Penguins 5, Islanders 1
Playing alongside Mario Lemieux, teenaged Sidney Crosby looked every bit the part of a superstar-in-training, picking up two goals and an assist in leading his Penguins to a 5-1 win on Long Island. Alexei Yashin was the lone Islander on the scoreboard, with his eight goal of the year.
Anyone settling into a Coliseum seat to catch an episode of "The Crosby Show" didn't have to wait long to see the wunderkind at work. Three and a half minutes into the first period, with Asham in the box for putting the puck over the glass, Mario Lemieux set up the Penguins powerplay deep in the right corner. Throwing the puck into the crease set up a rebound off DiPietro's right leg that Crosby stuffed home inside the right post.
The Islanders' recent inability to convert with the man-advantage continued to trouble them in the first period Thursday night, as a pair of powerplays created several chances on Pens netminder Sebastian Caron, but failed to put a point on the board. Some slick skating on the part of Chris Campoli set up one of the Islanders' best chances, as he deked around the Penguins' forwards and put a shot on goal.
Crosby was back at it, with under five minutes left in the period, skating into the Islanders' zone on Lemieux' coattails. Picking up the puck at the right point, he took a few steps and fired a wristshot to the crease, banking it off Mark Recchi's skate past DiPietro, for Recchi's fourth goal of the year. The Pens had a couple of golden chances to built a three-goal lead late in the first, with their second powerplay of the game, but DiPietro stoned the Pittsburgh shooters.
As has been the norm this year, even-strength hockey was in short supply to start the second, as the Islanders killed off the remaining seconds of Mike York's first-period penalty, before picking up another two-minute kill on a hook by Campoli. Even Crosby got in on the special-teams fun, getting whistled for holding, while goading Janne Niinimaa into a roughing penalty of his own, though neither team capitalized on the open ice of the 4-on-4.
Free from the sin bin, Campoli helped pull the Isles within one, making a smooth pass to Arron Asham, from blueline to blueline. Skating in, Asham dropped the puck to a trailing Alexei Yashin, who pulled the trigger on his rocket wrister, beating Sebastian Caron for his eighth goal of the year.
The celebration didn't last long though, as just over two minutes The Penguins' lead would be pushed back to two on Erik Christensen's first NHL goal. A wrist shot from the point deflected twice on its way to DiPietro, and landed in front of an open part of the net, where Christensen jumped on it. Then, with just 38 seconds left, Pittsburgh struck again, on another long-range shot, this time by Ryan Whitney, at the top of the zone. John LeClair got his stick on the puck, tipping it past DiPietro, for a 4-1 lead.
The Islanders' penalty kill punched the clock early in the period once again, as the third period got underway. A high-sticking penalty on Shawn Bates followed a boarding call to Asham, handing the Penguins their fifth powerplay of the night, this time a 5-on-3 opportunity. Working a give-and-go with Lemieux, Crosby tipped a cross-ice pass up and over DiPietro for his second goal of the night.
After putting three shots on goal in the first 1:30 of the third, the Islanders could only muster a pair of shots on Caron over the next 16 minutes, and just three for the remainder of the game. Building up a 10-shot lead, the Penguins penetrated the Islanders' zone with ease, peppering DiPietro with the assist of a powerplay with 9 minutes left. A late Islanders powerplay didn't change matters, as the hosts couldn't put a shot on net before a penalty by Trent Hunter ended the man-advantage.
ICE CHIPS: Three Stars of the Night: 1. Sidney Crosby, 2. Mario Lemieux, 3. Ziggy Palffy... Tomi Pettinen and Eric Godard (healthy scratches) were out of the lineup Thursday for the Islanders, while left wings Shane Endicott (ankle) and Andre Roy (orbital fracture), defensemen Dick Tarnstrom (knee), Josef Melichar (healthy) and Ric Jackman (healthy) and right wing Ryan VandenBussche (healthy) were scratched by Pittsburgh... Thursday's game continued a negative trend this season that's seen the team go 1-5-0 after a win... The Penguins entered the game with the worst penalty kill in the league, stopping just 75-percent of the man-advantages they've faced... Wade Dubielewicz was sent down to the Islanders' AHL affiliate in Bridgeport.
---additional reporting by Brian Bohl
Alexi Yashin on the overall team effort:
"We need to concentrate on every shift and until we do, we'll have games like this. It seems like we were losing focus."
On momentum of the game:
"We had some powerplay chances and Jason Blake hit the post, so things looked like they were going our way, but we didn't seem to do too much to break through."
On the team's upcoming game Saturday against Ottawa:
"It's a big game for us. If we don't play together and play for the puck every shift, we are not going to be successful. We need a find a way to do it (play together.) "
Rick DiPietro on special teams:
"It's all about powerplay and penalty killing. They (Pittsburgh) were able to expose us tonight. We just need to get ready for Saturday."
On facing the line of Crosby, Lemieux, and Recchi:
"Anytime you have a line like they have, they can make you pay and they did that tonight."
On the team's next game:
"Every game is tough, especially if you put teams on the power play. Ottawa is a great offensive team and we just need to play better."
Head Coach Steve Stirling on the turning point of the game:
"When we cut the lead to 2-1, I didn't think we pushed hard enough. We were far too respectful and need to push the envelope."
On the overall state of the team:
"They were far too tentative. I see reluctance to extended themselves and go beyond average."
(79) Alexei Yashin-(12) Oleg Kvasha-(81) Miroslav Satan
(21) Robert Nilsson-(16) Mike York-(37) Mark Parrish
(55) Jason Blake-(17) Shawn Bates-(7) Trent Hunter
(45) Arron Asham-(29) Petteri Nokelainen-(11) Mattias Weinhandl
(77) Alexei Zhitnik-(3) Brent Sopel
(44) Janne Niinimaa-(25) Brad Lukowich
(24) Radek Martinek-(14) Chris Campoli
(39) Rick DiPietro
(30) Garth Snow
(8) Mark Recchi-(87) Sidney Crosby-(66) Mario Lemieux
(12) Ryan Malone-(16) Erik Christensen-(33) Ziggy Palffy
(71) Konstantin Koltsov-(11) Lasse Pirjeta-(10) John LeClair
(17) Matt Murley-(25) Maxime Talbot-(9) Rico Fata
(44) Brooks Orpik-(55) Sergei Gonchar
(3) Steve Poapst-(6) Ryan Whitney
(5) Robert Scuderi-(24) Lyle Odelein
(31) Sebastian Caron
(41) Jocelyn Thibault