UNIONDALE, NY -- The Islanders erased a three-goal third period deficit, however Jordan Leopold scored the game winning goal in overtime for the Pittsburgh Penguins, defeating the Isles 6-5 in the 2009-10 regular season finale.
With the overtime loss, the Islanders finished the regular season with a record of 34-37-11 for 79 points -- an 18 point improvement over last year's finish.
"I thought our guys competed at a level that wasn't to be expected," Islanders head coach Scott Gordon said. "It's encouraging to see that."
Kyle Okposo expects next season to be a playoff contending year.
"We grew up a lot over the past couple of years," Okposo said. "Next year we're looking to be a playoff team."
Evgeni Malkin got the Penguins on the board first, just 3:09 into the opening period to give Pittsburgh a one-goal lead. Sidney Crosby started the play down low, working the puck around to Alex Goligoski. The Penguins defenseman fired a shot towards the Islanders net that looked to be deflected on the way towards Dwayne Roloson.
The Islanders netminder got his pad on the shot, however the rebound went right to Malkin's stick. It was an easy put-in for the Penguins star as he had a wide open net to give Pittsburgh a 1-0 lead.
Former Islander Eric Godard followed up, scoring his first of the season in the last regular season game to extend the Penguins lead to two goals. Godard picked up a loose puck in the crease following a Crosby shot and banged home the loose change to increase the score to 2-0.
Crosby would get his 50th goal of the season with just 2:57 left in the first period. Crosby snuck behind Dylan Reese on a two-on-two rush, flanked by Malkin. Malkin, the game's first goal scorer, fired a perfect pass to Crosby. All he had to do was get his stick on the pass, changing its direction past Roloson to put the Penguins up 3-0 late in the period.
"We gave them too much room in the first period," Gordon said. "The gap wasn't very good by the (defense) and the width of the rink was exposed."
John Tavares got the Islanders on the board with 43.9 seconds left in the period on the power play to bring the deficit within two goals. The Islanders were given a 1:25 two man advantage with both Jordan Staal and Kris Letang in the box serving minor penalties. Mark Streit worked the puck down low to Tavares, who fired a quick shot that deflected off of Penguins goaltender Brent Johnsons helped and trickled over the goal line to cut the score to 3-1 before the period ended.
Crosby got his fourth point of the contest just 55 seconds into the second period to put the Penguins up 4-1. With his teammate Kris Letang about to come out of the penalty box,
The Islanders quickly cut the Penguins lead to two goals again exactly a minute later, as Matt Moulson scored his 30th goal of the year. With Sidney Crosby in the penalty box for cross-checking, the Islanders power play, which already had a goal on the night took to work. Mark Streit fired a slap shot from just above the the Penguins blue line with a ton of traffic in front of Johnson. However Moulson, as he has done all year, got his stick on the shot right in front of the net changing the direction of the shot and getting it by Johnson to bring the score to 4-2.
It was a career year for Moulson, who prior to joining the Islanders, scored just six goals in 29 games with Los Angeles.
"I can't say enough about the year he's had," Gordon said after the game. "He came in here and wasn't even expected to be part of our lineup. I don't think any player has heeded whatever advice I have given than Matt Moulson.
"Every day in practice and every game he played he played like his last," Gordon added.
Crosby would get fifth point on the night with 8:51 left in the second period as he assisted on Evgeny Malkins second goal of the game. With Micheal Haley in the penalty box serving an interference penalty, Crosby sent a cross ice pass to his Russian linemate, who one-timed the shot past a sprawled Roloson to give the Penguins a 5-2 lead.
The Islanders would storm back in the third period, scoring two quick goals in 24 seconds to cut the Penguins lead to one.
Kyle Okopso started it off 4:29 into the period, scoring his 19th of the season to cut the score to 5-3. Tavares led the play into the zone, and deflected a pass off a Penguins defenders skate. The puck came quickly to Streit, who passed it off to Okposo, who caught Johnson off his angle, and fired it over his shoulder to bring the Islanders within two goals early in the third period.
Sim quickly followed up 24 seconds later with his 13th of the year. Trent Hunter threw the puck towards the Pittsburgh net with Sim parked right in front of Johnson. The pesky Islanders forward got his stick on the shot and redirected it past Johnson to bring the Islanders within one goal.
The Islanders weren't done just yet, and with 4:13 left in the third period erased the three-goal deficit as Tavares scored his second goal of the game to even up the score at five goals apiece. Okposo fed Freddy Meyer down low, who threw a shot towards the Pittsburgh net. Johson looked to be distracted by a maze of bodies in front as the puck deflected off of Tavares skate. The rubber flew over Johnson's shoulder as the Islanders tied the game at 5-5.
However, following a fervish overtime period, Leopold fired a quick wrist shot over Roloson's shoulder with 34.4 seconds left in overtime to give the Penguins the win in the extra frame.
Three Stars of the Game:
1. Sidney Crosby, PIT: Two goals, three assists, five points. 2. John Tavares, NYI: Two goals and an assist. 3. Evgeni Malkin, PIT: Two goals, two assists Honorable Mention - Matt Moulson, NYI: Scored 30th goal of the year.
Slapshots: Islanders outshot Pittsburgh, 38-37...Trent Hunter and Matt Moulson led all Islanders with 5 shots on goal...Kyle Okposo led all Islanders with 28:20 of ice time...Islanders were 2-9 on the power play, while the Penguins were 1-6 on the man advantage...Both teams combined for 78 penalty minutes.