Despite all evidence to the contrary, the Islanders do not need to reconstruct their line combinations.
Just ask Jack Capuano.
“You know what, as a coach you think about that but, again, we had 33 shots tonight. We had 17, 18 scoring chances. It’s not like we played real bad or poorly. The guys worked hard and they created some offense. So it hasn’t really crossed my mind, yet.” a clearly irritated Capuano said after the Islanders were shut out 3-0 by the Penguins for their third straight loss. The teams will play in Pittsburgh tomorrow night.
Even though Capuano correctly noted that the Islanders were credited with 33 shots on goal, the Islanders were not able to sustain offense. As a result, Marc-Andre Fleury did not have to work especially hard to earn his 20th career shutout. The Penguins blocked 26 shots and their team defense would not allow the Islanders to forecheck and cycle the puck. Fleury’s best save occurred early in the third period as he stretched out to stuff a Matt Moulson wraparound attempt.
“They did a good job blocking shots and [clearing out] rebounds,” Fleury said of his teammates.
Pascal Dupuis’s slapshot goal at 17:06 of the first period opened the scoring. Dupuis, who beat Evgeni Nabokov (26 saves) stickside, was sprung for his semi-breakaway by a spectacular Brooks Orpik headman pass.
Former Islanders Aaron Asham and Richard Park doubled the Pens’ lead to 2-0 21 seconds into the second period with a wrister over Nabokov’s glove. Asham set up Park in the high slot for the shot as Matt Cooke screened the Islanders goaltender. Pittsburgh milked the lead until Jordan Staal’s empty-net goal with 2:00 remaining ended the scoring.
“Obviously we have to score a few goals to win. But to cut a couple more of their chances down, we have to be sharper,” John Tavares said. “That would definitely help.”
Pittsburgh finished with 29 shots.
Sidney Crosby did not make the trip to Long Island as he continues to recuperate from two concussions that prematurely ended his 2010-11 season. Evgeni Malkin did play for the first time since Oct. 13. Malkin, who had his 2010-11 season ended due to torn right knee ligaments, missed the Penguins’ last five games. Malkin appeared to labor as the game progressed, but did have three shots on goal in 19:19 of ice time, including 2:53 of power play time.
“My knee feels good,” Malkin said.
He admitted that it could bother him “a little bit.”
“I put ice [on the knee] after the game. Now it feels pretty good and I’m ready to play [Thursday’s] game,” Malkin said.
The primary angle leading up to last night’s match was the renewal of hostilities between the Atlantic Division rivals. The teams combined for 342 penalty minutes, 15 fighting majors and 10 game misconduct penalties in the Islanders’ 9-3 win last Feb. 11.
Those that attended in hopes of viewing an amalgamation of boxing, mixed martial arts and professional wrestling on ice were sorely disappointed. Just five minor penalties were called. The Penguins were unable to score on their two power plays and the Islanders were 0-for -1 with man advantage.
Follow Denis Gorman on Twitter @DenisGorman for news on all the New York-area hockey teams.