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Penguins rally, then hold off Islanders for wild victory on the road

Getty Images - Penguins goalie Jeff Zatkoff makes a save on the Islanders' Frans Nielsen during the third period Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014, in Uniondale, N.Y.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Getty Images</em></div>Penguins goalie Jeff Zatkoff makes a save on the Islanders' Frans Nielsen during the third period Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014, in Uniondale, N.Y.
Getty Images - The Islanders' Frans Nielsen (right) checks the Penguins' Deryk Engelland into the boards during the first period Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014, in Uniondale, N.Y.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Getty Images</em></div>The Islanders' Frans Nielsen (right) checks the Penguins' Deryk Engelland into the boards during the first period Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014, in Uniondale, N.Y.
USA Today Sports - Penguins center Sidney Crosby (87) celebrates his goal against the Islanders with Chris Kunitz (14) and Craig Adams (27) during the first period Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014, in Uniondale, N.Y.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>USA Today Sports</em></div>Penguins center Sidney Crosby (87) celebrates his goal against the Islanders with Chris Kunitz (14) and Craig Adams (27) during the first period Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014, in Uniondale, N.Y.
USA Today Sports - Islanders defenseman Calvin de Haan passes the puck while being chased by Penguins left wing Chris Kunitz during the first period Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014, in Uniondale, N.Y.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>USA Today Sports</em></div>Islanders defenseman Calvin de Haan passes the puck while being chased by Penguins left wing Chris Kunitz during the first period  Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014, in Uniondale, N.Y.
USA Today Sports - Islanders goalie Kevin Poulin makes a save against the Penguins during the first period Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014, in Uniondale, N.Y.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>USA Today Sports</em></div>Islanders goalie Kevin Poulin makes a save against the Penguins during the first period Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014, in Uniondale, N.Y.
USA Today Sports - Islanders goalie Kevin Poulin (60) makes a save on a shot by Penguins left wing James Neal (18) during the first period Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014, in Uniondale, N.Y.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>USA Today Sports</em></div>Islanders goalie Kevin Poulin (60) makes a save on a shot by  Penguins left wing James Neal (18) during the first period  Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014, in Uniondale, N.Y.
AP - The Penguins' Chris Kunitz (14) and Sidney Crosby (87) celebrate after Kunitz scored a goal during the first period against the Islanders on Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014, in Uniondale, N.Y.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>AP</em></div>The Penguins' Chris Kunitz (14) and Sidney Crosby (87) celebrate after Kunitz scored a goal during the first period against the Islanders on  Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014, in Uniondale, N.Y.
AP - The Islanders' Andrew MacDonald (47) defends the Penguins' Sidney Crosby (87) behind goalie Kevin Poulin during the first period Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014, in Uniondale, N.Y.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>AP</em></div>The Islanders' Andrew MacDonald (47) defends the Penguins' Sidney Crosby (87) behind goalie Kevin Poulin during the first period Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014, in Uniondale, N.Y.
AP - The Islanders' Brian Strait (37) and the Penguins' Sidney Crosby (87) battle for the puck during the first period Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014, in Uniondale, N.Y.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>AP</em></div>The Islanders' Brian Strait (37) and the Penguins' Sidney Crosby (87) battle for the puck during the first period  Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014, in Uniondale, N.Y.
Getty Images - The Islanders' John Tavares and the Penguins' Sidney Crosby, future Team Canada teammates, fight for position during the first period Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014, in Uniondale, N.Y.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Getty Images</em></div>The Islanders' John Tavares and the Penguins' Sidney Crosby, future Team Canada teammates, fight for position during the first period Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014, in Uniondale, N.Y.
AP - Penguins goalie Jeff Zatkoff stops a shot during the second period against the Islanders on Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014, in Uniondale, N.Y.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>AP</em></div>Penguins goalie Jeff Zatkoff stops a shot during the second period against the Islanders on Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014, in Uniondale, N.Y.
Getty Images - The Penguins Brandon Sutter tried to poke check the puck off the Islanders' Thomas Hickey during the second period Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014, in Uniondale, N.Y.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Getty Images</em></div>The Penguins Brandon Sutter tried to poke check the puck off the Islanders' Thomas Hickey during the second period Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014, in Uniondale, N.Y.
Getty Images - The Penguins' Rob Scuderi and goalie Jeff Zatkoff combine to stop a shot by the Islanders' Thomas Vanek during the second period Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014, in Uniondale, N.Y.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Getty Images</em></div>The Penguins' Rob Scuderi and goalie Jeff Zatkoff combine to stop a shot by the Islanders' Thomas Vanek during the second period Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014, in Uniondale, N.Y.
