Penguins rally, then hold off Islanders for wild victory on the road
By Larry Fleisher
Published: Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014, 2:09 p.m.
UNIONDALE, N.Y. — Backup goaltender Jeff Zatkoff figured he owed his teammates at least one big save in the third period Thursday night.
After all, they helped him overcome early sloppiness by scoring four unanswered goals. So when Frans Nielsen had a point-blank attempt during a 5-on-3 New York Islanders power play in a one-goal game, Zatkoff had one thing on his mind: Stop that puck.
Zatkoff made the save, and the Penguins survived another wild game with the Islanders, holding on for a 6-4 victory at Nassau Coliseum.
Zatkoff finished with 30 saves while improving to 8-0-1 in his past nine starts. His biggest stop Thursday came when he went post to post to prevent Nielsen from scoring with 6:38 left.
“I told the guys I owed them that one after I let that fourth one in,” Zatkoff said. “I knew after that I was going to have to make big saves.”
Zatkoff was locked in on Nielsen but also anticipated a tip-in. So he braced himself when John Tavares swooped in, but the shot missed the net.
“At that point it's a desperation save,” Zatkoff said. “You see the puck, but at that point you're trying to fill the bottom half of the net and make the save and hopefully your teammates can clear the rebound, and that's what happened.”
With 1:15 remaining, Zatkoff denied Tavares to secure the win.
“That was tricky because he kind of pulled it around the (defenseman) and shot it through his legs,” Zatkoff said. “I think our ‘D' got just enough of it, and to be honest with you, I didn't pick it up until it was a foot in front in me, but luckily I was pretty square and it hit me in the chest.”
Zatkoff's late-game dramatics were made necessary after the Penguins squandered a pair of one-goal leads. They took a 4-2 lead into the second intermission after Kris Letang scored a power-play goal with 2:16 left, but Zatkoff was beaten by a Josh Bailey breakaway 3:10 into the third.
The Penguins regained a two-goal cushion about three minutes later when Evgeni Malkin finished off a cross-ice pass from James Neal for his 14th goal. But nearly five minutes later Kyle Okposo jammed in a shot off a scramble in front to make it a one-goal game again.
“He's probably not real happy with letting in the four goals,” coach Dan Bylsma said. “But like our team, he hung in there.”
The Penguins beat the Islanders for the second time this season on Long Island and did so in similar fashion: by rallying from a two-goal deficit. The only difference between Thursday and the Dec. 3 victory was that the Penguins did not need overtime or a Sidney Crosby game-winner through two defensemen.
“They play really aggressive and when they execute that well, they generate chances,” Crosby said. “They make it tough.”
Before the wild final 20 minutes, the Penguins received goals from Chris Kunitz and Crosby in the first period and defensemen Olli Maatta and Letang in the second.
Even with Pittsburgh's defense corps accounting for two goals and Malkin scoring his fifth goal in seven games, Crosby left his mark.
He had a goal and two assists, marking his seventh game with at least three points. Kunitz also had a goal and two assists as the Penguins won for the seventh time in nine games (7-1-1) and 15th time in 19 contests (15-3-1).
The Penguins also improved to 13-4-2 in their past 19 trips to Long Island.
Kunitz and Crosby scored nearly two minutes apart midway through the first period. That came after goals by Michael Grabner and Brock Nelson in the opening 81⁄2 minutes, when the Islanders controlled most of the play.
The Penguins were sloppy in their own end, and it proved costly about 90 seconds into the game as Grabner converted an errant clearing attempt by Letang into his eighth goal, beating Zatkoff with a wrist shot from the lower edge of the right faceoff circle. Nelson later converted an odd-man rush off a feed from Grabner over Zatkoff's glove.
But the Penguins' comeback began a little over a minute later with some good passing.
Crosby made a nice back-handed pass to Kunitz for a one-timer with 10:28 remaining. Nearly two minutes later, the duo paired up again when Kunitz gained possession after a dump-in by Matt Niskanen and found Crosby, who buried the wraparound.
Larry Fleisher is a freelance writer.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Pirates trade for Mets 1B Davis
- Crews search for Latrobe woman in Linn Run State Park
- Pittsburgh-area students on the hunt for the perfect prom dress
- Hempfield native, 22, publishes with local independent press
- Man found fatally shot in Larimer a mile away from Homewood peace march
- City Theatre cancels ‘Grounded’ through April 20
- Donald turns down New York invite for NFL Draft
- Survivors in critical condition a day after fifth Armstrong County car crash victim dies
- Sculpture at Phipps links art and sustainability
- Chat with Dejan Kovacevic: April 18, 2014
- NBA commissioner Silver makes raising age limit a priority