Penguins win SO in tame victory over Islanders
UNIONDALE, N.Y. – Chris Kunitz scored the only goal in the shootout and the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the New York Islanders 4-3 on Friday night to avenge a record-setting, fight-filled loss.
The Penguins seemed to have things well in hand until Travis Hamonic got the Islanders even at 3 with just 35 seconds left in regulation with a shot from the left point that got past goalie Marc-Andre Fleury after New York pulled goalie Al Montoya for an extra skater.
The Islanders had nearly tied it with 1:38 left, but Matt Moulson's goal was disallowed because John Tavares was in the crease.
Mark Letestu had snapped a 2-2 tie with 7:39 left, and Mike Rupp added a goal and assist for the Penguins. Fleury turned aside all three Islanders shooters before Kunitz won it on the final attempt.
Letestu took a backhanded pass in front from Rupp and scored past Montoya a little over 4 minutes after Blake Comeau got the Islanders even at 2 with his second goal of the night.
The Penguins assured themselves of home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs and still have a shot to overtake Philadelphia for the Atlantic Division title and the No. 2 seed, despite being without star forwards Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin for large parts of the season.
Zbynek Michalek also scored, and Fleury played well in the highly anticipated rematch with the Islanders after the brawl-marred previous meeting on Feb. 11, won 9-3 by New York.
With NHL disciplinarian Colin Campbell in attendance this time, the Penguins and Islanders squared off for their first fight of the night sooner than in the previous meeting. Pittsburgh's Eric Godard — who received a 10-game ban for leaving the bench to fight the last time — dropped the gloves with Trevor Gillies on the faceoff following Rupp's goal that made it 1-0 at 8:57.
Craig Adams and New York's Micheal Haley were the first combatants in February, fighting at 10:22, when no one realized how wild the game would turn out to be.
The last game featured 65 penalties, 346 penalty minutes, 10 ejections, 15 fighting majors and 20 misconducts in the Islanders' victory that was never competitive. Records were set for both teams for most combined penalty minutes, and there were few players around to finish the game.
Godard and Gillies, who was suspended for nine games after the previous meeting, were given misconducts in addition to the fighting penalties that extended into the second period.
Arron Asham of the Penguins and Islanders counterpart Zenon Konopka dropped the gloves in front of the penalty box at 11:57, with Konopka picking up an extra two minutes and a misconduct for instigating the fight. Asham only served five minutes in penalties.
Much of the pregame talk seemed to downplay the likelihood of another fightfest Friday, and outside of the two early bouts, the game was played rather cleanly and fairly.
The teams combined for 21 penalties — 11 for the Penguins — for 78 minutes.
Comeau had an easy time in tying the game after speedy Michael Grabner raced with puck behind the net and found Comeau alone in front, for a patient shot into an empty net at 8:14 of the third. The power-play goal was the second allowed by the Penguins in 26 short-handed opportunities over eight games.
Comeau had cut New York's deficit to 2-1 with 4:42 left in the second when he put in a rebound of Moulson's shot.
Rupp put the Penguins in front with his eighth of the season. After Pittsburgh had a couple of whacks in front at a loose puck, it bounced outside the crease to Rupp, who scored with a backhander.
The Penguins carried that slim edge into the second period after outshooting New York 15-10 in the first.
Michalek made it 2-0 at 11:11 off a crisp feed from Kris Letang during a power play. Letang faked a shot from the center of the blue line and slid a pass to his left to Michalek, who wound up and fired a one-time from the left point that beat Montoya. It was the defensman's second goal and third point in three games.
NOTES: The Penguins are 19-5-2 against New York since the start of the 2007-08 season, including 4-1-1 this season. ... The Islanders will finish the regular season Saturday in Philadelphia. The Penguins will visit Atlanta on Sunday. ... Letang has 100 NHL assists, including 42 this season. ... Michalek has five goals and three assists in the past 15 games. ... New York had its third straight home sellout, and fourth this season.