-Greetings on a brilliant first day of daylight savings time. It's in the high 60s and sunny. Those big piles of snow are melting in the parking lots. People are out in shorts. It's a fantastic day to be outside. It also means the playoffs are approaching.
-A nice day looking down (or up?) Forbes Avenue:
-First things first, the Penguins will be without Evgeni Malkin today as he is sidelined due to an "upper-body" injury he suffered when Toronto's James van Riemsdyk blasted him into the boards last night in Toronto. The team is expected to have an update on him tonight. Dan Bylsma said a head injury is not a concern with this injury.
-That means the Penguins will have to once again turn to Brandon Sutter as its No. 2 center. He has shown in recent weeks he is more than capable of filling that role.
-The Penguins will start Tomas Vokoun in net. Will he be the goaltender who shut things down in Philadelphia Thursday or will he be the goaltender who struggled against the likes of the Panthers two weeks ago? He needs to find consistency.
-What will the Penguins' defense look like tonight? The Maple Leafs shredded the Penguins last night, particularly on the power play. The Islanders torched the Capitals for three power play goals yesterday. They could do some damage against the Penguins tonight.
-With Sidney Crosby going alone tonight (minus Malkin) we would fully expect the Islanders to try and load up defensively against the Penguins' top line. So expect Sidney Crosby to see plenty of Andrew MacDonald tonight. MacDonald seems to have a strong history of limiting Crosby somewhat.
-There were a few bits sourness between these two teams when they last met Feb. 5. Tanner Glass tried to fight Colin McDonald but had Matt Martin step in and Chris Kunitz dropped MacDonald with a late hit in that game. Will there be any scores to settle tonight?
-Evgeni Nabokov gets the start in net for the Islanders. He got lit up by the Penguins for three goals on 25 shots Feb. 5 but he still has strong career numbers against the Penguins with a 10-3-0 record, a 1.80 goals against average, .938 save percentage and two shutouts.
-It wouldn't be surprising to see the Penguins come out flat in this game. It's the second game of back-to-back nights and coming off an emotional roller-coaster win without the services of Malkin.
-Plus, the Penguins are 0-2-0 at home against the Islanders since erecting the Rich Pilon/Jeff Norton statue.
-Tyler Kennedy is on the cover of ice time:
-Mark Letestu has a fan:
-There is a smattering of Islanders fans present. John Tavares:
-Fans coming into the barn:
-It's still weird seeing the Civic Arena sight without the building itself:
-Jersey of the Night: Former Islanders and Penguins forward Zigmund Palffy:
-The Penguins' starters are Matt Cooke, Tyler Kennedy, Brandon Sutter, Paul Martin, Brooks Orpik and Tomas Vokoun.
-Their scratches are Robert Bortuzzo, Deryk Engelland and Evgeni Malkin.
-The scratching of Engelland is surprising considering he seemed to have a strong game last night.
-The Islanders' starters are Brad Boyes, Matt Moulson, John Tavares, Travis Hamonic, Andrew MacDonald and Evgeni Nabokov.
-Their scratches are Keith Aucoin, Eric Boulton and Joe Finley.
-No Jimerson. No photo.
19:16: Thomas Hickey collecs a loose puck ot the left point and drives a slapper on net. Vokoun fights it off despite a screen.
18:41: Off a poor neutral zone turnover by Sidney Crosby, Kyle Okposo races up the left wing and ka-booms a slapper on net. Vokoun kicks it out of play.
17:16: The great Joe Vitale weaves his way up ice through the neutral zone, gains the New York blue on the left wing and gets deep on Radek Martinek. He fligs a backhander on net which Nabokov steers away.
16:00: It looks like Dustin Jeffrey is manning the center position on the seocnd line between James Neal and Beau Bennett for the time being.
15:25: Crosby snaps a pass to the crease from behind the net to Dupuis in the crease. Dupuis tries to whacks it in but no dice. Crosby crashes it and tries to push it by Nabokov who falls on his butt. Nabokov holds it at bay as a massive scrum collects in the blue pain. Nabokov takes a swipe at Crosby from his butt. Crosby punches back. Officials break it up. Crosby and Nabokov each get roughing minors. David Ullstrom will serve Nabokov's minor. Four on four.
15:04: Kunitz moves into the offensive zone and snaps off a wrister from the slot. Nabokov fights it off. Jeffrey is to the left of the cage but can't get a clean handle on the rebound.
