Evgeni Malkin scored the lone goal in the shootout to propel the Pittsburgh Penguins to a 3-2 win over the Islanders on Thursday night at Consol Energy Center. Rick DiPietro, who entered the game in the shootout, made saves on Kris Letang and James Neal. The Islanders come home from Pittsburgh with a point.
“We want to get points, whether it’s a point or two in every game that we play,” Islanders Head Coach Jack Capuano said. “There is no question that we were fortunate that we were where we were after two periods.”
With just 1:01 left on the clock in the first period, Frans Nielsen’s shot low glove side gave the Islanders a 1-0 lead as he stood through the traffic area and found a Kyle Okposo rebound.
The Islanders were outshot 13-2 in the second frame and 32-19 on the night.
“I give our D a lot of credit tonight,” Capuano said. “They were chipping pucks all night long, coming in on the forecheck, really playing a physical game and our D really were strong tonight taking a hit to make plays.”
Forty-five seconds into the third period, Matt Martin scored his first goal of the season to send the Islanders ahead 2-0 as he converted on a rebound beating Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury.
“I’m real happy with the performance of those guys,” Capuano said referring to Martin and his linemates Marty Reasoner and Jay Pandolfo. “Even on the penalty kill, they handled blocking shots. Marty did a great job tonight.”
Despite their physical play, the Islanders were unable to hold the lead as Chris Kunitz scored an even-strength goal just 44 seconds later, cutting the lead in half.
Just over a minute later, Okposo was sent to the box for a questionable goaltender interference call and that Islanders penalty kill – the fifth of six on the night – would prove to be where the Penguins would tie the score. A tic-tac-toe play from Malkin and Kunitz found James Neal right outside the crease for an open net.
“It’s disappointing that we were up 2-0 and then the next shift, our d-zone coverage was just dismantled and guys were running around,” Capuano said. “When our forwards are not stopping and starting, that’s what happens, the pucks end up in your net.”
But the Islanders still killed 5-of-6 penalties and blocked 23 shots on net.
“We had two chances on the PK to put the puck 200 feet and we didn’t,” Capuano said. “Nine out of 10 times, when they don’t clear it, it’s in the back of your net. But our PK did a good job. They blocked a lot of shots tonight.”
As always, your goaltender is your best penalty killer and Evgeni Nabokov stopped 30 shots in 65 minutes of game action. Then, in a last-minute decision, Capuano pulled the netminder in favor of DiPietro, who would see his first game action of this season in the shootout.
“I love our goalies. All three of them have played well and given us a chance, so I have no issues. One guy couldn’t go. I have all the faith in Ricky and he was great. He actually almost had Malkin’s there, but if we aren’t going to score, we aren’t going to win.”
After receiving queries on his decision to pull Nabokov, Capuano denied the veteran netminder was pulled because he felt uncomfortable.
“(Nabokov) wasn’t feeling well, so I had to put Ricky in… None of our goalies feel uncomfortable in situations like that,” Capuano said. “They’re all great competitors. Since the start of the season, they’ve given us a chance to win.”
The Islanders drop to 3-4-1 on the season. Their next game is at home on Saturday against the San Jose Sharks.
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