkin booms a one-timer from above the right circle. It hits a stick in front.
0:06: Letang sets up Malkin again above the right circle. Malkin uncorks a one-timer which Nilsson boots out.
0:00: End of period. Islanders 2, Penguins 0.
-In our pregame notes, we talked about Nielsen being matched up against Crosby. Lo and behold, Nielsen has drawn a ton of assignments versus Malkin. In turn, Tavares' line has been on the ice against Crosby's line and as a result, that line has produced both goals in this game.
-The first goal was hardly a nice, dirty goal. The second goal was in excusable. Fleury can't allow that. Period.
-As usual, the Islanders' speed through the neutral zone is giving the Penguins fits.
-The Penguins' defensive pairing of Maatta and Letang hasn't seemed comfortable tonight.
-The Penguins have a 10-9 edge in shots on net.
-The Islanders have a 22-17 lead in attempted shots.
-Okposo and Malkin each lead the game with three shots.
-Crosby leads the game with 9:02 of ice time.
-MacDonald leads the Islanders with 08:45.
-The Penguins have a 7-6 lead in faceoffs (54 percent).
-Malkin is 3 for 4 (75 percent).
-Cizikas is 2 for 4 (50 percent).
-Engelland leads the game with two blocked shots.
20:00: The Penguins will have a brief five on three to start the period. Crosby, Letang, Malkin, Neal and Kunitz take the ice.
19:51: The Vanek minor expires. The Penguins still have 1:18 of a five-on-four to work with.
19;23: Neal leans down and whips a one-timer from the right circle. Nilsson fights it off.
19:06: A half slapper by Neal from the left circle is fought off by Nilsson.
18:31: The Ness minor expires. The Penguins posed little threat with that prime chance.
18:20: Orpik sails a wrister from center point wide to the left of the cage.
17:52: Matt Niskanen whacks a one-time from the left point. It hits off the end boards and rolls up the back of the cage. Nilsson turns around and covers the puck on top of the cage. That puck had trouble written all over it.
16:29: Craig Adams whacks a slapper from the right wing wide to the far side.
16:14: From below the goal line, Sutter deals a pass to Adams in the right circle. Adams hammers a one-timer wide.
15:55: Sill (6-foot-0, 202 pounds) drops Matt Carkner (6-foot-5, 234 pounds) with a strong forecheck into the left wing corner of the New York zone.
15:48: A wrister by Maatta from the right point is blocked by de Haan.
15:14: MacDonald booms a slapper from the left point. Fleury boots it out.
13:58: Niskanen chucks a wrister from center point. It hits off the end boards and Nilsson smothers the rebound to the right of the cage.
12:23: Conner tries to chip and chase a puck up the left wing boards. de Haan wipes him out with a thump into the boards.
11:34: Racing after a dump into the Penguins' right wing boards, Engelland puts reverse hit on Clutter buck and sends him sprawling to the ice.
10:56: Kunitz is on with Andrew Ebbett and Brandon Sutter. Ebbett pushes the puck up the right wing and centers a pass to Kunitz in the slot. Kunitz taps the puck wide to the left of the cage.
9:31: Leading a rush up the right wing, Malkin challenges de Haan one-on-one. de Haan holds his ground and forces Malkin to lose the puck. Neal follows up on the loose puck and jabs it on net. Nilsson eats it up.
9:10: Malkin is on with Crosby and Neal.
8:41: Crosby backhands a pass from the right wing corner of the New York zone to Letang in the left circle. Letang pokes the puck wide on the near side. The puck hits off the end boards and Crosby tries to jam it in from the right of the cage. Nilsson scrambles to fight it off.
8:25: Letang tees up a slapper from the right point. It hits off the stick of Jokinen and deflects off the near post.
8:11: Off a neutral zone turnover by Jokinen, Pierre-Marc Bouchard has a chance in the Penguins' right circle. Maatta closes in and deflects Bouchard's shot over the cage.
7:52: Dupuis tries to jam in a backhanded wraparound from the left of the cage. Nilsson holds it out.