13:31: Josh Bailey pushes the puck up deep on t \he left wing but is nocked off the puck off a meaty check into the boards by Despres.
13:18: The minors to Crosby and Nabokov expires. Sutter leads a rush into the offensive zone and leaves a drop pass above the left circle. Despres picks it up and whips a whister on net. Nabokov eats it up.
12:50: Double-digits for Dupuis. Fighting off check from Hamonic in the right circle, Crosby taps a backhanded pass to Kunitz on the right wall. Kunitz slide it down low to Dupus on the goal line in the right corner. Dupuis immediately fires it at the cage. It clinks off the near post, bounces off Nabokov's left skate and trickles into the net. A bad goal for Nabokov to allow. Dupuis now has 10 goals. Each of those players on that first line no has 10 or more goals this season. Kunitz and Crosby get assists. The "Hey Song" is played. Penguins 1-0.
10:41: Paul Martin is in deep on the right wing and deals a pass from below the goal line to Tyler Kennedy in the right circle. Kennedy snaps off a wrister which is blocked by Moulson.
8:16: Kennedy steals a drop pass by Tavares at the Penguins' blue line, reverses ice and leads a rush the other way. Brady Boyes trips him up in front of the visiting penalty box is penalized for tripping. Nice shift for Kennedy. Letang, Martin, Neal, Kunitz and Croby take the ice.
7:36: A bad spot here for the Islanders. Hamonic clears the puck from the left wing corner of his zone. xxx pressues with a forecheck. Neal misses the check and hits boards. Hamonic looks at him and sort of gets teh stick up a litle high and pushes Neal who falls a little too easily. Officials buy Neal's embellishment. The Penguins will have 1:20 of a five-on-three power play. Crosby, Neal, Bennett, Kunitz and Letang take the ice.
7:24: Neal and Bennett each have chances in tight but can't beat Nabokov.
7:05: Crosby lifts a wrister from the left circle to the far side and it hits the far post.
6:14: Crosby corrals a loose puck on the right half wall and deals to Neal down low on teh goal llien to the right of the cage. neal pushe a puck to Kunitz above the plu epain and Kunitz re-directs it by the left skate of Nabokov. That looked too easy. Neal and Crosby get assists. There are still 38 seconds of power play time remaining on a one-man advantage. The "Hey Song" is played. Penguins 2-0.
4:43: Mark Streit takes a pass down low and tries to jame in a backhander on Fleury from the left of the cage. There's a pile-up of bodies in the crease as the puck sits loose to the left of the net. Officials blow play dead as they loose track of the puck.
3:43: MacDonald flips a puck out of play from his on zone. That's delay of game. Another power play for the Penguins. Kunitz, Crosby, Neal, Martin and Letang take the ice. The Islanders need a kill here badly.
3:19: So pretty. Crosby gains the offensive zone on the right wing. From the right point, he deals a boucing pass to Kunitz in the slot. Kunitz kicks the puck to Neal in the right circle. Neal backhands a pass back to Kunitz above the crease and Kunitz taps it in with his forehand for an easy goal. The Islanders looked very lost on that play. Neal and Crosby get assists. Penguins 3-0.
1:41: Boyes tries to push the puck up the left wing but is met at the Penguins' blue line by Eaton. Eaton separates him from the puck takes the worst of the hit and ends up on his backside. He took one for the team there.
0:00: End of period. Penguins 3, Islanders 0.
-What a period for the Penguins. They started out flat for two or three shifts but took advantage of some penalties and jumped out to a big lead. They completely overwhelmed the Islanders in that 20 minutes.
-The Penguins took advantage of the Islanders down low primarily on their goals. The Islanders, in some ways, looked like the Penguins have recently in terms of defending the blue paint. The last two goals each came from down low near the blue paint.
-The chemistry Crosby had with his wingers right now is scary. Crosby, Kunitz and Dupuis are just tuned in right now. All three have double-digit goal totals. Can any other line in the NHL boast that?
-Aside from Brooks Orpik and Paul Martin, the Penguins seemed to mix and match the other two pairings quite a bit.
-It would be a stretch to say Dustin Jeffrey stood out in the first period on the second line.
-Vokoun had few tests and looked pretty strong. For the most part, he didn't have too much heavy lifting.
-If there's reason for concern, it's that the Penguins have a pretty healthy recent history of not hanging on to big leads.
