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Penguins stumble against Islanders again

| Friday, March 30, 2012

UNIONDALE, N.Y. — Sidney Crosby's nose injury did not require stitches. The same can't be said of the Penguins' recent performance.

Crosby missed part of the second period after taking a puck to the face as the Penguins were again surprised by the Islanders, this time in a 5-3 setback at Nassau Coliseum.

The Penguins have lost consecutive games to the Islanders and trail the New York Rangers by five points for the top spot in the Eastern Conference. Each team has five games remaining, and the Penguins will host the Rangers on April 5.

Barring a Rangers' collapse, the Penguins now appear a very strong bet to begin the Stanley Cup playoffs against the Philadelphia Flyers.

"The standings will be the standings," center Jordan Staal said. "We want to win games. Right now, we're not playing our best hockey, and we're losing games. It's something we need to address."

Crosby was held scoreless for a second straight game and left the ice at the 1:43 mark of the second period. While skating toward the left corner in New York territory early in the second period, Crosby was struck in the nose by defenseman Dylan Reese's clearing attempt. Reese, an Upper St. Clair native, was about 10 feet away from Crosby when he launched a clearing attempt that struck the Penguins' captain in the face.

Crosby has a large welt on the left side of his nose.

"We didn't do a lot of good things," Crosby said. "We paid for it again. We made some mistakes, and they capitalized on it."

The Penguins were hungry to play better defensively following a multitude of high-scoring games in recent weeks. They didn't succeed, and perhaps in paying so much attention to defense, were unable to generate their normal offensive attack.

"It was a bit better," said Crosby of his team's defensive work. "But we didn't produce enough offensively. It's still something to work on."

Again, the Penguins made numerous mistakes, something that hasn't been a characteristic all season.

They allowed a short-handed breakaway goal and were guilty of many turnovers.

"I didn't see a lot of response," coach Dan Bylsma said.

The Penguins have now permitted 25 goals in their past six games. Bylsma pointed out before the game that he isn't concerned about his team's play in its territory, but rather, believes puck management issues are to blame for his team's bloated goals against totals in recent games.

Again those problems were very much on display.

Center Evgeni Malkin, who scored his league-leading 100th point on his 47th goal — which ties his career-high — was guilty of a turnover while the Penguins were on the power play that led to Josh Bailey's goal. Bailey recorded two goals and three assists.

Malkin wasn't the only Penguins' player to make a mistake, as the power play again looked lost without injured defenseman Kris Letang.

"We expected a better effort," said Staal, who scored his 24th goal. "It just wasn't there. We need to find a way to get our game back."

The Penguins return to action Friday night against the red-hot Sabres in Buffalo.

Scoring summary

First period

Islanders, 1-0 (11:07): The Islanders pinned the Penguins in their territory for almost a minute before D Mark Streit circled around the net and found open C Marty Reasoner in the slot. He blasted a shot past G Marc-Andre Fleury.

Second period

Penguins, 1-1 (8:37): RW Craig Adams fed RW Pascal Dupuis, who buried a wrist shot past G Al Montoya's glove while the Penguins were killing a penlaty.

Islanders, 2-1 (16:36): RW Kyle Okposo slid a puck toward the net that hit off D Deryk Engelland's skate and into the net.

Islanders, 3-1 (18:36): C Evgeni Malkin coughed up the puck at New York's blue line, allowing C Josh Bailey to beat Fleury on a breakaway. Fleury's poke-check attempt failed.

Third period

Islanders, 4-1 (5:52): Okposo found himself open in front of the net, took a pass from Bailey and beat Fleury.

Penguins, 4-2 (8:20): C Jordan Staal took a pass from D Zbynek Michalek, split the defense and beat Montoya with a backhand hsot to the stick side.

Penguins, 4-3 (18:29): With Fleury pulled, Malkin gathered the puck in the slot and registered his 47th goal and 100th point.

Islanders, 19:55: Bailey broke past LW Steve Sullivan and scored into an empty net.

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