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Pens regain their edge, series control in Game 5

Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review - The Penguins' Tyler Kennedy celebrates his goal during the second period against the Islanders on Thursday, May 9, 2013, at Consol Energy Center.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>The Penguins' Tyler Kennedy celebrates his goal during the second period against the Islanders on Thursday, May 9, 2013, at Consol Energy Center.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review - The Penguins' Sidney Crosby splits between the Islanders' Thomas Hickey and Lubomir Visnovsky to score during the second period Thursday, May 9, 2013, at Consol Energy Center.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>The Penguins' Sidney Crosby splits between the Islanders' Thomas Hickey and Lubomir Visnovsky to score during the second period Thursday, May 9, 2013, at Consol Energy Center.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review - The Penguins' Sidney Crosby celebrates his second period goal against the Islanders Thurdsay, May 9, 2013, at Consol Enrgy Center.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review</em></div>The Penguins' Sidney Crosby celebrates his second period goal against the Islanders Thurdsay, May 9, 2013, at Consol Enrgy Center.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review - The Penguins' Sidney Crosby sbreaks away from the Islanders' Thomas Hickey and Lubomir Visnovsky to score during the second period Thursday, May 9, 2013, at Consol Energy Center.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>The Penguins' Sidney Crosby sbreaks away from the Islanders' Thomas Hickey and Lubomir Visnovsky to score during the second period Thursday, May 9, 2013, at Consol Energy Center.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review - Penguins goaltender Tomas Vokoun makes a second-period save on the Islanders' John Tavares on Thursday, May 9, 2013, at Consol Energy Center.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review</em></div>Penguins goaltender Tomas Vokoun makes a second-period save on the Islanders' John Tavares on Thursday, May 9, 2013, at Consol Energy Center.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review - Penguins goaltender Tomas Vokoun makes a save during the second period against the Islanders on Thursday, May 9, 2013, at Consol Energy Center.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Penguins goaltender Tomas Vokoun makes a save during the second period against the Islanders on Thursday, May 9, 2013, at Consol Energy Center.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review - Islanders goaltender Evgeni Nabokov can't stop a shot by the Penguins' Douglas Murray during the second period Thursday, May 9, 2013, at Consol Energy Center.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Islanders goaltender Evgeni Nabokov can't stop a shot by the Penguins' Douglas Murray during the second period Thursday, May 9, 2013, at Consol Energy Center.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review - The Penguins' Sidney Crosby scores past Islanders goaltender Evgeni Nabokov during the second period Thursday, May 9, 2013, at Consol Energy Center.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>The Penguins' Sidney Crosby scores past Islanders goaltender Evgeni Nabokov during the second period Thursday, May 9, 2013, at Consol Energy Center.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review - The Penguins’ Marc-Andre Fleury (right), talking with Paul Martin during the playoffs, was not among the five goaltenders invited to Team Canada’s orientation camp. Martin, however, was selected by Team USA, which is led by Penguins coach Dan Bylsma.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>The Penguins’ Marc-Andre Fleury (right), talking with Paul Martin during the playoffs, was not among the five goaltenders invited to Team Canada’s orientation camp. Martin, however, was selected by Team USA, which is led by Penguins coach Dan Bylsma.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review - Penguins goaltender Tomas Vokoun is first on the ice during introductions before the game against the Islanders on Thursday, May 9, 2013, at Consol Energy Center.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Penguins goaltender Tomas Vokoun is first on the ice during introductions before the game against the Islanders on Thursday, May 9, 2013, at Consol Energy Center.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review - Penguins goaltender Tomas Vokoun makes a save during the first period against the Islanders on Thursday, May 9, 2013, at Consol Energy Center.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Penguins goaltender Tomas Vokoun makes a save during the first period against the Islanders on Thursday, May 9, 2013, at Consol Energy Center.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review - Penguins coach Dan Bylsma watches action from the bench during the first period against the Islanders on Thursday, May 9, 2013, at Consol Energy Center.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Penguins coach Dan Bylsma watches action from the bench during the first period against the Islanders on Thursday, May 9, 2013, at Consol Energy Center.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review - The Islanders' Travis Hamonic battles the Penguins' Joe Vitale for the puck during the third period on Thursday, May 9, 2013, at Consol Energy Center.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>The Islanders' Travis Hamonic battles the Penguins' Joe Vitale for the puck during the third period on Thursday, May 9, 2013, at Consol Energy Center.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review - Penguins goaltender Tomas Vokoun makes a glove save during the first period against the Islanders on Thursday, May 9, 2013, at Consol Energy Center.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Penguins goaltender Tomas Vokoun makes a glove save during the first period against the Islanders on Thursday, May 9, 2013, at Consol Energy Center.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review - Penguins goaltender Tomas Vokoun makes a save on the Islanders' Michael Grabner during the first period Thursday, May 9, 2013, at Consol Energy Center.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Penguins goaltender Tomas Vokoun makes a save on the Islanders' Michael Grabner during the first period Thursday, May 9, 2013, at Consol Energy Center.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review - Penguins goaltender Tomas Vokoun makes a pad save on the Islanders' John Tavares during the first period Thursday, May 9, 2013, at Consol Energy Center.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>Penguins goaltender Tomas Vokoun makes a pad save on the Islanders' John Tavares during the first period Thursday, May 9, 2013, at Consol Energy Center.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review - The Penguins' Evgeni Malkin shrugs off the Islanders' Mark Streit in the third period Thursday, May 9, 2013, at Consol Energy Center.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review</em></div>The Penguins' Evgeni Malkin shrugs off the Islanders' Mark Streit in the third period Thursday, May 9, 2013, at Consol Energy Center.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review - The Penguins' Paul Martin and Matt Cooke reach for the puck after goaltender Tomas Vokoun made a second-period save on the Islanders' John Tavares on Thursday, May 9, 2013, at Consol Energy Center.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review</em></div>The Penguins' Paul Martin and Matt Cooke reach for the puck after goaltender Tomas Vokoun made a second-period save on the Islanders' John Tavares on Thursday, May 9, 2013, at Consol Energy Center.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review - The Penguins' Evgeni Malkin works the puck away from Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic and Brian Strait on Thursday, May 9, 2013, at Consol Energy Center.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review</em></div>The Penguins' Evgeni Malkin works the puck away from Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic and Brian Strait on Thursday, May 9, 2013, at Consol Energy Center.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review - The Penguins' Tyler Kennedy celebrates his game-winning goal against the Islanders on Thursday, May 9, 2013, at Consol Energy Center.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review</em></div>The Penguins' Tyler Kennedy celebrates his game-winning goal against the Islanders on Thursday, May 9, 2013, at Consol Energy Center.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review - The Penguins' Tyler Kennedy celebrates his goal with Matt Cooke during the second period against the Islanders Thursday, May 9, 2013, at Consol Energy Center.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Christopher Horner  |  Tribune-Review</em></div>The Penguins' Tyler Kennedy celebrates his goal with Matt Cooke during the second period against the Islanders Thursday, May 9, 2013, at Consol Energy Center.

