Penalty kill shines in Penguins' victory over Islanders
UNIONDALE, N.Y. — The Penguins struggled mightily against the Islanders' power play last week, and apparently felt the need to practice defending it Tuesday at Nassau Coliseum.
Maybe practice really does make perfect.
The Penguins were in the penalty box much of the game but killed all seven of New York's power plays — goalie Marc-Andre Fleury's performance was particularly valuable — as they won their fourth straight game, a 4-2 decision over the Islanders.
“Flower played really well,” center Brandon Sutter said. “He did the job. He made big saves all night.”
The victory propels the Penguins to the top spot of the Eastern Conference standings with 14 points. They are 6-1 on the road.
“Road warriors,” right wing Pascal Dupuis said with a smile.
Fleury was one period away from setting the Penguins' career shutout mark — he and Tom Barrasso are tied with 22 — before allowing two goals in the final period.
After the Islanders scored two goals in a 35-second span to pull within a goal, Penguins coach Dan Bylsma called a timeout.
“Nobody panicked,” Fleury said. “Everyone stayed calm and stuck with it.”
Bylsma wasn't thrilled that his team took seven penalties and felt a timeout was necessary to stop the bleeding. The Penguins' lead had been cut to one with 16:11 to play.
“I definitely wanted us to refocus,” Bylsma said. “They started coming with a lot of speed there and got two quick goals. Just wanted us to take a second and look at the clock. We had to refocus. I thought our guys did a great job of that.”
Bylsma's penalty-killing unit was burned on two opportunities against the Islanders in a 4-1 loss last week at Consol Energy Center. The Penguins haven't lost a game since and only made minor tactical adjustments against the Islanders. Playing a more aggressive style served them well.
“They are confident on the power play,” Penguins left wing Matt Cooke said. “They have a lot of skill. We just wanted to push them out of their comfort zone a little bit. We were able to do that.”
The Penguins couldn't have felt comfortable when the Islanders went on their seventh power play with 6:28 remaining in the third.
However, with left wing Chris Kunitz in the penalty box, the Penguins again rejected the Islanders.
Fleury made a number of stellar saves, none better than the one he made during that power play on Islanders left wing Matt Moulson. Alone by the right post, Moulson released a shot that looked destined to tie the game but was knocked aside by Fleury's right leg.
“Flower was our best penalty killer tonight,” Cooke said. “He was good. That's what we expect of our goaltender, whether it's Flower or Vouky (Tomas Vokoun.) We need them to be big. Flower was tonight.”
James Neal, Simon Despres, Sutter and Dupuis scored for the Penguins.
The Penguins were outshot for the first time this season and lost Crosby for about five minutes in the second period after he took a puck to the face. His nose was still leaking blood in the locker room after the game.
Luckily for the Penguins, their penalty killing and Fleury didn't leak at all.
“Flower was so good tonight,” Sutter said. “Those were a lot of penalties to kill. But we got the job done.”