The Islanders scored two goals 35 seconds apart in the third period, but were unable to complete the three-goal comeback, losing 4-2 to the Pittsburgh Penguins Tuesday at Nassau Coliseum. The loss dropped the Islanders to 4-4-1 (nine points), while Pittsburgh improved to 7-3-0 (14 points).
After falling behind 3-0 early in the third, the Islanders surged back, beginning with a great individual effort by Kyle Okposo. Entering the Penguins zone in transition, Okposo’s initial shot was blocked, but the winger fought for the puck and passed across the crease through traffic to Michael Grabner, who scored on a tap-in at 3:14.
Half a minute later, the Islanders climbed to within a goal when Brad Boyes netted his third of the season. Brian Strait’s point shot was blocked and settled in the slot, where Matt Moulson and Boyes each tried to corral the puck. Boyes spun to the left wing, creating an open angle to shoot the puck behind Pittsburgh goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury and in.
“We came back and got into the game,” Islanders Head Coach Jack Capuano said. “I’m happy with the energy and the work ethic our guys showed tonight. We put up 30-plus shots tonight against a good hockey team. It’s not good enough, I realize that. But at the end of the day, we worked pretty hard and had some energy five-on-five.”
After the goal, Pittsburgh called its timeout and settled the play down.
With the game still 3-2, Evgeni Nabokov was pulled for an extra attacker with about a minute left. Soon after, Pascal Dupuis scored an empty-net goal to put the game out of reach.
After the game, Islanders captain Mark Streit provided his diagnosis of what went wrong for the team.
“We have to get shots on the net,” Streit said. “We need to get to the rebounds first. I think we can improve. We had a lot of chances and Fleury made some really good saves, you have to give him credit, but at the end of the day, we have to score on the power play. We have five great players on the ice and need to be better.”
James Neal put the Penguins up in the opening minutes with his sixth goal of the season. Just six seconds into a Pittsburgh power play, Neal took a feed from Sidney Crosby in the right circle and quickly fired it blocker-side past Nabokov.
Crosby almost scored one of his own a few minutes later, when his shot from the right side got lost under Nabokov’s pads. As it trickled toward the net, Andrew MacDonald dove to sweep the puck off the goal line. After a video review, the play was ruled no goal, and the score remained 1-0.
“I think Nabby was anticipating a pass across the crease,” MacDonald said. “[Crosby] just kind of threw it at his pad, and it ended up stopping at the post. Nabby was lying flat, and the puck started to trickle through his pad towards the line. My backhand and my stick were tied up, so I just took a swat with my hand, and I’m lucky I got it before it crossed the line.”
Midway through the second period, Marc-Andre Fleury made a save on Matt Martin to prevent the tying goal. Martin received a pass in the right circle and hesitated, causing Fleury to drop down. The winger fired the shot high, but Fleury windmilled and got a piece with his glove, sending the puck out of play.
The Martin attempt was a microcosm of the frustrating night for the Islanders, who went 0-for-7 on the power play for the second consecutive game.
“We have to make sure that we get more shots,” Capuano said. “It’s no different than our goals five-on-five: shots and convergence. We had some good looks in the first. When we get that many opportunities, we have to score a goal.
Pittsburgh doubled its lead 16 minutes into the middle frame on a rush through the neutral zone. Chris Kunitz fed a pass across to Simon Despres, who one-timed it past Nabokov’s glove.
Just 1:44 into the third period, Brandon Sutter scored to put Pittsburgh ahead 3-0. Matt Cooke passed from center to Sutter, whose shot caught a piece of Nabokov on its way in.
The Islanders next game is Thursday, Feb. 7, when they make their first trip to Madison Square Garden to take on the New York Rangers. Game time is scheduled for 7 p.m.
New York Islanders
14 Chris Kunitz - 87 Sidney Crosby - 9 PAscal Dupuis
17 Zach Boychuk - 71 Evgeni Malkin - 18 James Neal
24 Matt Cooke - 16 Brandon Sutter - 48 Joe Kennedy
10 Tanner Glass - 46 Joe Vitale - 27 Craig Adams
47 Simon Despres - 58 Kris Letang
44 Brooks Orpik - 7 Paul Martin
5 Deryk Engelland - 41 Robert Bortuzzo
29 Marc-Andre Fleury
92 Tomas Vokoun