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Thursday, May 9, 2013, 9:42 p.m.
 

Tyler Kennedy breathed life into the Penguins — and their nervous fans — on Thursday.

His breakaway goal sparked a second-period surge that proved pivotal in a 4-0 win over the New York Islanders at Consol Energy Center.

The Penguins can end this Eastern Conference quarterfinal playoff series with a win in Game 6 at Nassau Coliseum beginning at 7 p.m. Saturday.

“I want to win. I'm a positive guy,” said Kennedy, who had been a postseason healthy scratch — a first in his seven-year career with the Penguins — before rejoining the lineup Thursday. “Obviously it (stunk). But I'm a team player.”

Kennedy's team may play in the second round for the first time since 2010 because of his potentially series-changing goal.

Captain Sidney Crosby, who scored a beauty of his own in Game 5, called it “huge.”

Defenseman Kris Letang, who sprung Kennedy with a heads-up and spot-on stretch pass from deep in the defensive zone, said players “were a little bit on our heels.”

“It provided a spark,” Letang said of Kennedy's goal.

The goal broke a scoreless tie.

The goal was the first of three in about seven minutes.

The goal transformed a quiet arena into the Frenzy on Fifth Avenue.

Members of the 281st consecutive sellout crowd (18,636) rose as one, roaring to deafening levels while twirling white towels.

Those fans had been waiting for something to feel good about.

The previous palpable feel — nervousness boarding on anxiety — stemmed from the series having been tied, 2-2, and the recent history of three straight postseason losses to lower-seeded opponents.

Teams that win Game 5 of a best-of-seven series tied, 2-2, have won 80 percent of those series.

A strong second half to the first period by the Islanders had not helped matters. They outshot the Penguins, 14-2, over the final 11 minutes.

However, the Penguins found their form to open the second.

They won races to pucks, battles along the boards and positioning in the defensive zone.

Bylsma made the adjustments for which so many pundits had begged — Jarome Iginla to the right of Crosby, Chris Kunitz to the left of Evgeni Malkin — but the biggest change for the Penguins was their structure.

Forwards tracked deeper defensively to help defensemen, with centers — especially Malkin — veering below the hashes to clog space.

The Islanders had made a living by skating pucks into the slot, if not the crease, the three previous games.

That was not going to happen in Game 5.

“We knew we needed to get better and in all areas of the ice,” Kunitz said.

The Penguins won 64 percent of faceoffs, committed only eight giveaways and blocked 14 shots.

In fact, it was fine defensive work by center Brandon Sutter that contributed to Kennedy's goal.

Sutter won a defensive-zone battle of his own before shuffling the puck to Letang, who coolly observed an opening in the neutral zone, where Kennedy was waiting beyond the center-red line, behind the Islanders' defense.

Letang had struggled since Game 1.

His reads appeared off. His pass attempts were low-percentage. His decisions in the offensive zone were questionable.

Of course, he has set an elite standard, having been recognized this week as a finalist for the Norris Trophy, awarded annually to the NHL's top defenseman.

Letang looked the part on his pass to Kennedy.

“I had to put it in the air,” Letang said. “I saw him tapping his stick on the ice. He looked like he wanted it.”

Kennedy did want the puck.

What he did with it helped the Penguins get a win they needed.

Rob Rossi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at rrossi@tribweb.com or via Twitter @RobRossi_Trib.

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