Malkin and Crosby Loom Large in 3rd Period Comeback

The Pittsburgh Penguins staged yet another impressive comeback performance by scoring five unanswered goals in the final 21 minutes of the game, including a 3rd period hat trick by Evgeni Malkin, to beat the New York Islanders 5-3 on Wednesday night.  After being largely outplayed through 2 periods, the Penguins got on the boards in the final 19-seconds of the 2nd period on a rare goal by Brooks Orpik.  That goal, and the reunion of Sidney Cosby and Evgeni Malkin on the top line, set up a furious 3rd period in which the Penguins outshot the Islanders 14-6 and outscored them 4-0.  Coming in halfway through the 2nd period, rookie goaltender John Curry relieved Dany Sabourin and was perfect in net in his NHL debut as he stopped all 11-shots he faced.

In the 1st period, the Islanders got on the scoreboard with a 5-on-4 powerplay goal at 7:45 as Mike Zigomanis sat for a goaltender interference call.  Hal Gill had just left the box 6-seconds prior to the goal after the Penguins managed to kill off 21-seconds of a 5-on-3.  Doug Weight was credited with the goal, but the replay showed that after Dany Sabourin stopped the puck, he inadvertently kicked it into his own net as he tried to close his legs on the puck.  Trent Hunter and Mark Streit picked up the assists on the play.  Then, just over a minute later, Trent Hunter backhanded a goal past Dany Sabourin to make it 2-0.  Hunter beat Kris Letang after taking a chip pass that landed in the feet of Letang, and then surprised Sabourin with a quick backhander.  Assists were given to Andy Hilbert and Joshua Bailey.  At 9:38, Eric Godard picked up a fighting major with Mitch Fritz.  Fritz managed to get Godard tied up in his jersey and neither player was able to do too much damage before being sent to the box;  it wasn’t enough to get the Penguins going.  The Penguins were outshot 12-10 in the first and were 0-for-2 on the man advantage and 1-for-2 on the kill. 

In the 2nd period, the Penguins continued to be outplayed by the Islanders as they were outshot 7-6.  At 9:27 with Evgeni Malkin in the box for a high sticking penalty, the Islanders powerplay connected again as Bill Guerin beat Dany Sabourin to make it 3-0.  Joshua Bailey and Mark Streit picked up the assists.  After the the 3rd goal on 14-shots, Coach Michel Therrien pulled Dany Sabourin and gave rookie John Curry his NHL debut.  Curry stopped all 5-shots against him in the remainder of the period.  As the period wound down, defenseman Brooks Orpik stepped into a slapshot with 19-seconds left that beat the Islanders netminder Joey MacDonald and gave the Penguins something to build on as they entered the 3rd period.  Pascal Dupuis picked up the lone assist on Orpiks 2nd goal of the season.  The Penguins were 1-for-2 on the kill in the period and were afforded no man advantages. 

Pittsburgh Penguins v New York Islanders

In the 3rd period, Coach Michel Therrien reunited Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby on the Penguins’ top line.  At 6:18, it paid off as Malkin fed a beautiful cross ice pass through traffic to Crosby who snapped it into the empty side of the net to beat MacDonald and make it 3-2 with plenty of time left in the game.  Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang picked up the assists.  Then at 11:03, Sidney Crosby returned the favor as he drew 3-Islanders to the boards and fed Malkin streaking through the center of the ice.  Malkin walked in unchallenged and beat MacDonald with a quick wrister to tie the game 3-3.  Brooks Orpik picked up the other assist.  Then, just 50-seconds later, Sidney Crosby undressed an Islanders’ defensemen who was looking to set up a play from behind his own net.  Crosby stole the puck at the side of the net and looked as if he was going to shoot on MacDonald.  Instead, he made a perfect blind backhanded pass to the slot.  Malkin, reading the play perfectly, had jumped in from the blueline and made a diving shot that beat MacDonald 5-hole to gain the 1-goal advantage.  Finally, with 18-seconds left and MacDonald pulled for the extra attacker, Evgeni Malkin completed the hat trick with his 10th goal of the season, an empty netter to seal the game 5-3.  Rob Scuderi picked up the lone assist on the play.  The Penguins’ domination in the 3rd period was evident in the 14-6 shot total.  The Penguins were 0-for-1 on the powerplay in the final frame.  John Curry stopped all 6-shots in the 3rd to pick up his first career NHL win. 

Sidney Crosby led all Penguins with 5-shots on net, and had 3-points (1G, 2A).  Evgeni Malkin had 4-shots and picked up 4-points (3G, 1A) to maintain his lead in the NHL points race with 35-points, 5-points ahead of 2nd place Simon Gagne.  Malkin also leads the league in assists with 25, 5-ahead of 2nd place Sidney Crosby and Boston’s Marc Savard.  Max Talbot was a perfect 2-for-2 on faceoffs before he left the game with an apparent foot injury after taking a hard shot to the skate.  Talbot appeared unable to put any pressure on the skate as he left the ice with the help of the team trainer.  Tyler Kennedy won his single apearance in the faceoff circle, while Sidney Crosby (12/28) won just 43% and Mike Zigomanis (8/19) and Jordan Staal (8/19) each won 42%.  Sidney Crosby led the team with 24:39 of ice time, while Malkin registered 21:29.  Amongst defensemen, Brooks Orpik led with 22:09 of ice time with Philippe Boucher following close behind with 21:43.

The Penguins will get Thanksgiving Day off before playing against Buffalo on the road on Friday evening.  They will then return back to Mellon Arena to face the Devils on Saturday night.

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