Penguins continue marching towards history with 15th straight win

Even the absence of Sidney Crosby wasn't enough to prevent the Pittsburgh Penguins from extending their impressive unbeaten run.

With the NHL's leading scorer exiting early in the first period after being struck with a puck, Tomas Vokoun and the Pittsburgh defense clamped down in a 2-0 victory over the New York Islanders that gave the Eastern Conference leaders a 15th consecutive triumph.

Vokoun stopped all 35 shots he faced in registering the third straight shutout by a Pittsburgh netminder. He combined with Marc-Andre Fleury for 37 saves in a 1-0 decision over Montreal on Tuesday, then turned aside 20 chances during Thursday's 4-0 verdict over Winnipeg.

The Penguins have not permitted a goal in a franchise-record 208 minutes, 24 seconds, while also setting a new club standard by posting their 12th home win in a row.

Pittsburgh's 15-game tear, meanwhile, matched the Islanders' run from Jan. 21- Feb. 20, 1982 as the second-longest in league history. The Penguins set the mark with 17 consecutive victories during the 1992-93 season.

"It's nice come up with the shutout, but to preserve the win streak, it's even better," said Vokoun. "We have a lot of fun with it and it's been great."

Matt Cooke and James Neal each scored in the third period to offset the loss of both Crosby and Chris Kunitz, Pittsburgh's second-leading scorer who was handed a game misconduct for hitting New York's Josh Bailey into the boards late in the second.

Evgeni Nabokov came up with 25 saves for the Islanders, who came into the matchup having won a season-best three straight.

The pregame buildup centered around the Pittsburgh debut of two-time 50-goal scorer Jarome Iginla, acquired by the Penguins from the Calgary Flames early Thursday morning, but the focus quickly turned to Crosby after the star center was hit in the face by a shot from teammate Brooks Orpik just 1:28 into the contest.

Though the Pittsburgh captain was able to leave the ice under his own power, he did not return and was taken to a local hospital for an emergency dental procedure.

"Sidney Crosby took a puck to the teeth, and lost a few of those," head coach Dan Bylsma said after the game. He had to have oral surgery. We'll continue to evaluate and monitor that. That's the report on Sid, going to the hospital and losing teeth."

Kunitz departed with 3:37 to go in the second period and the game still scoreless after shouldering Bailey, who landed face-first into the boards and was slow to get up. The high-scoring wing was levied a five-minute major in addition to the misconduct, and the Isles received a two-man advantage just over three minutes into the penalty when Orpik was sent off for tripping Kyle Okposo.

The Penguins were able to kill off both the 5-on-3 and the entire Kunitz infraction, and Vokoun kept it a 0-0 game by stoning Michael Grabner on a breakaway with 12:26 left to play.

Just 36 seconds after Vokoun's save on Grabner, Cooke knocked in a loose puck sent to the front of the net by Deryk Engelland to break the stalemate.

"That hurt us big time today," Islanders center John Tavares said of the failed power-play opportunity. "We had a lot of shots on net, but we didn't have too many great scoring chances. When you get your chances, you've got to find a way to score."

Neal gave Pittsburgh some additional breathing room after taking a pass from Evgeni Malkin, skating up the right side, and sending a wrister through the legs of Nabokov with just under seven minutes remaining.

The Islanders frantically pressured the Pittsburgh zone for much of the game's closing stages, but couldn't manage a shot on goal in the final three minutes.

Game Notes

The win capped a 15-0 March for Pittsburgh, making the Penguins the first team in NHL history to register a perfect record in a single month when playing 10 or more games ... Prior to the game, Bylsma announced defenseman Paul Martin will require surgery to repair a broken bone in his wrist and is expected to be sidelined around six weeks ... Orpik skated in his 621st game with the Penguins, tying him with Ron Stackhouse for the most in franchise history ... The Islanders fell to 1-14-1 when scoring two or less goals this season, while Pittsburgh improved to 23-3-0 when leading or tied after two periods ... The Pens' previous record for scoreless hockey was 187:30, from Jan 31.-Feb 13. 1993 and authored by Ken Wregget and Tom Barrasso.