The New York Islanders led twice and outshot the opposition 35-25, but the Pittsburgh Penguins broke a 2-2 tie with a pair of third-period goals to earn a 4-2 win Friday at Nassau Coliseum. The loss dropped the Islanders to 13-15-3 this season.
Brandon Sutter’s ninth goal of the season put Pittsburgh ahead 3-2 in the final period of a game in which the Islanders dictated much of the play. Despite two late man advantages, the Islanders were unable to find the equalizer before an empty net goal sealed the result in the final second.
“You only ask for the best of what they have and I thought our guys gave it all they had tonight,” Islanders Head Coach Jack Capuano said. “We sacrificed. We had the will. That’s three games in a row we out-chanced our opponent and lost. We’ve had opportunities to score goals. But we didn’t capitalize. Everything gets magnified when you make one mistake and it’s in the back of your net. It’s not good enough and we’ve got to find ways to win games and get opportunities.”
Islanders Captain Mark Streit’s one-timer found the back of the net at 7:46 of the opening frame to open the scoring. Frans Nielsen won an offensive-zone faceoff to Matt Carkner, who slid the puck along the blue line to Streit for high blast past Penguins goaltender Tomas Vokoun.
The Islanders outshot the Penguins 14-3 in the first period and Evgeni Nabokov didn’t face a shot until the 12:53 mark, but the home team only took a 1-0 lead into the first intermission.
Joe Vitale scored eight minutes into the second period to tie the game at one. An Islanders turnover at the blue line made its way to Craig Adams, who fed Vitale. The centerman picked a spot just inside the elbow of the goal post on Nabokov’s glove side.
Josh Bailey re-established the Islanders lead later in the period after a prolonged attack. Travis Hamonic’s shot from the point hit traffic in front before John Tavares sent the puck on net. Vokoun made the original save, but the rebound landed on Bailey’s stick for his fourth of the season at 17:18.
With time winding down in the middle frame, Chris Kunitz evened the score at two with his 19th goal of the season. Pascal Dupuis, Sidney Crosby and Kunitz attacked the zone in transition and Kunitz fired a shot from the high slot that banked off Nabokov’s pads with 14 seconds remaining.
The Penguins took their first lead 1:46 into the third on a Brandon Sutter tally. Matt Cooke initiated a 2-on-1 rush and made a sharp pass to Sutter for a close-range tip past Nabokov.
The Islanders had two power play opportunities in the third and pulled Nabokov for the extra skater with one minute remaining, but were unable to find the equalizer. Dupuis found the empty net with less than a second remaining to cap the scoring at 4-2.
Following the game, Nabokov offered his thoughts on turning around the team’s three-game losing skid.
“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 wrap up a four-game home stand this Sunday, March 24, when the Florida Panthers make their first trip of the season to Nassau Coliseum. Game time is set for 5:00 p.m.
Notes: Matt Martin and Craig Adams were assessed fighting majors at 3:31 of the first period … Matt Carkner’s assist was his first point as an Islander … Both teams went 0-for 2 on the power play … Andrew MacDonald led all players with 23:53 of ice time and six blocked shots … Matt Martin had a game-high seven hits … Josh Bailey led the team with five shots on goal … The Islanders won 23-of-53 faceoffs (43%), despite a 6-of-9 (67%) effort from Kyle Okposo.
New York Islanders
60 Kevin Poulin
14 Chris Kunitz - 87 Sidney Crosby - 9 Pascal Dupuis
19 Beau Bennett - 15 Dustin Jeffrey - 18 James Neal
24 Matt Cooke - 16 Brandon Sutter - 48 Tyler Kennedy
10 Tanner Glass - 46 Joe Vitale - 27 Craig Adams
44 Brooks Orpik - 7 Paul Martin
4 Mark Eaton - 2 Matt Niskanen
47 Simon Despres - 5 Deryk Engelland
92 Tomas Vokoun
29 Marc-Andre Fleury