After going four rounds in the shootout, the New York Islanders extended their winning ways, posting a 5-1-1 record in their last seven games, as they defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins 2-1. As Rick DiPietro denied Sidney Crosby and Mark Letestu in the shootout, Islanders forwards PA Parenteau, Frans Nielsen and Rob Schremp successfully scored to solidify the win.
The Islanders defensive game was enough to shut down the National Hockey League’s leading scorer as they successfully ended Sidney Crosby’s 25-game, 50-point streak.
“It wasn’t me. It was a complete team effort,” DiPietro said about stopping Crosby. “It’s a defensive core that played with a lot of focus and a lot of heart tonight and the offense chipped in. I have said it since the start of the year, but when we are playing smart in our defensive zone and we aren’t running around making stupid mistakes at our blue line, we are a good hockey team.”
Andrew MacDonald played a team-leading 27:44 TOI and blocked five shots, with Travis Hamonic taking 25:08 and blocking two. While those are just two defensive stats, the Islanders blocked 28 shots to the Penguins six, had 13 takeaways to Pittsburgh’s 12 and 10 giveaways to their 13 on the night.
“I think all six guys on the blue line played well,” Islanders interim head coach Jack Capuano said. “When you talk about defensive stats with team defense and I thought our forwards did a better job than they did in the Ranger game. The unit of five did a good job, but you have to give a lot of credit to our defense tonight because I thought the gap was good, their sticks were good, they defended real well.”
Frans Nielsen #51 of the New York Islanders watches the puck soar past Marc-Andre Fleury #29 of the Pittsburgh Penguins for a shootout goal in overtime on December 29, 2010 at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York. The Islanders defeated the Penguins 2-1. (Photo by Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images)
In the overtime period, the Islanders went a man down (4-on-3) when the team took a bench minor for too many men on the ice at 3:46. But the highlight of the OT period came at 4:07, when Nielsen made an outstanding play in the defensive zone, successfully blocking shots from Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang just nine seconds apart.
“I don’t remember if it was Malkin or Letang, but I was coming up there and I just tried to get my body between the net and the puck,” Nielsen said about one spectacular block. “I was lucky it hit me instead of going in the net.”
While it could have, and probably did hurt, as he laughed Nielsen added, “It doesn’t hurt. Especially if you win, it doesn’t hurt at all.”
With 7:01 remaining in regulation, Letang had the opportunity to change the game in favor of the Penguins when he was awarded a penalty shot, but DiPietro made the save, keeping the Islanders in the game. In his first game back after coming off of injured reserve for knee swelling, DiPietro made 37 saves to shutdown the Penguins, holding them to just one goal.
“Rick was great,” Capuano said. “He went through a couple days of swelling with his knee, he had a couple days of practices and he really stood tall for us there. The penalty shot was obviously big, especially (because there was such little time left in regulation) when he made that save.”
The Islanders played extremely well throughout the game, but a small breakdown in the defensive zone and a turnover by Matt Martin created a great opportunity for the Penguins to tie the score at one. Chris Connor capitalized and scored on a pass from Tyler Kennedy at 16:33.
Alex Goligoski #3 of the Pittsburgh Penguins battles for the puck against Josh Bailey #12 of the New York Islanders on December 29, 2010 at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images)
It was forward Josh Bailey who initially put the Islanders on the scoreboard. Just 34 seconds into the second period, he scored to give the Islanders a 1-0 lead when he collected a rebounded shot from Hamonic.
“We had a good breakout, I got it in, and Hammer (Hamonic) got it at the point,” Bailey said. “I just went to the net and caused a screen and sometimes those rebounds come to you and sometimes they don’t. I was pretty happy to see that rebound come to me and I just got lucky and put it in the back of the net.”
Matt Moulson was robbed of a goal in his second straight game. As Bruno Gervais rushed down ice after blocking a shot from Malkin, he passed the puck to Moulson who scored on Fleury at 6:49 of the second period, but he was denied the goal as the referee blew the whistle prematurely and the puck hadn’t crossed the goal line before it was blown.
While the Islanders were happy for the win, their fans were just as excited. With 14,345 in attendance, Bailey said the fans acted as a seventh player.
“It was great; you could just feel it in warm up,” Bailey said. “It was nice coming out to a big crowd and it definitely gave us a big boost. In large part it was a big help in the victory because it’s like having a seventh player out there on the ice.”