After a 5 to 4 loss tied the series up at two games apiece on Tuesday, the Penguins and Islanders headed back to Pittsburgh for Game 5. Both teams would have some new faces in the lineup. For the Penguins, Tyler Kennedy and Joe Vitale, scratched for the first couple of games, returned to the Penguins lineup along with Brooks Orpik who’d been sidelined with a lower-body injury. In addition, Tomas Vokoun was in net in place of Marc-Andre Fleury.
Brooks Orpik made his presence known early on when an attempted check from Kyle Okposo backfired and saw Okposo end up on the ice. Both teams exchanged a penalty or two and while the Penguins dominated the first ten minutes of play, the second half of the period was all Islanders. At the end of twenty, and very much so the result of the saving graces of Tomas Vokoun, the game remained scoreless, although New York held a 14 to 7 advantage in shots.
Pittsburgh opened the scoring with just under seven and a half minutes gone in the second period. The goal, courtesy of Tyler Kennedy, resulted from a pass from Kris Letang to Kennedy, behind the Isles defence. All Kennedy had to do was flick his wrist shot high, beating Evgeni Nabokov high and giving the Pens a 1 to 0 lead. A minute later, Douglas Murray increased the lead by two. A shot from Murray from the point bounced off Nabokov before floating through the air and finding the net. John Tavares would almost cut the lead in half, breaking through the defence before getting a shot off. However, he couldn’t beat Vokoun. The attempt was answered by the Penguins third goal of the evening, this one credited to Sidney Crosby. Crosby picked the puck up in neutral zone with characteristic speed before splitting a pair of Islanders, maintaining puck possession before sniping a shot toward Nabokov, beating him and setting off the goal lights. Moments later, Crosby would block a shot and appear to be in some discomfort. He’d head down the run way but return almost immediately. Through the second frame, the Penguins would maintain their lead, this time outshooting the Islanders 18 to 11.
Five minutes into the third period, the Penguins earned their second power-play of the evening when New York’s Matt Martin tackled Paul Martin, earning the former Martin a two minute penalty for roughing. Unlike the previous power play, this time the Penguins would capitalize. The goal, courtesy of Kris Letang, increased Pittsburgh’s lead to 4 and 0. Sidney Crosby would win a faceoff in the offensive zone before sending it off to Letang. Letang buried it top shelf over Nabokov. That would signal the end of Nabokov’s night and Kevin Poulin would be sent into finish the game. What followed was an onslaught of penalties that saw a parade of players to and from the box. With 24 seconds left in regulation, Keith Aucoin, Matt Martin, Craig Adams and Douglas Murray were all given game misconducts following a scrum. At the end of sixty minutes, the Penguins would hang on for not only the win but their second shutout of the best-of-seven series.
Kris Letang led all skaters with 24:21 of ice time, followed by Paul Martin with 24:08. Letang tallied 5 shots on goal while Matt Niskanen, James Neal and Tyler Kennedy each had 3. Sidney Crosby and Kris Letang each enjoyed two-point nights. Both goaltenders faced 31 shots.
The series will return to Long Island for Game 6 on Saturday.