The Pittsburgh Penguins notched their first win in 5-games on Thursday night against the New York Islanders by a score of 3-2. The long overdue win came with an altered lineup as veterans Mark Recchi and Darryl Sydor were healthy scratches. In their place on the ice for the Penguins (and looking good) were Tyler Kennedy and Kris Letang. Colby Armstrong was also a healthy scratch. Marc-Andre Fleury had a very good night in net for the Penguins with 26 saves on 28 shots.
In an all too common occurrence, the opposition got on the board first with an even strength goal at 14:17 of the first period by the Islanders’ red hot Mike Comrie. Standing in front of the net, Comrie picked up his 6th goal of the season by deflecting a Brendan Witt shot from the point past Fleury. Trent Hunter was also credited with an assist. Four minutes later, Sergei Gonchar scored on a blast from the point while the Jordan Staal put up a screen by tussling with two Islanders’ players in front of goaltender Rick Dipietro. Evgeni Malkin and Marc-Andre Fleury were credited with the assists, but Staal gets our honorary assist for his work in front of the net to keep Dipietro in the blind. Malkin’s assist extended his point streak to 12 consecutive games. The goal tied the game at 1 at the end of the first, with the Penguins outshooting the Isles 10-6.
In the second, the Penguins quickly scored a 5-on-3 powerplay that carried over from the first period. Sergei Gonchar threw the puck against the wall to Dipietro’s right and it bounced toward the net and onto the stick of Evgeni Malkin who tried to jam it into the net. Dipietro was able to stop Malkin’s attempt on the goal line, but was unable to prevent Petr Sykora from poking the puck the rest of the way across the line on the follow-up. The goal came at 0:58 while Satan and Hilbert sat for holding and hooking. The goal was Sykora’s 8th of the season from Malkin and Gonchar. At 8:51, the Islanders responded with an even strength backhand goal by Josef Vasicek as Fleury was caught laying across the goal mouth. Bruno Gervais and Sean Bergenheim were credited with the assists. At 16:45, however, Georges Laraque chipped the game winning goal over Dipietro’s shoulder on a superb pass by Sidney Crosby. The goal was Laraque’s first goal in 40-games and his first as a Penguin, and was celebrated by jumping against the glass and then lifting a jubilant Crosby into the air. With the assist, Sidney Crosby extended his point streak to 18-games and advanced to 2nd place in league scoring with 28-points, just 1-point behind the current leader Vincent Lecavalier. Shots were tied at 12 apiece in the second.
The Penguins held onto the lead in the third despite being outshot by the Islanders 10-5, and killed off a late hooking penalty to Tyler Kennedy. Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury stood tall in net and kept out some excellent chances by the Islanders to maintain the advantage and the win. The Penguins had two excellent chances on the empty net insurance goal, but failed to connect. The first was at the expiration of Tyler Kennedy’s penalty as he came out of the box, but tried to make a passing play instead of shooting on the empty net as it appeared he did not notice Dipietro had left the ice. The second came on an attempt by Sidney Crosby that just missed the net and bounced off the left post. Sergei Gonchar had a great game, possibly inspired by the attendance of newly inducted Hall of Fame defenseman Paul Coffey. He picked up the game’s 1st star with a goal and an assist. Georges Laraque picked up the game’s 2nd star with his inspired play and his game winning goal. Marc-Andre Fleury picked up the game’s 3rd star with his play in the third period to keep the game in the win column for the Penguins. Evgeni Malkin, who didn’t like quite as dominating as he has in recent games, still played a very good game and came away with 2-assists. The Malkin-Crosby 12-game concurrent scoring streak is the longest in team history. Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr never had a concurrent streak longer than 11-games.
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The Pittsburgh Penguins will look to get back in a groove and extend their winning play as they host the New York Rangers at the Mellon Arena on Saturday night.