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Top-seed Penguins overwhelm Islanders in Game 1

The SportsXchange

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Islanders faced off in a playoff series for the first time in 20 years on Wednesday night.

The Penguins came in as the heavily-favored top seed in the Eastern Conference with a roster boasting of 11 players that have won a Stanley Cup championship.

Conversely, the Islanders came in as the eighth seed with 16 players on their 27-man roster making their playoff debut.

The playoff experience of the Penguins was prevalent in this game as they scored early and often, routing the Islanders 5-0 on the strength of two power-play goals, that were also the first-career playoff goals, by Beau Bennett and Tanner Glass.

If there is such a thing as a commanding 1-0 series lead, the Penguins have it.

"We're going to need to (forget it quickly)," said Islanders center John Tavares. "These series are long, but they can be real quick too."

The Penguins didn't take long to get on the board. After Matt Cooke had finished his check, former Penguins defenseman Brian Strait came off the Islanders bench for a line change and took an undisciplined interference penalty on Cooke, giving the Penguins an early power-play opportunity, of which they took full advantage.

In the final seconds of the power play, Bennett, making his NHL playoff debut, broke down the right wing and snapped a wrist shot between the shoulder of Islanders netminder Evgeni Nabokov and the crossbar at 3:30 of the first to give the Penguins an early 1-0 lead.

Bennett was inserted into the lineup on the fourth line in favor of playoff veteran Tyler Kennedy and the move paid off.

"The skill he adds to our lineup ... on the fourth line ... was not only evident on that goal but evident in five-on-five as well with some of the shifts he had in the offensive zone," said Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma.

The Penguins extended their lead to 2-0 at 13:23 of the first when Pascal Dupuis shoved a bounding puck into the Islanders' net after a wild scramble in front that drew Nabokov far from his crease into the slot.

The Penguins started the second period much the same way they started the first -- with a power-play goal. This time it was Kris Letang wristing a laser of a shot by Nabokov from the top of the left-wing circle.

"You want to come out with that intensity and yet still be under control and I thought we did that early and we did that pretty much for the whole game," said Jarome Iginla, who finished the night with two assists.

Just 32 seconds later, Dupuis backhanded another juicy rebound past Nabokov to extend the Penguins' lead to 4-0.

That goal chased Nabokov from the net and brought in Kevin Poulin.

"It's got to hurt to play. It was too easy," said Nabokov. "We have to make it hard on them on every inch of the ice. It's the only way we can win."

After coming in cold and making a few saves, Poulin allowed a rather ordinary Glass shot to slide through his five hole at 13:07 of the second to give Pittsburgh a 5-0 lead.

The Islanders had chances to creep back into the game, having been awarded four power-play opportunities, but the Penguins rather easily stymied those chances.

"They do have a good power play," said Dupuis. "Guys were blocking shots. (Fleury) played great for us and it's great for the penalty kill when your goalie is hot like that."

The Islanders matched the Penguins shot for shot, equaling the Penguins' shot total of 26, but the Islanders' shots were often from the perimeter and not quality scoring chances.

Marc-Andre Fleury earned the shutout victory with 26 saves, while Nabokov was tagged with the loss, making 11 saves. The shutout for Fleury was the sixth in his playoff career, tying him with Tom Barrasso for most in team history.

"It's pretty cool. (Barrasso) was a guy I looked up to so to be able to reach him is always fun," Fleury said.

Penguins forward James Neal left the game in the second period after being checked by Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic.

Forward Jussi Jokinen also left the game with just over two minutes remaining after being kneed by Marty Reasoner, which drew a five-minute major penalty and a game misconduct. There were no updates available on the conditions of either Neal or Jokinen following the game. Game 2 takes place on Friday in Pittsburgh at 7 PM.

NOTES: Each of the previous three times the Penguins and Islanders have met in the Stanley Cup playoffs (1975, '82, '93), the series has gone the maximum distance. ... Before Wednesday's game, none of the players on the Penguins' roster had ever faced the Islanders in a playoff series. ... Islanders goaltender Nabokov leads the team with 80 career playoff games. The next closest player on the roster, Marty Reasoner, has just 24 games of playoff experience. ... Brooks Orpik (lower body) missed the first postseason game of his career. Orpik had played in all 75 Penguins playoff games during the team's current run of seven straight years of qualifying for the postseason. Other scratches for the Penguins included center Sidney Crosby (broken jaw), and forward Tyler Kennedy. Scratches for the Islanders included defensemen Radek Martinek and Matt Carkner.
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