On the day the Penguins won the trade deadline sweepstakes and acquired Hossa from Atlanta to play with Sid the Kid, Ty Conklin stole the show.
Conklin made an eye-popping, career-best 50 saves Tuesday night in the Penguins’ 4-2 victory over the New York Islanders.
“Sometimes shot clocks aren’t indicative of the game necessarily,” a humble Conklin said.
Evgeni Malkin and Jeff Taffe scored first-period goals for trade-depleted Pittsburgh, and Conklin did the rest. Since coming up in December after Marc-Andre Fleury injured an ankle, Conklin has gone 17-4-5.
Pittsburgh jumped over Ottawa and is just one point behind New Jersey for the lead in the Eastern Conference and Atlantic Division.
“I haven’t seen a goalie steal a game like that this year,” Penguins defenseman Ryan Whitney said. “He is probably our MVP since Sid went out, he and Malkin. It’s not something we want to make a habit of though.”
Frans Nielsen scored on Conklin in the second period to get the Islanders within 2-1. Trent Hunter hit the crossbar less than 2 minutes into the third, and New York dropped its second straight following a six-game winning streak.
“We thought if we keep pressuring them, we’d score some goals and take over the game, and we didn’t do that,” forward Miroslav Satan said. “It just wasn’t our day. We just have to remember what we did for six games in a row.”
Pittsburgh went 2-for-4 on the power play, compared to 1-for-9 for New York, on the outside of the Eastern playoff race.
“I’m not really sure we played our best game,” Conklin said. “We got some breaks, a couple of crossbars, and a couple of good chances they missed, too.”
Jordan Staal scored during a delayed-penalty call with 7:05 remaining to restore Pittsburgh’s two-goal lead, and Connor James—just up from the minors— made it 4-1 with 3:02 left on his first NHL goal.
“It was like pickup hockey,” coach Michel Therrien said. “Who is fresh goes on the ice.”
Ruslan Fedotenko’s power-play goal brought the Islanders to 4-2.
Hossa and defenseman Hal Gill, acquired from Toronto, are expected to play Thursday when the Penguins visit Boston. Once captain Crosby returns from a high ankle sprain and joins Hossa on a line, the Penguins will possess one of the NHL’s most potent offenses.
“It’s a privilege for us to get help like that and we’re going to be ready to play well and make a long run,” Whitney said. “We’re a good team, but we just got a lot better.”
The Islanders dominated the Penguins in the first period, yet were down 2-0. New York registered a season-best 23 shots and gave up six.
The Penguins grabbed the lead 10:50 in and they did it with their second shot, both coming on the same shift. Malkin got to a rebound of Petr Sykora’s drive and carried the puck behind the net and out the left side.
He drifted backward into the left circle and snapped off a shot while gliding that beat Rick DiPietro. It was Malkin’s 36th goal and his 13th in 18 games since Crosby was injured on Jan. 18.
Taffe doubled the lead during a 5-on-3 power play with 2:08 remaining in the first. He has four goals on the season, two in three games.
New York couldn’t do anything with four power plays in the first period and three more in the second. Multiple odd-man rushes produced little against Conklin on the choppy ice.
The Islanders’ reunited “Kid Line” cut the deficit to 2-1 with 9:34 left in the second period. Jeff Tambellini, recalled earlier Tuesday after Chris Simon was traded to Minnesota, slid a shot from the right circle in front. Nielsen deflected the puck in for his first of the season and second in 26 career NHL games.
New York outshot Pittsburgh 11-4 in the second.
“I don’t think I’ve ever played a game where we had this many shots and didn’t win,” forward Sean Bergenheim said. “The power play was awful.”
Islanders C Mike Comrie signed a one-year extension worth $4 million. He could have become an unrestricted free agent this summer. … New York also traded D Marc-Andre Bergeron to Anaheim and acquired Rob Davison from San Jose. Davison was in the lineup. … The Islanders outshot Atlanta 49-10 in a 4-1 win on Feb. 16. … Pittsburgh is 19-5-5 in its last 29.