-The Penguins lead in shots, 12-4.
-Chris Kunitz leads the game with three.
-None of the Islanders has more than one.
-Letang leads the game with 9:47.
-Streit leads the Islanders with 8:11.
-The Penguins control faceoffs, 13-5 (72 percent).
-Crosby is 5 for 7 (71 percent).
-Marty Reasoner is 2 for 3 (67 percent).
-Streit lead sthe game with three blocked shots.
-No one else has more than one.
-EN reader Max Rickard found the jersey foul of the night, a re-purposed Jordan Staal jersey:
18:38: Hickey controls a puck at the left point and chops a slapper on net. It hits a body or two and deflects wide.
15:27: After a few stagnant minutes, Moulson has a chance in the slot stripped by Letang and Sutter.
15:01: Niskanen is paired with Despres. Off a offensive zone faceoff win in the left circle by Crosby, Despres taps a pass to Niskanen near center point. Niskanen whacks a one-timer which Nabokov gloves.
14:41: Crosby circles the offensive zone with the puck and slides a pass to Niskanen at the left point. Niskanen drives a one-timer which Nabokov kicks out.
13:14: Seems like Eaton and Letang are paired together. Those two worked together in Letang's first two full seasons in the NHL.
11:53: A mistake by Despres leads to a goal. Casey Cizikas deals a pass to Boyes on the right wing. Despres tries to adjust to the pass but tumbles at the blue line. That creates a partial three-on-one against Niskanen. Boyes moves in on the right wing. As Niskanen slides down to block a pass or low shot, Boyes snaps off a wrister to the far side which toasts Vokoun's glove hand. That was more unlucky for Despres than anything else. Cizikas and Moulson get assists. Penguins 3-1.
10:58: The Islanders nearly get another one but before Grabner can backhand a puck into the net from the right of the cage, the net comes off its moorings.
9:01: Moulson snaps off a wrister from the left point which is blocked by Jeffrey.
8:36: Martinek lifts a wrister from the left circle which Vokoun fights off.
8:04: After Bennett steals the puck off Ullstrom at the left point, Neal leads a two-on-two rush with the great Joe Vitale up the ice. As Kennedy drive to the net, Neal cuts tot he slot and snaps off a wrister which is off the mark.
7:01: Attendance is announced as 18,634. It is the team's 265th consecutive sell-out. After an icing call, the Penguins call a time-out to get a breather.
6:26: Hat trick. Or, given tonight's giveaway, a sock monkey trick. Crosby drives up the right wing and leaves a drop pass for Letang in the right circle. Letang steps up and cranks a one-timer on net. Nabokov is square to the shot and kicks it out. There's a juicy rebound in front of the crease. Kunitz drives between two defenders and pokes it behind Nabokov. That's a hat trick. His second of the season. Hats and sock monkeys rain down on the ice. Letang and Crosby get assists. The "Hey Song is played. Penguins 4-1.
6:10: And the rout is on. Letang chips a puck from the left wing corner of his own zone up the boards. Nielsen failes to keep a puck in at the left point. Neal gets behind Hamonic, picks up the puck at the New York blue line and races in on a breakaway. neal approaches the net and releases a lethal wrister which beat Nabokov low. The Penguins are rolling. Letang gets the only assist. The "Hey Song" double shifts. Penguins 5-1.
4:28: MacDonald settles a loose puck it the slot and snaps off a wrister which is blocked.
3:33: Hamonic tees up a slapper form the left point which hits a stick in front.
2:40: Boyes chips a little shot from the left circle. Vokoun gloves it.
0:35: The Penguins can't escape the penalty cleanly as Martin is called for holding Colin McDonald. Letang, Sutter, Orpik and Adams take take the ice.
0:01: Tavares steals a puck of the right wing corner and drives to the Penguins' net. He tries to jam in a forehand shot but the puck hops up on him. Orpik slams Tavares to the ice for his troubles.
0:00: End of period. Penguins 5, Islanders 1.
-After starting off the first half of the second period fairly stagnant, the Penguins really turned things on and started t bury the Islanders. This is one of the most dominating and complete efforts the Penguins have had in a quite a while.
-The part which has stood out the most to us is how little time the Islanders have been afforded to work with the puck. Everything the Penguins did wrong in their own zone last night, they're doing correctly today.
-Kunitz is just tuned in right now. What else can you say?
