Penguins rally for 11th straight win behind Vokoun
UNIONDALE, N.Y. — The genesis of the Penguins' 11-game winning streak was March 7 in Philadelphia when Tomas Vokoun gave an inspiring speech following the first period.
Vokoun did his talking — and his inspiring — on the ice Friday against the Islanders. His work lifted the otherwise lifeless Penguins to a 4-2 victory.
They will attempt to win their 12th straight game Sunday night at home against the Flyers. The NHL record for most consecutive wins, set by the 1992-93 Penguins, is 17.
“We were terrible in the first period,” said Penguins captain Sidney Crosby, who finished with two assists and now holds an 11-point lead in the NHL scoring race. “Vokoun made a ton of big saves. He's the reason we were able to win tonight.”
The Islanders recorded the game's first 12 shots and were the superior team throughout the first two periods. Vokoun, though, was a wall for much of the evening, stopping 33 of 35 shots.
He withstood a significant outburst from the Islanders during the opening 10 minutes and made spectacular second-period saves on Michael Grabner and Marty Reasoner to keep the game within reach.
“Obviously, we were outplayed tonight,” Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. “They took it to us. We were fortunate to get some big saves from Vokoun.”
Vokoun's performance reminded some Penguins of the barrage they used to throw at him while he played for Florida. In those days, Vokoun routinely saw more than 40 shots per game.
“We've seen that before,” left wing Matt Cooke said. “Felt like I was in Mellon Arena seeing him stand on his head like that. They just came out so hard on us. They're a good hockey team. Obviously, he played a great game tonight.”
There were many reasons to believe the Penguins' winning streak was in jeopardy against the Islanders.
Before the game, it was announced that stars Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang would not play against New York, their injuries not quite 100-percent healed. Then, while the Penguins were being ambushed by an Islanders team hungry to get into playoff position, right wing Craig Adams left the game in the first period after being punched by New York's Matt Martin during a fight, and left wing Chris Kunitz was injured following a collision with forward Kyle Okposo.
Both players are apparently fine.
“Just procedural stuff,” Adams said. “I'm OK.”
Kunitz proved he was fine by scoring late in the second period to even the game at 2-2. A Joe Vitale goal gave the Penguins life midway through the second period.
Brandon Sutter then scored the game-winning goal early in the third period — just as he did last month on Long Island.
Of his nine goals, six have come in the third period or overtime. Pascal Dupuis added an empty-netter with less than one second remaining.
Sutter and Cooke teamed up for the game-winner and also were instrumental in helping to kill two penalties late in the third period.
“I thought those were huge kills,” Bylsma said. “That's an extremely dangerous power play.”
Vokoun was pretty huge, too.
“We bend,” Vokoun said. “But we don't break.”
The Penguins looked on the verge of breaking on this night. Vokoun wouldn't allow it.
“I didn't see all of the first period,” Adams said. “But I saw enough. Vouky kept us in it. He gave us a chance.”