Facing one of the Eastern Conference’s elite teams, the New York Islanders exploded for five goals in the first 40 minutes en route to a 5-3 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins Tuesday night.
The Islanders scored three goals in 6:40 to break open a 2-2 game in a wild second period and chased goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. It was the Islanders first win in Pittsburgh since Dec. 21, 2007 and first at Consol Energy Center.
“We capitalized on our opportunities tonight,” Kyle Okposo said. “We didn’t have a ton, but we didn’t give up a lot of second and third opportunities and when we did our goalies were there to bail us out.”
The Islanders jumped out to an early lead as Frans Nielsen finished a backdoor rebound from Pittsburgh native Dylan Reese at 3:12. The Islanders seized the momentum early, but the Penguins responded by putting 17 shots on Evgeni Nabokov. Nabokov was equal to the task and after killing a late penalty, Michael Grabner beat Fleury with a soft wrister to put the Isles up 2-0 at 19:55.
The Penguins answered back early in the second scoring two goals by the 4:10 mark. Tyler Kennedy tipped in a Pascal Dupuis shot at 1:42 and James Neal blasted a one-timer 2:28 later to tie the score. Jack Capuano called a time-out right after to settle down his team.
“They came out hard in the second period,” Capuano said. “[I told them to] just get back to basics and what we did in the first period. Just relax a little bit.”
The Islanders responded as Okposo netted his third goal in as many games to put his team back up by one. Just over two and a half minutes later, David Ullstrom re-established the Isles two-goal lead with a power play marker. Nielsen poured it on at the end of the period as he scored his second goal of the game, avoiding a charging Fleury sliding the puck into the empty net.
“We started the second period bad,” Nielsen said. “We thought it was going to be easy at first, but that was a good wake-up call and the last 30 minutes I thought we played a pretty solid game.”
Both teams made goaltending changes at the start of the third period, as Brad Thiessan and Al Montoya replaced Fleury and Nabokov. Fleury was pulled after allowing five goals on 18 shots and Nabokov left with a lower body injury. Montoya stopped 21 of 22 in relief while Nabokov stopped 30 of 32.
“He was good,” Capuano said of Montoya. “I just told him to go in there and play nice and relaxed. He went in there and made some huge saves for us throughout that period.”
Nielsen’s three-point game gives him eight over his last five games (4g/4a) and six in his last three (3g/3a). Josh
Bailey had three assists to extend his points-streak to five games (1g/6a). This was the third time the Islanders scored five goals before the end of the second period (10/13 vs. TBL and 12/3 at DAL).
After a five-game, two-week road trip, the Islanders return home Thursday to face the Penguins in the back-end of a home-and-home. Puck drop of the Isles and Pens series finale is at 7 p.m.