Marc-Andre Fleury made 33 saves while Pascal Dupuis, Richard Park and Jordan Staal scored goals to lead the visiting Pittsburgh Penguins to a 3-0 win over the New York Islanders at the Nassau Coliseum Tuesday night. It was the Isles third consecutive loss.
The Isles outshot the Penguins 33-29, but Pittsburgh’s defense did a very good job of preventing rebounds and keeping the Isles on the perimeter for most of the game. The Penguins blocked 26 shots in the game, led by Matt Niskanen and Deryk Engelland who each had five. Fleury took care of the rest.
“They are a really good shot blocking team,” Isles center John Tavares said after the game. “Guys really sacrifice their bodies well and that’s what it takes to win. You’ve got try to get pucks by them and get sticks on pucks in front of the net.”
While the Islanders were frustrated by their failure to score, Coach Jack Capuano felt his club played better offensively then they did during their recent two game road trip to Tampa Bay and Florida. ““We did a pretty good job of going to the net,” Capuano explained. “When our ‘D’ had the puck up high, we had some extended zone time. I thought structure-wise we were good in the offensive zone. We had net presence. Fleury made some pretty good saves. I thought he played extremely well tonight and I thought his team in front of him played well too.”
The Penguins got all the scoring they needed late in the first period when Brooks Orpik made a beautiful outlet pass to Dupuis who had snuck behind the Islanders defense and came in on a breakaway. He lifted the puck over the arm of Isles starter Evgeni Nabokov to give Pittsburgh a 1-0 lead with 2:54 left in the opening period.
The Isles had their best scoring chances in the closing seconds of period when Tavares had a partial breakaway but Fleury made the stop and then froze P.A. Parenteau’s rebound attempt to keep the Islanders off the board.
Ex-Islander Richard Park made it 2-0 Pittsburgh just 21 seconds into the middle stanza when he took possession of the puck at the left circle, hesitated and cut to the center of the ice before beating Nabokov with a hard wrist shot.
The Isles seemed to be picking up some offensive momentum early in the third period but a double minor to Marty Reasoner for high sticking derailed the Isles mojo and gave the Penguins a four minute power play. Nabokov was at his best killing this penalty to help keep his club in the game.
Jordan Staal iced the win for Pittsburgh with an empty net goal with exactly two minutes remaining in the game.
“I think we played better than we played on the road,” Nabokov said. “It was a lot of effort. We worked hard and we had the momentum but we never got on the board.”
The Islanders return to action Thursday night against these same Penguins in Pittsburgh.
When asked what his club had to do to win the return match-up with the Pens, Tavares paused and said, “Be a little smarter with the puck at times and a little smoother with our breakouts and our D zone coverage.” Then he added, “Obviously, we also have to find a way to score.”
Rick DiPietro has been cleared to return to action and served as Nabokov’s backup tonight. Trevor Gillies and Al Montoya were healthy scratches while Milan Jurcina remains out with an injury. Jurcina is very close to returning according to Capuano.
The Penguins scratched Mark Letestu and Steve MacIntyre while Zbynek Michalek is out with an injury.