Ruutu Powers Pens Past Islanders 3-1

The Pittsburgh Penguins avenged their recent loss to the New York Islanders by beating them 3-1 on Thursday night to take over 1st place in the Eastern Conference.  Sidney Crosby returned to round out Pittsburgh’s offensively laden top-2 lines, but it was Jarkko Ruutu who put up the points by scoring a short-handed goal and two assists to power the Penguins into the Eastern Conference lead over an idle Montreal Canadiens.  Despite the win, the Penguins were yet again dealt adversity as Marian Hossa left the game in the 3rd period with an unspecified upper body injury after being hit from behind.  Hossa briefly left the game in the 2nd period after taking a hip-check to his previously injured knee, but returned and appeared to be fine. 

In the 1st period, Evgeni Malkin notched his 45th goal of the season to put the Penguins up 1-0 at 6:53.  Jarkko Ruutu and Georges Laraque picked up the assists on the play.  The goal was Malkin’s 103rd point of the season to draw him within 4-points of Alexander Ovechkin in the race for the NHL scoring title.  At 16:31, the Islanders tied it up on a goal by Josef Vasicek that eluded Marc-Andre Fleury.  Bill Guerin and Freddy Meyer were credited with the assists.  Shots were 11-10 in the first period in favor of the Penguins, who were 0-for-1 on the power play.

In the 2nd period, Jarkko Ruutu made a beautiful play to fool the Islanders’ goaltender and then scored on the wraparound with an unassisted short-hander.  It was a penalty laden period with a total of 14 infractions being called between the 2-teams for 40-minutes in penalty time.  The Penguins outshot the Islanders 11-5 in the period.

At 6:40 of the 3rd period, Georges Laraque took a nice breakaway pass from Jarkko Ruutu and chipped the puck past the Islanders’ tender to make it 3-1.  Despite being out of a playoff position, the Islanders didn’t give up and outshot the Penguins 13-7 in the final period.  Marc-Andre Fleury managed to weather the storm, and despite having 1:10 of empty net time, the Penguins failed to connect for a 4th goal.

Marc-Andre Fleury recorded his 6th consecutive win and his 8th win in 9 starts since returning from his high ankle injury.  Jarkko Ruutu recorded his 4th goal and 6th point in the last 6-games.  The Penguins took a step closer to clinching the Atlantic Division title by expanding their lead to 6-points over the New Jersey Devils and New York Rangers who are locked in a battle for 2nd place.  The Penguins host the surging New York Rangers in a Sunday matinee, the first of a back-to-back, home-and-home series with the Rangers.   

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