Published March 29, 2012
| Sports Network
So much for four easy points.
After suffering a disappointing setback on Tuesday, the Pittsburgh Penguins will try to make up ground in their chase for the Eastern Conference's top seed in the finale of a home-and-home series with the last-place New York Islanders.
The Penguins were looking to rack up some key points in this series with the Islanders, who sit in a tie for 13th in the conference with 75 points. However, they dropped a 5-3 decision at home to the Islanders and now sit five points back of the East-leading New York Rangers.
Pittsburgh is also just four points ahead of fifth-place Philadelphia. Both the Penguins and Flyers have six games left in the regular season, while the idle Rangers have five to play. Philadelphia plays tonight in Toronto.
The Pens have been touched for 20 goals in their past five games and lost for only the second time in regulation over their past 17 tests with Tuesday's loss. However, that 14-2-1 span also includes an 8-4 setback in Ottawa last Saturday.
"We got what we deserved tonight," said Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, whose club lost despite a shot-total advantage of 54-25.
James Neal scored twice and Tyler Kennedy had a goal for the Penguins, who also had a 10-game home winning streak put to an end. Pascal Dupuis logged an assist to give him eight goals and six points over the NHL's longest active point streak, which he extended to 11 consecutive games.
Evgeni Malkin had two assists to up his NHL points-leading total to 99, while Marc-Andre Fleury yielded five goals on 18 shots through two periods. The netminder did not come out at the start of the third and did take an elbow to the head from a teammate in the game, but Fleury practiced on Wednesday and said he is not suffering from any type of injury.
Brad Thiessen made seven saves in relief of Fleury on Tuesday.
Pittsburgh will play its next two games on the road, including Friday's stop in Buffalo, and defenseman Kris Letang will not travel with the team due to a lower-body injury that has him day-to-day. Joe Vitale has sat out the last five with a shoulder issue and Matt Niskanen has missed four in a row due to an upper-body issue. Both are doubtful for tonight, while Ben Lovejoy is out after arthroscopic knee surgery.
The Islanders will look to spoil the Penguins' trip to Long Island after snapping a five-game slide to their rivals in Tuesday's meeting. New York also won in Pittsburgh for the first time since Dec. 21, 2007 by halting a 13-game series road losing streak.
New York, which went 4-1 on a five-game road trip, now hopes to beat Pittsburgh for the first time in the last four meetings at home.
Frans Nielsen keyed just the Islanders' third victory in their past 15 versus the Penguins by scoring twice and logging an assist.
New York, though, did lose starting netminder Evgeni Nabokov to a lower-body issue in the second period that has him day-to-day. Al Montoya relieved Nabokov and the duo combined to make 51 stops.
"It was a good win for us," Islanders head coach Jack Capuano said. "[Nabokov] made some great saves and Al came in in the third and really made some big saves for us."
Michael Grabner, Kyle Okposo and David Ullstrom also scored for the Islanders.