The New York Islanders played a good game Friday night at the Nassau Coliseum, but against a talented team like the Pittsburgh Penguins, it wasn’t quite enough.
A goal by Chris Kunitz in the final seconds of the second period and Brandon Sutter’s tally just 1:46 into the third erased a 2-1 Islanders lead and gave the Penguins a lead they didn’t relinquish. Tomas Vokoun overcame a shaky start and made 33 saves to earn the win. Mark Streit and Josh Bailey scored the Islanders goals.
“You only ask for the best of what they have and I thought our guys gave it all they had tonight,” Islanders Coach Jack Capuano said. “We sacrificed. We had the will.”
Capuano went on to call this one of the best games his club had played all year.
The first period was clearly a strong one for the Islanders. The home team had the first 13 shots on goal of the game and prevented the Pens from registering a shot on goal for the first 12:53 of the game.
Unfortunately for all of their early dominance, the Isles only led 1-0 on Streit’s fifth goal of the season at the 7:46 mark of the opening period. Streit let go a blast from the point that beat Vokoun who appeared to look vulnerable early in the game.
By the end of the first period, the Isles had outshot the Penguins 14-3 but the game was still 1-0.
In the second period, Pittsburgh got off to a better start and evened the score on a goal by Joe Vitale 8:11 into the second period.
The Islanders got the lead back on Bailey’s goal with 2:42 remaining in the second period. A low hard shot by Travis Hamonic led to a rebound that Bailey converted from the slot.
Unfortunately for the Islanders, the lead lasted only 2:32. Sidney Crosby made a pretty pass to Chris Kunitz who was trailing the play. He beat Nabokov and with 13.8 seconds left and the two teams entered their locker rooms tied 2-2.
The Isles started the third period off badly. A defensive breakdown led to a 2-on-1 break and Matt Cooke found Brandon Sutter who guided the puck into the empty side of the net and put the Penguins ahead to stay.
The Isles had a final power play chance with 3:21 remaining, but the Pittsburgh penalty kill kept the Islanders to the outside and did not allow any quality scoring chances.
Pascal Dupuis added an empty net goal with one second left to give Pittsburgh their final margin of victory.
The Islanders played a much stronger game tonight, but the result was still the same.
“I think it’s all about confidence right now,” Nabokov said. “It comes downs to us believing in ourselves to be confident. We have to find it, and quickly. We’ll be fine. I have to find a way to cut it down to one or two goals and do my best, regardless of whether it’s a screen shot, or rebound, or deflection. I have to find a way to make a save for the boys.”
The Islanders return to action Sunday when they host the Florida Panthers. Islanders tickets for this and other games are available.
Matt Carkner assisted on Streit’s goal to pick up his first point of the season.
Evgeni Malkin, Tyler Kennedy, Robert Bortuzzo and Kris Letang were scratched by the Penguins while the Islanders sat Radek Martinek, Thomas Hickey and Eric Boulton.