Getty Images - The Penguins' Matt Niskanen (left) and Olli Maatta tie up the Islanders' Kyle Okposo on Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014, in Uniondale, N.Y.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Getty Images</em></div>The Penguins' Matt Niskanen (left) and Olli Maatta tie up the Islanders' Kyle Okposo on Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014, in Uniondale, N.Y.
Getty Images - The Penguins' Olli Maatta knocks the puck away from the Islanders' Brock Nelson during their game Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014, in Uniondale, N.Y.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Getty Images</em></div>The Penguins' Olli Maatta knocks the puck away from the Islanders' Brock Nelson during their game Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014, in Uniondale, N.Y.
Getty Images - The Penguins' Chuck Kobasew checks the Islanders' Calvin de Haan during the second period Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014, in Uniondale, N.Y.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Getty Images</em></div>The Penguins' Chuck Kobasew checks the Islanders' Calvin de Haan during the second period Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014, in Uniondale, N.Y.
AP - Penguins goalie Jeff Zatkoff stops a shot by the Islanders' Peter Regin (16) during the second period Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014, in Uniondale, N.Y.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>AP</em></div>Penguins goalie Jeff Zatkoff stops a shot by the Islanders' Peter Regin (16) during the second period Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014, in Uniondale, N.Y.
Getty Images - The Penguins' Sidney Crosby (right) tries to skate past the Islanders' John Tavares, Crosby's future Team Canada teammate, during the first period Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014, in Uniondale, N.Y.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Getty Images</em></div>The Penguins' Sidney Crosby (right) tries to skate past the Islanders' John Tavares, Crosby's future Team Canada teammate, during the first period Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014, in Uniondale, N.Y.
USA Today Sports - The Penguins celebrate a second-period goal by defenseman Kris Letang against the Islanders on Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014, in Uniondale, N.Y.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>USA Today Sports</em></div>The Penguins celebrate a second-period goal by defenseman Kris Letang against the Islanders on Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014, in Uniondale, N.Y.
USA Today Sports - Islanders right wing Colin McDonald (right)) collides with Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta during the second period Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014, in Uniondale, N.Y.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>USA Today Sports</em></div>Islanders right wing Colin McDonald (right)) collides with  Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta during the second period Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014, in Uniondale, N.Y.
Getty Images - The Penguins' Sidney Crosby skates around the Islanders' Andrew MacDonald and goaltender Kevin Poulin during the first period Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014, in Uniondale, N.Y.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Getty Images</em></div>The Penguins' Sidney Crosby skates around the Islanders' Andrew MacDonald and goaltender Kevin Poulin during the first period Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014, in Uniondale, N.Y.
USA Today Sports - Islanders goalie Kevin Poulin makes a save on Penguins left wing Chris Kunitz in front of defenseman Calvin de Haan during the third period Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014, in Uniondale, N.Y.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>USA Today Sports</em></div>Islanders goalie Kevin Poulin makes a save on Penguins left wing Chris Kunitz in front of defenseman Calvin de Haan during the third period Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014, in Uniondale, N.Y.
USA Today Sports - Penguins left wing Tanner Glass and Islanders left wing Matt Martin fight during the third period Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014, in Uniondale, N.Y.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>USA Today Sports</em></div>Penguins left wing Tanner Glass and Islanders left wing Matt Martin fight during the third period Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014, in Uniondale, N.Y.
USA Today Sports - Penguins left wing James Neal and Islanders defenseman Andrew MacDonald chase the puck during the third period Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014, in Uniondale, N.Y.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>USA Today Sports</em></div>Penguins left wing James Neal and Islanders defenseman Andrew MacDonald chase the puck during the third period Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014, in Uniondale, N.Y.
Getty Images - Islanders goalie Kevin Poulin allows a second-period goal against the Penguins on Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014, in Uniondale, N.Y.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Getty Images</em></div>Islanders goalie Kevin Poulin allows a second-period goal against the Penguins on Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014, in Uniondale, N.Y.
AP - Islanders goalie Kevin Poulin stops a shot by the Penguins' Jayson Megna during the third period Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014, in Uniondale, N.Y.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>AP</em></div>Islanders goalie Kevin Poulin stops a shot by the Penguins' Jayson Megna during the third period Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014, in Uniondale, N.Y.
Getty Images - The Penguins' Tanner Glass and the Islanders' Matt Martin prepare to fight during the third period Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014, in Uniondale, N.Y.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Getty Images</em></div>The Penguins' Tanner Glass and the Islanders' Matt Martin prepare to fight during the third period Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014, in Uniondale, N.Y.

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By Larry Fleisher
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 8 12 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.

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