Pittsburgh, PA (Sports Network) - While the Pittsburgh Penguins may again be
without Evgeni Malkin for a period of time, their performance against the New
York Islanders clearly demonstrated they can withstand the absence of the
reigning league MVP.
Chris Kunitz registered the fourth hat trick of his career and tallied a
personal-best five points, leading an offensive onslaught that carried the
Pens to a 6-1 throttling of the New York Islanders for their fifth straight
Pittsburgh also received big efforts from a few others with Malkin sitting out
the contest after suffering an upper-body injury in Saturday's 5-4 shootout
victory over Toronto. Sidney Crosby assisted on five of the Penguins' six
goals, including a pair of markers from Pascal Dupuis, while James Neal posted
a goal and two helpers in the rout.
"We have a great team," said Penguins goaltender Tomas Vokoun. "We've just got
play the way we need to play to win. When we do that, it's hard to play with
us. We didn't even have Geno today and look at what we did."
Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma said prior to the game that Malkin's injury is
unrelated to the concussion that sidelined him for four straight outings
earlier this season, though he revealed afterward that the reigning Hart
Trophy recipient would likely be out between 1-to-2 weeks.
Vokoun stopped 23-of-24 shots to help Pittsburgh match its longest win streak
of the season.
Brad Boyes had the lone goal for New York, which had a string of five
consecutive tests with at least one point end. Evgeni Nabokov made just 12
saves on 17 chances before being pulled in favor of Kevin Poulin to begin the
Kunitz scored twice during a first period dominated by the Penguins, who put
up three unanswered goals to move in front comfortably.
Dupuis started things with a tough-angle shot from the right corner that hit
the post and trickled through Nabokov's legs 7:10 after the initial faceoff.
Kunitz made it 2-0 with 6:14 left in the frame on a Pittsburgh power play,
knocking home Neal's centering pass from close range after Crosby cycled the
puck deep in the New York zone.
"Our discipline wasn't really good," said Isles head coach Jack Capuano.
"They've got the fourth-best power play in the league and you can't get behind
two or three goals to this team. Right off the bat, the undisciplined
penalties we took killed us. We went to the box three straight times and they
capitalized on it."
Kunitz and Neal struck again on a power play less than three minutes later,
with the latter racing up the right side and giving Kunitz a pinpoint pass
he pushed past a sprawling Nabokov.
"Really nice," said Kunitz of Neal's two assists. "I don't ever usually get
those passes, but I got good position on the guy [on the first goal and Nealer
had good position on the guy to throw it to the net and put it on my stick.
The other one, he was driving hard off a neutral zone, burst into the zone
with speed and got the puck over to him. He made a nice play back."
Boyes produced the Isles' only highlight just over eight minutes into the
second period, beating Vokoun to the glove side with a wrister, but Pittsburgh
scored a pair of goals just 16 seconds apart later in the session to put the
game out of reach.
Kunitz completed his hat trick by tapping in a rebound off a Kris Letang shot
6:26 prior to the second intermission, and Neal got past the New York defense
after chasing down a puck dumped by Letang and delivered his 17th goal of the
season to give Pittsburgh a commanding 5-1 lead.
Dupuis closed out the scoring on a two-on-none rush with Crosby, created by a
giveaway in the Islanders' zone with 6:39 elapsed in the final period.
Kunitz's hat trick was his second this season, having amassed a career-high
four goals in a 6-3 win at Washington on Feb. 3 ... Crosby's five assists
matched a career best, initially set against Philadelphia on Dec. 13, 2006,
and he's now racked up five goals and 15 helpers over an eight-game point
streak ... Neal has a goal in four consecutive contests, while Dupuis scored
for the third game in a row ... The Islanders had won three of the last four
meetings in the series coming in, including a 4-1 verdict in Pittsburgh on
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