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ISLANDERS at PENGUINS
(Best-of-7 series tied, 2-2)
TV: TSN, NBCSN, MSG PLUS, ROOT
Big story: The Pittsburgh Penguins will have a new look between the pipes for Game 5 of this Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series against the New York Islanders.
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma announced Wednesday that Marc-Andre Fleury, who started the first four games and has been the club’s No. 1 goaltender since 2005, will be replaced by Tomas Vokoun. Fleury has a 3.40 goals-against average and an. 891 save percentage in the series and allowed six goals on 24 shots in Tuesday’s 6-4 loss at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
Vokoun went 3-0 with a 0.90 goals-against average, a .970 save percentage and one shutout against the Islanders during the regular season.
"We brought Tomas Vokoun in to play big games for us," Bylsma said. "He has done that this year for us and he has been very good in the three games he has played against the Islanders."
Islanders: It hardly mattered to the Islanders that few thought they would even qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. It mattered even less when most “experts” picked them to lose this best-of-7 series to the No. 1 Penguins in no more than five games.
All that matters is that they believe in themselves. That belief – not to mention there’s more talent on the roster than most give them credit for – is why this series became a best-of-3 when they earned a 6-4 victory on home ice in Game 4.
“The last three games have been really good, especially our 5-on-5 play,” Isles winger Colin McDonald said. “Just continue to get pucks in and just play physical and get pucks to the net … really just play a simple game. We’re just a gritty team. We have skilled guys, but I think we play our best when we all play the same way, and that’s just playing simple.”
Penguins: Pittsburgh was picked as a Stanley Cup favorite prior to the start of the season, and that only intensified at the NHL Trade Deadline, when general manager Ray Shero acquired Jarome Iginla, Brenden Morrow and Douglas Murray in separate deals.
As the top seed in the East, the Penguins were expected to make quick work of the Islanders, who entered this first-round series with only 10 players on the roster with prior NHL postseason experience (one is Radek Martinek, who has yet to make an appearance in this series). But these Pens find themselves in a dogfight after dropping Game 4, and they must win two of the next three just to advance to the second round.
The good news is, Game 5 is back in Pittsburgh. Should the series require a seventh game, that too would be played at Consol Energy Center.
“With all the expectations that we have and with the way things have been going, even after Game 1 I think everyone expected it to be an easy series,” Pens defenseman Paul Martin said Wednesday. “It’s something that we as players definitely didn’t. Obviously, we haven’t played our best hockey yet. But we can’t change anything about what’s happened already. Our focus moving forward is the preparation and getting ready for this next game.
“It’s a best-out-of-3 now. We’re confident in the group that we have. We just have to make sure that we’re playing better.”
Who's hot: Isles center John Tavares has two goals and two assists in the past three games, while center Casey Cizikas had a goal and two assists in Game 4 and is 2-2-4 in the series. Captain Mark Streit leads the club with five points (two goals, three assists). … Penguins center Evgeni Malkin has eight points (two goals, six assists) in the series, Iginla is 1-6-7 and captain Sidney Crosby is 2-4-6. Pascal Dupuis has four goals in as many games.