-The "new" defensive pairings seem to be working out well. Eaton seems to have re-established the chemistry he had with Letang a long time ago while Niskanen and Despres seem comfortable with one another.
-The Islanders have looked pretty flat. There not winning a ton of puck battles.
-The Penguins lead in shots, 17-10.
-Kunitz leads the game with five shots.
-Boyes and Nielsen each lead the Islanders with two.
-Streit leads the game with 16:11 of ice time.
-Martin leads the Penguins with 15:58.
-The Penguins lead in faceoffs, 20-13 (61 percent).
-Sutter is 7 for 11 (64 percent).
-Reasoner is 2 for 3 (67 percent).
-Streit leads the game with four blocked shots.
-Letang leads the Penguins with two.
-Tonight's giveaway with our thumb conveniently placed over the corporate logo of a certain competing media company:
20:00: Kevin Poulin has mercifully replaced Nabokov. The Islanders ill have 1:25 of power-play time on fresh ice. Orpik, Dupuis, Adams and Letang take the ice.
19:13: Boyes jabs a one-timer chance from the slot. Vokoun kicks it out.
18:35: The Martin minor expires. The Islanders generated little with that chance.
18:23: Andrew MacDonald fires a slapper form the left point. It sneals through traffic and Vokoun kicks it out.
18:13: Hamonic chucks a wrister on net from the left point. Vokoun knocks it dead and covers.
17:03: Martinek gets a little space on the left wing and deals a pass from the left circle to Moulson above the pain. Moulson can't cleanly take the puck and misses the net. It looked like Cooke pushed Moulson off the puck before he could really shoot it.
15:57: Okposo pushes his way up the right wing, dances around Letang and chucks a wrister on net from a bad angle. Vokoun holds it out.
15:39: Taking a drop pass from Reasoner, Grabner snaps off a wrister from the left circle. Vokoun eats it up.
14:46: After a turnove rby Adams in his own left wing corner, Matt Martin chips a backhander on net from the left circle. Vokoun steers it away. Martinek recovers the rebound on the right wig annd whips it on net. Vokoun holds it off. Orpik and Colin McDonald battle a bit after the whistle but nothing comes of it. The Islanders are actually outshooting the Penguins 19-18 after being down 12-4 after the first period.
13:21: The first line produces again. And this time, it does so ith defense. Kunitz forces MacDonald into a turnrover on the left wing boards of the New York zone. Dupuis takes the puck and deals to Crosby. Crosby deals back to Dupuis who is able to lift a wrister over the glove hand of an helpless Poulin. Yikes. Heck of an effort by Kunitz and Dupuis to force that turnover. Crosby and Kunitz get assists. The "Hey Song" is getting winded. Penguins 6-1.
11:52: The great Joe Vitale snaps off a wrister from above the left circle. Poulin punches it away.
11:34: Orpik is called for hooking Matt Martin in the left left circle of the Penguins' zone. Orpik protests that Matt Martin held his stick. Officials aren't buying it and sent Orpik to the box. Jeffrey, Adams, Martin and Letang take the ice.
10:21: Boyes deals a pass from the left wing corner to the slot. Despres slides down to blocks the pucks.
9:40: Nielsen hammers a on-timer from the right half wall. It hits something in front and hops over the cage.
8:38: Okposo is called for roughing Cooke. Crosby, Dupuis, Neal, Letang and Martin take the ice.
8:13: Martin chops a half slapper from the left point. Dupuis is in front and appears to attempt a re-direction but mises the puck.
7:52: Crosby wheels his way into the offensive zone, fends off Martinek and whips a low wrister from the left circle. Poulin fights it off and covers the rebound.
7:31: Taking a pass at the left point, Niskanen wires a one-timer. Poulin gloves it.
6:38: The Okposo minor is killed. The Penguins didn't so much with that power play but they were experimenting mostly with that chance.
5:20: Tavares deals a puck from the left wing corner to the slot. Before Moulson can get a stick on the puck, Orpik pokes it away. Penguins have been much better in and around their own net.
5:07: Streit hammers a slapper from above the left circle. Vokoun fights off the shot and covers the rebound.
2:47: Martinek tries to tee up a one-timer from the right circle but his stick breaks. Cooke is all over the rebound, pushes it up ice and chips it into the Islanders' zone to get a line change.
2:16: Okposo smacks a onet-imer form the left point. Vokoun kicks it out with his left skate.