6:54: Michael Grabner has some space to work with on the right wing. He lifts a wrister which Fleury bats away with his glove hand.
6:38: Bailey flings a wrister from the left point. Fleury hugs it against his chest.
5:13: Neal comes in flying on a forecheck and slams MacDonald into the New York offensive zone. That earns Neal a questionable elbowing minor. Root Sports showed Neal and an official having a conversation before the previous faceoff. Not sure if that was related to this. Dupuis, Orpik, Letang and Sutter take the ice.
3:13: Two minutes later, the Neal minor expires with the Islanders failing to record a shot on net.
2:31: A slapper by Niskanen from the right point is blocked by Matt Martin. Martin is hobbled a bit afterwards.
2:17: Simon Despres launches a wrister from the right point over the cage.
2:08: A wrister by Crosby from the right circle is blocked wide.
0:49: Sutter gets a step on the right wing and flings a wrister on net. Nilsson fight if off.
0:44: Dupuis is battling for position in front of Nilsson. Tavares knocks him down.
0:37: Crosby steals a puck on the right wing boards and backhands a pass to Letang above the right circle. Letang rips a wrister from above the left circle. Nilsson gloves it.
0:15: The Penguins get busy down low and cash in. Malkin carries a puck below the goal line and sneaks a backhanded pass to Neal position to the right of the cage. Neal is able to jab in a shot behind a scrambling Nilsson. Malkin and Kunitz get assists. Islanders, 2-1.
0:00: End of period. Islanders, 2, Penguins 1.
-The Penguins were a lot better that period and as a result, they're on the scoreboard.
-The Penguins' puck management was infinitely better that period than it was in the second. They weren't quite as sloppy with it.
-We're not sure if it was a byproduct of fewer turnovers by the Penguins, but the Islanders weren't quite as effective with their speed.
-The Penguins shuffled their lines quite a bit that period.
-Another strong game for the Penguins' special teams thus far.
-Neal got pretty aggressive with forechecking on the Islanders' defensemen in the latter stages of that period.
-Fleury was solid that period but hardly tested.
-Nilsson (6-foot-5, 227 pounds) has looked strong most of the night. He's a big body and covers a lot of space.
-The Penguins have an 18-17 edge in shots.
-The Penguins have a 45-37 lead in attempted shots.
-Neal leads the game with five shots.
-Grabner and Okposo each lead the Islanders with three shots.
-Hamonic leads the game with 17:43 of ice time.
-Crosby leads the Penguins with 16:50.
-The Penguins have a 16-14 lead in faceoffs (53 percent).
-The great Joe Vitale is 4 for 5 (80 percent).
-Tavares is 4 for 6 (67 percent).
-Niskanen, Engelland and de Haan each lead the game with two blocked shots.
19:30: Off a rush into the offensive zone, Crosby lifts wrister from the right circle. Nilsson smothers it.
16:43: Letang rips a wrister from the right circle. Nilsson fends it off.
15:38: The great Joe Vitale leads a rush into the offensive zone and leaves a drop pass for Sill on the left wing. From above the left circle, Sill releases a wrister. Nilsson fights it off. Vitale crashes in and jabs at the rebound which Nilsson fights off.
14:33: Off a drop pass by Jokinen, Neal rips a wrister from the right circle. Nilsson deflects it out of play.
13:18: Another power play for the Penguins. Ness clips Malkin in the face in front of the New York cage. It's another high sticking minor for Ness. Malkin, Crosby Neal, Kunitz and Letang take the ice. This is a big two minutes.
13:07: So much for that two minutes. From center point, Letang forces a bad pass to Malkin at the right half wall. The pass is telegraphed and Grabner intercepts it. He deals a pass to Nilsen who sneaks behind Letang and off on a breakaway. As Letang hooking him, Nielsen snaps off a wrister which Fleury kicks out. Officials award Nilesen a penalty shot. Nielsen takes the puck at center ice, moves in slowly down the slot and goes backhand to forehand. Fleury stretches out his right leg and denies Nielsen's low shot with his skate. HUGE save. Letang owes Fleury a beer.
