The New York Islanders played the Pittsburgh Penguins to a stalemate for 40 minutes, but could not capitalize on an extended power play and lost 2-0 at CONSOL Energy Center Saturday.
Matt Cooke and James Neal scored for the Penguins, handing the Islanders their first loss in four contests while extending their own win streak to 15 games in Jarome Iginla’s first game with Pittsburgh. Evgeni Nabokov turned aside 25-of-27 shots, while Tomas Vokoun saved all 35 attempts at the opposite end for the Penguins.
“We had opportunities at the end of the second and in the third,” Islanders Head Coach Jack Capuano said. “Normally when you don’t capitalize on those opportunities, it’s going to come back to get you. That’s what happened today.”
Sidney Crosby left the game 1:28 into the first period after taking a redirected shot from Brooks Orpik to the mouth. The Penguins were left without another one of their top forwards at 16:23 of the second when Chris Kunitz was given a game misconduct for checking Josh Bailey from behind in the Islanders zone.
Kunitz was also assessed a major penalty, leading to a five-minute Islanders power play that overlapped the second and third periods. The final two minutes of Kunitz’ penalty was a 5-on-3 advantage for the Islanders, as Orpik was given a tripping minor. But the Islanders were unable to solve Vokoun, and momentum shifted back in Pittsburgh’s favor during the third period.
Center John Tavares said after the game that the failed two-man advantage was the turning point of an otherwise neck-and-neck contest.
“That hurt us big time today,” Tavares said. “We had a lot of shots on net, but we didn’t have too many great scoring chances. Obviously, they’re playing well, making things difficult, but I thought we did a pretty good job as well. When you get your chances, you’ve got to find a way to score.”
Vokoun stopped Michael Grabner on a breakaway attempt seven minutes into the final period to keep the game scoreless.
Seconds later, Cooke scored at the other end to give the Penguins a 1-0 lead. Deryk Engelland shot the puck originally from the point, and Nabokov made one of his 25 saves, but the puck found Cooke’s stick as he spun around and fired it home for his sixth goal of the season.
Five minutes later, Neal doubled the Penguins lead. Evgeni Malkin used the boards to clear the defensive zone, finding Neal between the blue lines. The winger led an odd-man rush and banked a wrist shot off Nabokov and in from the right circle.
Nabokov was pulled for the extra attacker with 2:43 remaining, but the Islanders were unable to tie the score.
The Islanders will stop back on Long Island before finishing their four-game road trip on Monday, April 1, when they head to New Jersey to take on the Devils. Puck drop is set for 7:00 p.m. at Prudential Center.
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