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Islanders spoil Crosby's two-goal return

The SportsXchange

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins entered Friday night's NHL playoff game looking to take a 2-0 series lead over the New York Islanders, but the bigger story was the return of Penguins captain Sidney Crosby.

Despite Crosby's two goals after missing 13 games with a broken jaw, the Islanders evened the series at one win each with a 4-3 victory over the Penguins.

"We're excited," Islanders alternate captain Kyle Okposo said. "We're in the series. We just wanted to come out and let them know that we're not going away."

Crosby received medical clearance to return and his presence bolstered a talent-rich lineup that was brimming with confidence after a 5-0 thrashing of the Islanders in Game 1.

Game 2 proved to be much different. The Penguins surrendered two-goal leads twice.

"We let our foot off a little bit and they ran with it," Pittsburgh forward Jarome Iginla said.

The Islanders took advantage of a power-play opportunity and several good bounces.

"They got a few bounces, but they worked for them," Crosby said. "I don't think we feel like we did enough to deserve that one."

Before Crosby even touched the ice, the Penguins were already up 1-0. A mere 43 seconds in, Evgeni Malkin took an Iginla pass and threw it on net from in tight, got his own rebound and shoveled a backhand past Islanders goalie Evgeni Nabokov.

Minutes later, Islanders defenseman Andrew MacDonald took a penalty when he slashed the stick out of Jussi Jokinen's hands, putting the Penguins on the power play.

Just as in Game 1, the Penguins' power play took advantage of its first opportunity. Malkin fired a long slap shot that caromed off the glass behind the net and eventually ended up on the stick of Crosby, who found himself all alone on the left post for the tap-in to an open net. The goal came at 3:19 of the first and gave the Penguins a 2-0 lead.

The Islanders got a power-play goal of their own at 7:04 of the first period.

With Deryk Engelland off for cross-checking, Matt Moulson attempted a cross-crease pass to teammate Brad Boyes that was diverted by Pittsburgh defenseman Paul Martin's stick, then off goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury's skate and into the net for the Islanders' first goal of the game and the series.

"We had to get pucks to the tough areas of the ice and get to those areas and we didn't do that in Game 1," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said.

The Islanders' power play goal didn't seem to faze the Penguins. They scored just 18 seconds later. It was Crosby again, showing no signs of rust, grabbing a rebound from a Pascal Dupuis shot and wristing into the net from a nearly impossible angle while straddling the goal line, extending the Pittsburgh lead to 3-1.

The momentum seemed to change at 4:58 of the second period when Okposo challenged Matt Niskanen to a fight after Niskanen leveled Islanders defenseman Casey Cizikas with a hard open-ice check.

The fight appeared to spark the Islanders because just seconds later New York pulled within one when MacDonald, with his entire body positioned below the goal line, took a rebound off of the glass and tipped it between the right post and Fleury's leg, cutting the Penguins' lead to 3-2.

New York continued its comeback at 10:37 of the second when Matt Martin tapped the rebound of a Josh Bailey shot off the backboard past Fleury, who found himself out of position after having committed to Bailey's shot.

"Sometimes you get lucky bounces, so if you throw enough there you're bound to get a few that are lucky," Cizikas said.

The Penguins had a golden opportunity to retake the lead late in the second with John Tavares off for four minutes for high-sticking Brenden Morrow, but the Islanders' penalty kill was up to the task.

"You can't really rely on your power play every game to win games," Penguins defenseman Kris Letang said. "You have to play well five-on-five."

The penalty kill proved to be vital. The Islanders took their first lead of the game at 12:23 of the third when Okposo fired a hard wrist shot off the backboards that bounced wildly in front, off the back of Fleury's pads and into the net, putting the Islanders ahead for good at 4-3.

"We got back to the way we know we can play," Tavares said. "We have to build on it."

Nabokov made 30 saves and Fleury was tagged with the loss after making 38 saves.

Game 3 is on Sunday afternoon on Long Island.

NOTES: Including playoff games, Nabokov has played in 43 of the Islanders' 50 games this season. ... Malkin and Iginla recorded their 33rd and 16th career multipoint playoff games, respectively. ... The Islanders went the entire season without losing consecutive road games in regulation. ... Scratches for the Penguins included James Neal, Orpik, and forward Tyler Kennedy. Scratches for the Islanders were defenseman Radek Martinek and forward Marty Reasoner.
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