12:03: Persistence pays off. Malkin has a wrister from the left circle blocked by a sliding Hickey. Malkin recovers the rebound on the right half wall and deals to Crosby in the right circle. Crosby uncorks a one-timer from above the right dot and through Nilsson's five hole. Mlakin gets the only assist. Islanders 2, Penguins 2.
11:23: Orpik and Martin collide in the neutral zone and mix it up a bit. Both players get minors, Orpik for holding the stick and Martin for roughing. Officials had a short leash there. Four on four for two minutes.
9:51: With some space to work with, MacDonald tees up a slapper from above the left circle. Fleury eats it up.
9:16: Hamonic chucks a heavy wrister from the right point. Fleury fights it off with a "thud."
8:20: Ness whips a wrister on net from the right point which hits a stick in front and deflects out of play.
7:59: From the right point, Letang whacks a loose puck at the cage. It hits a stick and deflects wide.
7:44: Maatta lifts a wrister from the right point on net. Nilsson fights it off.
6:59: Niskanen flings a wrister from the right point wide to the far side.
6:44: Robbery. Pure and simple robbery. Jokinen snaps off a wrister from the left circle. Malkin pokes the rebound to Neal position on the right of the cage. Neal sweeps the puck on net with a forehand shot. Nilsson gets enough of the puck and somehow keeps it out of the cage. The puck comes to rest between his left leg and one of straps of his pad. A massive scrum breaks out. Official break it up. What a save by Nilsson.
4:26: Malkin tries to tuck in a shot from the right of the cage. Nilson holds it out.
4:02: Off some strong work in the left corner of the Islanders' zone by Adams, Neal whips a wrister on net from the left half wall. Nilsson says no.
3:50: From below the goal line, Conner tries to set up Ebbett with a chance to the left of the cage. An Islanders defender fights it off.
2:31: Off a feed by Malkin, Neal rips a wrister from the right circle over the a cage.
2:13: Backpedaling from the left point, Despres booms a slapper from the center point. Nilsson kicks it out.
1:47: As Despres release a wrister from the right circle, play is blown dead. Malkin is seen hovering over Tavares in the neutral one. Rplay shows Malkin tripping Ness behind the New York net. As play moves up ice, Tavares slashes Malkin with his stick. Malkin cross checks Tavares. Officials actually let play continue on for quite a while before finally blowing a whistle. Malkin ends up with a minor for cross checking. That's poor discipline by Malkin. The Islanders call a timeout to get organized. Adams, Sutter, Letang and Orpik take the ice.
0:35: Letang pokes at the back of Vanek's legs twice in the slot. Vanek either trips or takes a dive each time. No penalty either way.
0:23: Vanek responds by slashing Niskanen's legs in the neutral zone. That gets called. We'll have four on four play for 36 seconds.
0:00: End of period. Islanders 2, Penguins 2.
-The Penguins have a 30-23 lead in shots on net.
5:00: The period will begin with a brief three-on-three situation.
4:47: Malkin returns to the ice. The Penguins will have a four-on-three power play for 1:24.
4:10: Off a feed by Malkin, Neal blasts a one-time from the right circle wide to the far side.
3:51: Malkin cranks a one-time from the right circle. It hits off HIckey's stick and deflects on net. Nilsson smothers it. The Penguins call a timeout to get organized.
3:24: Off a feed by Malkin, Letang booms a one-time from the left circle. Nilsson eats it up.
3:33: Crosby has a chance right in front of Nilsson. His wrister is kicked out by
3:23: Vanek's minor expires. The Penguins put a ton of rubber on net with that chance.
1:55: Off a steal by Jokinen, Engelland flings a wrister from the left half wall which is blocked.
1:34: Hamonic snaps off a wrister from left point which is deflected wide.
1:23: Neal cuts inside de Haan and snaps off a wrister from the right cicle wide to the far side.
1:16: Sidney Crosby to the rescue. Vanek tries to skate the rebound off Neal's missed shot up ice but has it stolen by Crosby on the left half wall of the New York zone. Crosby reverses ice at the New York blue line and attacks down the s lot. He stickhandles between de Haan and Hamonic and flips a backhnder by the blocker of Nilsson and into the cage to win the game. What a dominant individual effort by Crosby. The goal is unassisted. End of game. Penguins 3, Islanders 2.
