Pittsburgh, PA – The Pittsburgh Penguins made some changes in their lineup for Thursday's contest, and it worked out spectacularly for them.
Playing his first playoff game in six years, Tomas Vokoun stopped 31 shots for his second career playoff shutout while Sidney Crosby and Kris Letang each gave a goal and an assist to lead the Penguins in a 4-0 win over the New York Islanders in Game 5 of this Eastern Conference quarterfinal series.
Vokoun, who hadn't been in the pipes in the postseason since 2007 with Nashville, replaced an ineffective Marc-Andre Fleury, who had given up 14 goals in the past three games after posting a shutout in Game 1.
"I was a little bit nervous, to be honest, the whole day," said Vokoun. "I think you wouldn't be human if you weren't and I haven't played in a long time in the playoffs, so it's hard to remember some years ago what to expect."
Also, the team benched Tanner Glass, Jussi Jokinen and Mark Eaton, with Simon Despres, Tyler Kennedy and Joe Vitale taking their spots on the ice.
Kennedy, who had a rough regular season with just six goals and 11 points in 46 games, scored the first goal of the game while Douglas Murray also lit the lamp for the Penguins, who now lead this best-of-seven series, 3-2.
Evgeni Nabokov was touched for all four goals on 27 shots in the loss for the Islanders, who will have to take Game 6 at home on Saturday if they want to stay in the playoffs. Kevin Poulin played the final 14 minutes after the fourth goal and stopped all four shots he faced.
"The last three games before tonight we've played the way we wanted to play," said Islanders defenseman Brian Strait. "We've got to make them work for it. After Game 1, we came back and played great, so this is the same thing."
Putting Vokoun in net paid immediate dividends as he stopped 14 shots in the first period, while Nabokov turned aside seven.
The Islanders came into the game having been outscored 9-4 in the first period in the series, but the second period proved to be their undoing in this game.
At 7:25 of the middle frame, the Pens took the lead as Letang sent a stretch pass through the middle and Kennedy picked it up near the blueline. Skating in his first game of the playoffs after being a healthy scratch for the first four contests, Kennedy beat Nabokov with a wrister into the right corner.
Just over a minute later, Pittsburgh took a 2-0 lead as Murray threw a shot on net from the left point that Nabokov got a glove on, but it popped into the air and behind the goaltender for Murray's second of the series.
It was a 3-0 game with six minutes to play as Crosby took a Jarome Iginla pass up the middle, fought past two defenders and snapped a wrister into the left corner from the right circle for his third of the playoffs.
Vokoun continued to stymie the Isles in the second period, turning away all 11 shots he faced to keep the team off the board.
Skating on the power play, the Pens took a 4-0 lead 5:43 into the third as Crosby sent a backhand saucer pass from the right wing over to the top of the left circle where Letang blasted it home for his second of the playoffs.
Vokoun needed to stop just six shots against an ineffectual Islanders attackers in the final period to polish off the shutout.
Vokoun's other playoff shutout came on April 13, 2004 in a quarterfinal matchup against the Red Wings when he was with the Predators ... The Penguins were 1-for-5 on the power play while New York went 0-for-2 ... This is the fourth time the Penguins and Islanders are meeting in the playoffs. The Isles won the previous three series (1975, 1982, 1993) including an upset seven-game victory over the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Pens in the Patrick Division finals in '93, which was the last time the club won a playoff series.