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Penguins' Vokoun shuts out Islanders

The SportsXchange

PITTSBURGH - Tomas Vokoun has a simple philosophy as a backup goaltender.

"You better always be ready to play," he said. "If you're not, then you're in the wrong business."

Vokoun proved he was ready Thursday night and so did fourth-line center Tyler Kennedy as they helped spark the Penguins to a 4-0 victory over the New York Islanders in Game 5 of their first-round Stanley Cup playoff series at Consol Energy Center.

The Penguins, the top-seeded team in the Eastern Conference, took a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series.

Vokoun registered a shutout in his first playoff appearance since 2007, and Kennedy scored the game's first goal after being a healthy scratch in each of the first four games of the series.

Coach Dan Bylsma made lineup changes to try to help his heavily favored Penguins regain momentum in a series that seemed to be slipping away. Now they can close it out Saturday in Game 6 at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Long Island.

"One of the real strengths of our team is our depth, and we play everybody," Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said. "It really showed in this game. A lot of people made contributions."

The Islanders, the No. 8 seed in the East, haven't won a playoff series since 1993, when they upset Pittsburgh in the second round.

"For us, it's two Game 7s right now, starting on Saturday," New York captain Mark Streit said. "We've just got to concentrate on our game, what brought us in this situation and what makes us successful. We know we have it in the room. We're a confident group. We've got to shake it off and bounce back on Saturday."

Bylsma felt Vokoun, subbing for struggling Marc-Andre Fleury, set the tone during a scoreless first period in which New York held a 14-7 edge in shots on goal.

"They had five good scoring chances in the first, but he was very good," Bylsma said. "He made a number of big stops."

Bylsma stuck to his policy of not announcing lineup changes, so he would not commit to Vokoun as the starter for Game 6, but did say, "He played pretty well in this game."

Crosby and Kris Letang each had one goal and one assist for the Penguins, while Douglas Murray also scored.

New York goalie Evgeni Nabokov was chased from the game in the third period.

Vokoun made 31 saves for his second career playoff shutout while replacing Fleury, who shut out the Islanders in Game 1 but gave up 14 goals in the next three games. Vokoun joined Ron Tugnutt (2000) as the only goaltenders to record a shutout in their first playoff game with Pittsburgh.

It also marked the first time someone other than Fleury was in net for the Penguins in a playoff game since 2001. When the Islanders beat the Penguins 6-4 in Game 4 on Tuesday, it was the most goals Pittsburgh had given up in a playoff game since 2002.

Vokoun was 14-3 with a 2.45 goals-against average in the regular season, including going 3-0 against the Islanders as he stopped 98 of 101 shots on goal. However, he entered Thursday's game with a 3-8 career playoff record, compiled with Nashville in 2004 and 2007.

"I was a little bit nervous the whole day, you wouldn't be human if you weren't," Vokoun said. "Even playing a long time, it's hard to remember six years ago, what to expect. I got a couple of fortunate bounces, it got a little tight, the puck stayed under my pad and after that I felt pretty good."

After Vokoun held the Islanders off the board in the first period, the Penguins erupted for three goals in the second.

Kennedy scored at 7:25, beating Nabokov on a breakaway after taking a long clearing pass from Letang.

"If you watch Tyler in practice, he's been shooting the puck a million miles per hour," Bylsma said. "When he got the opportunity in the game, he did the same thing. To get a contribution with TK, it wasn't just the goal but he added a lot of speed and grit, too."

Kennedy admitted it was frustrating watching the first four games from the press box.

"Of course, you want to be out there, but I also want to win, and I know (Bylsma) has to make the decisions he feels give the team the best chance to win," Kennedy said. "Whenever you score a goal it helps your confidence, but I'm just focused on helping the team win right now."

Just 1:22 later, Murray made it 2-0 when he rifled a shot off Nabokov's left arm from between the left circle and blue line. It was the big defenseman's second goal of the series and third overall in the last 11 games, including the regular season, after he went 146 consecutive games without a score.

Pittsburgh extended the lead to 3-0 with six minutes left in the period when Crosby scored his third goal of the playoffs. He skated right through defensemen Lubomir Visnovsky and Thomas Hickey at the blue line and scored from point-blank range.

Letang scored a power-play goal 5:43 into the third period, just six seconds after Matt Martin was sent off for roughing.

Islanders coach Jack Capuano then pulled Nabokov, who stopped 23 of 27 shots, for the second time in the series in favor of Kevin Poulin. Nabokov was also yanked in Game 1, which was won 5-0 by Pittsburgh.

Poulin saved all four shots he faced.

Capuano, though, didn't blame the loss on Nabokov.

"I thought they tilted the ice on us," Capuano said. "They got some pucks to the net. We made it a short track. We didn't make them come 200 feet and when you play a skilled team like that they're going to get zone time on you."

NOTES: Pittsburgh center Joe Vitale, like Kennedy, was active after being a healthy scratch in the first four games. Defenseman Simon Depres was active for just the second time in five games. Meanwhile, left wingers Tanner Glass and Jussi Jokinen were scratched after playing in each of the first four games. ... Brian Strait was paired with Travis Hamonic on the Islanders' top blue line, taking the place of Andrew MacDonald, who suffered a season-ending broken hand in Game 4. ... Hickey was active for the Islanders after being a healthy scratch in the previous three games. .... Martin had a game-high eight hits for the Islanders and Matt Cooke led Pittsburgh with six.

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