-We're not quite sure we would say the Penguins stole this win. Last week's 6-5 shootout win to the Maple Leafs is probably a better fit for that description. Tonight, the Penguins got two points in a game they tried to giveaway at multiple interludes. Between a leaky goal allowed by Fleury, a turnover by Letang late and a selfish penalty by Evgeni Malkin, the Penguins handed the Islanders every chance to win this game. Despite that, the Penguins got a road win and two points.
-How big was this game for Fleury. Certainly, the were some ghosts from his flameout against the Islanders last season in the playoffs and he looked shaky early in this game, especially after the weak second goal he allowed to Okposo, but he settled down and came up HUGE with a save on a penalty shot by New York's Frans Nielsen in the third period. That was the quintessential Fleury save. When his team needed a save at a key time, he came through and gave his teammate a chance to tie the game. This was a gusty effort by Fleury.
-It's not that hard to figure out how the Penguins' came back to win this game. Their star players came through on offense. Malkin and Crosby, the NHL's two leading scorers, sparked the team's offense and pulled out this win.
-Yet again, special teams were huge for the Penguins. They went 2 for 5 on the power play. and 2 for 2 on the penalty kill. A big part of the Penguins' success this season has been their special teams.
-This game had some shades of becoming a run and gun contest as we normally see between these two teams but for the most part, this wasn't a very wide open game. The teams didn't really go up and down the ice like usual.
-Matchups were kind of all over the place, especially after the Penguins mixed up their lines. The Islanders didn't exclusively on Crosby the way they normally do. Frans Nielsen took a fair amount of faceoffs and shifts against Evgeni Malkin. Ditto the defensive pairing of Travis Hamonic and Andrew MacDonald.
-Anders Nilsson looked pretty good. He took up a lot of space and didn't give the Penguins much to look at tonight. He deserved a better fate.
-It's difficult to say the Penguins got much from their bottom two lines.
-Most of the night, the defensive pairing of Olli Maatta and Kris Letang looked somewhat uncomfortable.
-It was more of the same from Letang. He took some chances which could have hurt his team, none worse than his turnover on a power play late in regulation which led to him hooking Nielsen and giving him a penalty shot. Thankfully for the Penguins and Letang, Fleury came up with a huge save.
-Thomas Vanek look pretty rough the last period of the game. Between his skating, a selfish penalty and a poor turnover, he did not look like a player worthy of the huge bundle of players and draft picks the Islanders gave up to acquired him in a trade.
-Unlike the Nov. 22 contest, Cal Clutterbuck did not have a big impact on this game.
-The Penguins led in shots on net, 34-22.
-The Penguins had a 65-49 lead in attempted shots.
-Neal led the game with eight shots.
-MacDonald led the Islanders with four shots.
-Hamonic led the game with 29:06 of ice time.
-Letang led the Penguins with 27:14.
-The Penguins had a 32-27 lead in faceoffs (54 percent).
-Nielsen was 12 for 20 (60 percent).
-Brandon Sutter was 9 for 16 (64 percent).
-MacDonald and Peter Regin each led the game with three blocked shots.
-Brooks Orpik, Deryk Engelland and Matt Niskanen each led the game with two shots.
-Crosby (37 points) leads Malkin (36) in the scoring race.
-Crosby recorded his sixth career regular season overtime goal. He is tied with Malkin for third most in franchise history. They trail only Jaromir Jagr (9) and Mario Lemieux (7).
-Penguins broadcaster Bob Grove dug up a pretty good statistic here:
-Malkin now has 597 career points.
-The Islanders have lost seven consecutive games.
-The Penguins have won seven consecutive regular season games against the Islanders.
-James Neal moved past Vic Hadfield and Kevin Hatcher for 59th place on the franchise's all-time scoring list. All three players have 140 career points burgh Neal (71) has more goals than Hadfield (61) and Hatcher (45).