Pens win rare division game
UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- They have not completely grown up, but a lot about the Penguins has changed since their previous visit to Nassau Coliseum last month.
For starters, though they surrendered a two-goal lead again in a road game against the New York Islanders, they at least won on Saturday.
Forward Tyler Kennedy, skating on a line with captain Sidney Crosby, recorded a career-best three points. He also scored at 14:16 of the third period to give the Penguins a 3-2 victory.
Still, despite halting a two-game losing skid and winning a division game for the first time since Nov. 15 -- against the Islanders at Mellon Arena -- the Penguins held a players-only meeting following the game.
One player said there was a lot of yelling.
Veteran defenseman Darryl Sydor was not that player and would not divulge details of the meeting. However, he indicated the players were displeased about allowing the Islanders at least five prime scoring chances on a five-minute Penguins power play towards the end of the game.
"We got lucky with that," Sydor said. "When you have that power play you have to focus and play good defense. We have to be aware of that.
"We got away with one. It is always better to get away with one, but if you do not learn from it, there will be a problem."
New York left wing Chris Simon was assessed a match penalty for intent to injury after apparently kicking forward Jarkko Ruutu near the benches with about six minutes remaining.
The Penguins were awarded five minutes of power-play time, but the Islanders earned the better chances, including a missed shot on a breakaway by center Mike Sillinger with about three minutes remaining.
The Penguins were 1 for 6 on the power play without defenseman Sergei Gonchar, who did not play due to illness. In four games without Gonchar the power play has scored on just three of 20 opportunities.
"We did not play well on the power play, especially at the end," coach Michel Therrien said. "It comes down to us not having the right attitude, especially at the end."
Therrien would not elaborate on what he meant by "attitude."
Crosby said the Penguins need to "make sure (their) work ethic is there" in future situations when they can wrap a game on a late power play.
Ironically, on a night the Penguins' power-play performance nearly allowed them to steal defeat from the jaws of victory, Kennedy scored with the man-advantage to give them two crucial points.
Strong work by center Jordan Staal set up Kennedy's sixth of the season late in the second after the Islanders opened the second with quick strikes by left wing Richard Park and center Josef Vasicek only 45 seconds apart.
Park tallied his fifth at 4:57 and Vasicek capped a 2-on-1 break with Miroslav Satan by scoring his 10th at 5:42.
The Penguins had taken a 2-0 lead in the first period on goals by Crosby, his 15th, and defenseman Ryan Whitney, his seventh. Kennedy assisted on each goal.
Still, there was an alarming sense of dejà vu after Vasicek scored in the second.
The Penguins blew a 2-0 lead in a 3-2 defeat here Nov. 3.
Recent history would not repeat itself thanks to the speed of Kennedy, a rookie that has impressed since his first promotion from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the AHL in late-October.
"He gets on the puck quick and keeps it alive and gives you a chance to score," Crosby said. "He is a tenacious guy, which is good for us."
Veteran forward Gary Roberts continued to flash his tenacity. Late in the first period he and New York defenseman Andy Sutton engaged in fisticuffs. Most of them were thrown by Roberts, who floored his far bigger foe with a series of roundhouse blows.
The Penguins played with only five defensemen over the final 30-plus minutes due to Rob Scuderi's ankle injury. Therrien offered no update on Scuderi's status.
The Penguins are 16-14-2 with 34 points and have won eight of 11. They improved to 9-13-2 in the East and 4-8-1 in the Atlantic, where they trail first-place New Jersey by only three points.
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