Penguins' Crosby nets game-winner in overtime
By Rob Rossi
Published: Tuesday, Dec. 3, 2013, 10:05 p.m.
UNIONDALE, N.Y. — Sidney Crosby still leads the NHL in scoring.
Marc-Andre Fleury is the man to thank for that.
Fleury's stone-cold save on a penalty shot early in the third period paved the way for Crosby's heroics in the Penguins' 3-2 overtime win over the New York Islanders on Tuesday night at Nassau Coliseum.
Crosby's unassisted, defense-slicing overtime goal topped his power-play marker, which he scored with 12 minutes remaining in regulation.
However, he, as did teammate James Neal, put this win on Fleury, who turned aside Islanders center Frans Nielsen's penalty shot with the Penguins trailing 2-1 early in the third.
“If that's a penalty, not a penalty shot, it could be a different result,” Crosby said. “That was a big save for us.”
Added Neal, whose power-play goal with 16 seconds remaining in the second pulled the Penguins within a goal: “That wins us the game. It's an unbelievable save, especially against a guy who is really good on shootouts ... if not the best on their team.”
Nielsen is 11 for 23 (47.8 percent) on shootouts over the past three seasons.
Of course, Fleury has stopped 37 of 48 shots (77.1 percent) over that same span. He made 21 saves in his first appearance against the Islanders since they chased him as the Penguins' starter from the Stanley Cup playoffs last postseason. His last start was Game 4, a loss in this building.
“I didn't forget about what happened last year,” Fleury said.
Neither did the Penguins (19-9-1, 39 points), though they did not seem to have learned any lessons in falling behind 2-0 on Tuesday.
Each of Islanders winger Kyle Okposo's first-period goals was aided by poor play from the Penguins — an own-zone turnover by winger Chris Kunitz and a leaker allowed by Fleury.
Turnovers by forwards and Fleury's poor play contributed mightily to the Penguins' struggles with the Islanders in the playoffs. However, Fleury (15 wins) and Kunitz (14 goals) have proven to be two of the Penguins' most consistent performers through 29 games.
Evgeni Malkin has been consistently dominant over the last 16 games, racking up 26 points over that span to pull within a point of Crosby's league-best 38.
Malkin assisted on Neal's ninth goal and Crosby's 14th, the tying tally, to give him multiple points in seven of nine games.
He leads the NHL with 30 assists and is on pace for a career-best 85. Crosby, with 15 goals, is on pace for 42 markers, which would rate his second most.
Neal is tracking toward 43 goals — fairly impressive considering he played only two shifts in the Penguins' opening 15 games.
As was the case last spring against the Islanders, the Penguins stayed close enough to let their experience take over Tuesday. Failure to extend leads did in the Islanders in that playoff series, especially when the Penguins rallied to win Game 6 in overtime.
Malkin set up the tying and winning goals that night. Crosby, perhaps the only player who could prevent a healthy Malkin from a third scoring title, scored those goals Tuesday.
The winner, as he saw it: “I just got the puck around their blue line, was able to get some speed,” Crosby said. “I was waiting on Nealer, who was coming into the zone. I was waiting for him to come up.
“I had a lot of time to kind of wind it up. Their (defensemen) were pretty flat-footed ... so I was able to get through there and get a shot off.”
That shot came against Islanders goalie Anders Nilsson.
“Flower gets a huge goal against their best shootout guy, and Sid wins it in overtime with a great goal,” Neal said. “For us, that's a huge win.”
Rob Rossi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @RobRossi_Trib.
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