0:40: The Penguins take a late penalty as Dupuis is called for hooking. That will deny him a hat trick. Sutter, Adams, Eaton and Despres take the ice.
0:00: End of game. Penguins 6, Islanders 1.
-First things first, Dan Bylsma updated Evgeni Malkin's status. Bylsma described his injury as "upper-body" and it would sideline Malkin one to two weeks.
-Regarding the game, what a dominating and total effort by the Penguins. They played as complete of a game as they have all season. Aside from a few spurts by the Islanders, the Penguins had control of this game for most of the night. They dominated the bulk of puck possession while also limiting the time and space the Islanders had to work on offense.
-The offensive outburst by the Penguins is what will really jump out and justly so, but the part that really stood out to us is what the Penguins did in their own zone. They really cut down on the freedom the Islanders had to work with around the Penguins' net. The Penguins clogged up shooting and passing lanes and forced the Islanders to try and generate junk shots from the perimeter. Unlike last night's game against the Maple Leafs, the Penguins weren't getting cut to shreds by the Islanders' defense. Granted, the Islanders probably aren't as deep on offense as the Maple Leafs, but the Penguins gave them very little to work with.
-A big reason for the improved play seemed to be the "new" defensive pairings. Mark Eaton was reunited with Kris Letang while Simon Despres was teamed with Matt Niskanen. Eaton and Letang worked together quite a bit in 2007-08 and 2008-09 and are familiar with another. Dan Bylsma said the biggest reason he was prompted make those pairings was that it gave him two pairings of right-handed and left-handed defensemen. It seemed to work. All three pairings, including Brooks Orpik and Paul Martin (both left-handed) seemed very comfortable. If not for Despres tripping at his own blue line, the Penguins might have a shutout.
-What a rebound for Tomas Vokoun. Unlike most of his recent starts, the Penguins didn't allow the opponent to set up shop in front of Vokoun too often. That left him to deal with a lot of clean looks from the Islanders' perimeter chances. He looked confident most of the night and kicked out a lot of safe rebounds. Vokoun needed a game like this for a variety of reasons.
-Getting to the offense, how tuned in is that top line? Sidney Crosby, Pascal Dupuis and Chris Kunitz are just a machine right now. They know each other so well. Almost all of their passes are tape to tape. The best part of this line is that all three of them are aggressive on the forecheck. Kunitz is the most physical of that group, but all three create things by pressuring the opposition below the goal line.
-After looking bland most of Saturday night against Toronto, the Penguins' power play came to life tonight. They sliced the Islanders' peanalty kill up early and never looked back.
-Special teams as a whole had an 180 turnaround for the Penguins. After getting flattened by the Maple Leafs last night, the penalty kill really just didn't give the Islanders a thing.
-It would be a stretch to say the second line with Dustin Jeffrey offered much. James Neal did get a breakaway goal but that was more off a fluke bounce from the glass.
-We like the third-line's defensive play quite a bit. Brandon Sutter, Matt Cooke and Tyler Kennedy drew a lot of assignments against the Islanders' top line of John Tavares, Matt Moulson and Brad Boyes and played a big role in limiting the quality of that trio's scoring chances.
-The Islanders looked pretty bad. This was a pretty embarrassing effort which followed a strong game Saturday against the Capitals. Evgeni Nabokov was not sharp and the defender in front of him were probably even worse.
-The Pengins led in shots, 28-24.
-Kunitz and Dupuis each led the game with five shots.
-Kyle Okposo led the Islanders with four.
-Mark Streit led the game with 25:54 of ice time.
-Letang led the Penguis with 23:32.
-The Penguins dominated faceoffs, 39-19 (67 percent).
-Sutter was 12 for 18 (67 percent).
-Tavares was 6 for 20 (30 percent).
-Streit led the game with five blocked shots.
-Paul Martin, Cooke and Letang each had two blocked shots.
-Crosby tied a career-high with five assists. The only other time he did that was in an 8-4 win against the Flyers, Dec. 13, 2006.
-Crosby extended a scoring streak to eight games.
-Kunitz recorded his fourth career hat trick and second this season. He recorded the 198th hat trick in franchise history.
-Letang (197 points) passed up George Ferguson (195) for 37th place on the franchise's all-time scoring list.
-Neal (115) passed up Pete Mahovlich and Terry Ruskowski (114) each) for 71st place.
-EN reader Max Herz spotted a staggering jersey of the night candidate, Zach Boychuk: