Game 26 – Penguins vs. Islanders


Chris Kunitz, Pascal Dupuis and Sidney Crosby - the three men who make up the highest scoring first-line in the NHL - celebrate one of their combined five goals Sunday evening. (Courtesy of Getty Images.)

It was a hockey night in Pittsburgh as the Pens rolled back into town following two road games. This time, the Penguins would face-off against the New York Islanders. While Pittsburgh is perched comfortably atop the Atlantic Division, the Isles sit in fourth, only two points ahead of Philadelphia. With the Penguins riding a four game winning streak and the Isles having won three of their last four at the half way mark of a shortened season, both teams were looking to add to their point tally.


The first period was all Penguins as the boys in black and gold would take a commanding 3 to 0 lead while holding the Islanders to just four shots through twenty minutes. Pascal Dupuis started the scoring seven minutes into the period. Dupuis was on the receiving end of a pass from Chris Kunitz, parked on the halfwall, that would bounce off the post, off of the pad of Evgeni Nabokov and into the net. Four minutes later, the Pens would earn a 5-on-3 opportunity when New Yorks Brad Boyes was called for a trip against Tyler Kennedy and Travis Hamonic was sent to sit for two minutes following a cross-check against James Neal. While the Isles would be able to kill of the 5-on-3, Chris Kunitz earned his first of the period on the remaining power play time. Waiting atop the crease, Kunitz would fight through  a stick check courtesy of the Isles’ Lubomir Visnovsky to re-direct a shot from James Neal into the netting, setting off the lights and giving Pittsburgh a 2 to 0 lead. With 16:17 off the clock in the first, following a little confusion on the part of the officials, Andrew MacDonald was sent to the box for a delay of game when the puck was cleared over the glass in the defensive zone. This opened up the opportunity for Kunitz’s second power play goal of the evening. Parked in the slot, he’d pick up a backhand pass from Neal before one-timing it passed Nabokov. At the end of twenty, Pittsburgh would hold a 3 to 0 lead against the Isles, while outshooting them 12 to 4.


Chris Kunitz celebrates his hat trick with teammates as fans adorn the ice with hats and sock monkeys. (Courtesy of Getty Images.)

Eight minutes into the second period, the Penguins lead was cut to two courtesy of a goal from Brad Boyes. Earning a 2-on-1, Boyes would beat Tomas Vokoun top-shelf, breathing life into the Isles’ game. Pittsburgh, however, was not ready to sit back just yet. With the hat-trick, Kunitz increased the Pens lead to three again. James Neal followed with goal number five for the Pens. Creating an opportunity by bursting through the Islanders’ defence, Neal found himself on a semi-breakaway, snapping the puck into the net for his 17th of the season. (Kunitz’s third of the night was his 17th as well.) With thirty-six seconds left in the middle frame, Paul Martin was sent to the box for a hold, sending the Isles’ to a later power play, ensuring they would start the third up a man despite being down four. At the second horn, the Isles had registered a total of 10 shots on goal while the Penguins had 17.


The Islanders would swap out their net-minders for the third period, Kevin Poulin replacing Nabokov. However, Dupuis’ second of the night (Pittsburgh’s sixth of the night) came with six minutes off the clock. Two minutes later, Brooks Orpik was sent to the box for a hook, sending the penalty kill to work. The Isles weren’t able to capitalize, and with ten minutes remaining in regulation, Pittsburgh still lead to New York 6 to 1. In spite of a final power play with just 0:40 left on the clock, Boyes’ goal would be the only goal the Isles had, the score staying as is as Pittsburgh made it five in a row.


Kris Letang led all skaters with 23:32 of ice time, followed closely by Paul Martin with 22:14. Pascal Dupuis registered five shots on goal while Sidney Crosby had three of his own, contributing to the 28 sent toward the Islanders’ goal-tending duo. Crosby and Chris Kunitz each had five point nights, while James Neal earned another three and Dupuis and Kris Letang notched two. As such, Sidney Crosby, with 45 points – including 33 assists – leads the league in overall scoring. With a +21 rating, Chris Kunitz sits atop the player plus/minus board while occupying the third spot in overall scoring and goals. He also leads the league in power play goals with 8; James Neal trailing close behind.


Once again, the Penguins found themselves without forward Evgeni Malkin. Malkin was held out of an overtime period last night following a hit from Toronto’s James Van Riemsdyk. He suffered an upper body injury to his shoulder and while no time frame has been given or his return, it is not believed that he will be out long.


The Penguins will welcome the Boston Bruins to town Tuesday evening. Game time is 7:30pm.