UNIONDALE, N.Y. — Sidney Crosby scored the only goal of the shootout to lift the Pittsburgh Penguins to a 4-3 comeback victory over the New York Islanders on Thursday night.
Casey DeSmith made 26 saves for the victory, including five stops in overtime plus all three of the Islanders’ attempts in the shootout.
Mathew Barzal had given the Islanders a 3-2 late in the third period before Evgeni Malkin tied it for the Penguins with 18 seconds remaining.
“It’s a huge goal for us. We needed a win for our confidence,? Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. ”I love how our guys dug in down the stretch.”
Barzal scored his fifth goal of the season on a tremendous individual effort, manoeuvring the puck around and past defenceman Pierre-Oliver Joseph before beating DeSmith over the shoulder at 13:35. Barzal leads the Islanders with 13 points and has a seven-game points streak.
Casey Cizikas and Jean-Gabriel Pageau also scored for the Islanders, who lost for the first time in four home games at Nassau Coliseum. Semyon Varlamov made 32 saves for the Islanders, but couldn’t stop Crosby’s backhand in the shootout.
“It was a playoff-style game,’’ Islanders coach Barry Trotz said. “I think they played really well. I thought we played really well.”
Malkin’s tying goal, his third of the season, came with DeSmith pulled for an extra attacker. Malkin blasted the puck past Varlamov from the right point with assists to Bryan Rust and Kris Letang. Malkin has 80 points, including 32 goals, in 66 career games against Islanders.
“Tough to give one up,’’ Islanders captain Anders Lee said. “It was a good shot, it had eyes. It was one of those things.”
Rust and Zach Aston-Reese had the Penguins’ other goals. Rust said his team’s ability to come back provides confidence but an easier path is preferable.
“When you’re down, have to work harder,” Rust said. “Our mindset moving forward is to try to get the lead more and go from there.”
The Penguins outshot the Islanders 23-14 over the second and third periods, though the Islanders had a 5-2 shots advantage in overtime.
Cizikas opened the scoring for the Islanders with a spectacular goal, his third this season, at 5:39 of the first. Cizikas outmuscled Penguins defenceman John Marino for a loose puck before sliding it past DeSmith as he was falling. Cal Clutterbuck and Ryan Pulock had assists.
Pittsburgh tied it at 11:47 when Rust completed a pretty passing play from Crosby and Jake Guentzel for his third this season.
With the assist, Crosby continued to add to his totals against the Islanders. The 33-year-old centre has more points against the Islanders (115) than any other active player against a single team. Crosby has 36 goals and 69 assists in 69 regular-season games against the Islanders – with a 42-18-9 record in those games.
Pageau put the Islanders ahead 2-1 when he tipped in Nick Leddy‘s shot from the point at 16:40 of the first. The goal was Pageau’s second this season and his first tally in nine games. Josh Bailey also assisted.
Aston-Reese tied it for a second time, scoring in his season debut for the Penguins. Aston-Reese slipped the puck past Varlamov on a backhand wraparound at 7:03 of the second period. Teddy Blueger assisted. Aston-Reese had shoulder surgery last August, which delayed his return to the lineup.
The Islanders were coming off 2-0 win over the Rangers on Monday night at Madison Square Garden. They are 2-0-3 in their last five contests.
“Every night you can get a point, it’s huge,’’ Trotz added. “You get four or five points a week, you’re in good shape.”
The Penguins had been off since losing 4-3 the Islanders last Saturday at Nassau Coliseum. Pittsburgh had to reschedule two games against the New Jersey Devils due to COVID-19 protocols.
Sullivan added that his team’s ability to rally is attributable to veterans such as Crosby and the 34-year-old Malkin, who have been teammates since the 2006-07 season.
“It takes a certain level of resilience and mental toughness in a belief we can come back,” Sullivan said. ”It always starts with our leadership. They are a pretty accomplished group.”
The contest was the second of six between the division rivals this month.
The Islanders have three players with consecutive game streaks of at least 240 games with Anders Lee 280, Brock Nelson 257 and Barzal at 244.
Crosby played career game No. 996. The only active player with six 100-point seasons, Crosby has 466 goals and 1,273 points overall during his 16-year NHL career after the Penguins selected him first overall in the 2005 draft.
Islanders: Host the Boston Bruins on Saturday night.
Penguins: Host the Washington Capitals on Sunday afternoon.
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