New York Hockey: Pittsburgh Penguins

Bylsma could be top candidate

June, 10, 2013
Count Glen Sather as someone who will be keeping tabs on what happens in Pittsburgh this week.

Though the Rangers general manager and president is convening his staff for annual organizational meetings in La Quinta, Calif., he'll likely be interested to see what his Penguins counterpart, GM Ray Shero, does with head coach Dan Bylsma in the wake of Pittsburgh's stunning exit from the postseason.

Shero, whose star-studded Penguins squad was unceremoniously swept by the Bruins on Friday, faces a difficult decision in determining whether to dismiss Bylsma, a former Jack Adams Award winner, following the shocking defeat.

[+] EnlargeDan Bylsma
AP Photo/Elise AmendolaDan Bylsma was the NHL's coach of the year as recently as 2011.
If Shero does decide to make a change -- or Penguins co-owner Mario Lemieux pre-empts that decision -- you can assume Bylsma will jump to the top of the Rangers' wish list to fill their head coaching vacancy.

The Rangers would first need permission to speak with Bylsma,considering he has time remaining on his contract with Pittsburgh.

Sather, who dismissed John Tortorella following the Rangers' second-round exit, has already sought and received permission to speak with Alain Vigneault and Dallas Eakins, though the latter is no longer available, as he was named the new head coach of the Edmonton Oilers on Monday.

Longtime Sabres coach Lindy Ruff is also a top candidate, as is the Rangers' own Mark Messier, who has expressed interest in the top job.

This collection of coaching hopefuls is expected to be a hot topic of conversation among Rangers brass this week. After firing Tortorella, Sather said he'd like to have a new coach in place by the NHL draft, to be held in Newark, N.J., on June 30.

The team's staff is also likely to address the potential buyout of alternate captain Brad Richards as well as identify some attractive unrestricted free agents to target.

The Rangers are also looking to lock up franchise goaltender Henrik Lundqvist long-term this summer, in addition to re-signing key restricted free agents Carl Hagelin, Ryan McDonagh and Derek Stepan.
UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- What a fitting end to the Islanders' 2013 season, that they left the ice with the Nassau Coliseum crowd on its feet -- even after a heartbreaking 4-3 overtime loss to the Penguins in Game 6 -- saluting the team’s stellar effort in its first playoff appearance since 2007.

That should be the lasting image -- not Brooks Orpik’s game winner -- that each player conjures up when looking back on the team’s first-round series against the top-seeded Penguins.

[+] EnlargeNew York Islanders
AP Photo/Kathy WillensThe Islanders should be proud of all they accomplished against the No. 1 seed Penguins.
Making it to the postseason was not enough for the Islanders, who surprised some doubters and captivated the league’s attention with their plucky play, but it should be regarded as a monumental step forward for the organization.

The Islanders couldn’t match Pittsburgh’s depth or experience, but they had the grit, heart and desire in ample supply to push the Penguins in a six-game set.

For so many years, the Islanders have suffered the indignities of the down-trodden and the ridicule that comes with annual bottom-five finishes.

But that perception of the Islanders is bound to change after this.

"We’ve taken a lot of heat in the past three years since I’ve been here, a lot of criticism from the media, people looked at us as a laughingstock," said heart-and-soul grinder Matt Martin, who finished with a game-high 11 hits Saturday night. "Throughout this series, we showed we can play with anyone. We’re excited about the future. We think we have something special here."

The Penguins acknowledged that, too.

After wrapping up their fourth win of the series -- a game that required them to erase three separate one-goal Islanders leads before Orpik’s deciding goal 7:49 into overtime -- they had plenty of respect for the Islanders as they convened at center ice for the customary handshake line.

[+] EnlargeJohn Tavares, Sidney Crosby
Brad Penner/USA TODAY SportsJohn Tavares said this experience will just serve to motivate the Islanders next season.
"Just walking through the line, they said so many good things, just that you guys have a really good team here. You know, I don’t think this team has heard that in a long time," said rugged forward Colin McDonald, who gave the Isles a 2-1 lead with 37 seconds remaining in the first period. "That’s one of the few positives you can talk about right now. I think as an organization, as players, maybe we gained some respect back, and I’m really glad the fans supported us the way they do. I hope this is just the start, a stepping stone looking ahead to next year."

The Islanders received the requisite secondary scoring Saturday from the likes of McDonald and Michael Grabner to build off John Tavares’ wrist shot from the slot that gave the Isles a 1-0 lead 5:36 into play.

But the Pens showed resilience in a tough road test during which they were outshot 38-21 and superstar Sidney Crosby was held to one point. Each time the Isles gained momentum, the Penguins found a way to even the score. Less than six minutes from the Islanders forcing a winner-takes-all Game 7 in Pittsburgh, Pens defenseman Paul Martin unleashed a one-timer that deflected off Frans Nielsen to knot the score at 3 and send the game into overtime.

"I think we outshot them again today and created a lot of opportunities, but times that we could’ve gone up and taken a bigger lead, we just couldn’t do it," said Tavares, who on Friday was named one of three Hart Memorial Trophy finalists for the league’s annual MVP. "They stayed with it, and maybe that’s why they’re moving on."

"It was every bit of a battle in those six games," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said after his team punched its ticket to a second-round matchup against the seventh-seeded Ottawa Senators.

Special teams hurt the Islanders and veteran goaltender Evgeni Nabokov failed to steal a game, but the Penguins were the team to come up with the big plays when it counted.

For that reason, the Islanders will pack up for the offseason, with the hunger to win even more intense now that they know what it takes and how it’s done.

"It’s what I’ll be thinking about all summer," said Tavares, who finished the series with three goals and five points. "It’s what pushes you every day, and you finally get to experience it. We got here and we weren’t satisfied with getting here. I thought we competed real well, we played with them most of the series and dictated the play a lot of the series, too. They just took advantage of most of their opportunities."

The Penguins remained composed throughout the series, keeping doubt at bay even when the Islanders' Cinderella story seemed to be gaining traction. Bylsma made a bold but necessary goaltending change in replacing starter Marc-Andre Fleury with veteran backup Tomas Vokoun after a bafflingly bad performance in Game 4. That move paid dividends as the latter turned away 66 of 69 shots faced in his two starts to close out the series.

And in moving on, Pittsburgh managed to exorcise some demons from last spring’s implosion when the team was upset in the first round by the Philadelphia Flyers.

"I think we fought it a little bit, that history, and we fought it in different ways," Bylsma said. "But again, we had to be excited to win and not thinking about the past."

The Islanders don’t have that luxury, however. With their first taste of the playoffs also comes their first devastating sense of disappointment.

That won’t abate any time soon.

"Right now, it’s just tough, but in a couple of weeks when we look back at the season, I think we’ll realize we took a big step in the right direction," Nielsen said. "But, we’re definitely not satisfied with that. It’s still a long way to go. It’s not a success until we’ve got that Cup, but I think it’s a step in the right direction."

Pens shutouts deserve a shoutout

May, 9, 2013

This is the first time in 34 years that 2 different goalies had a shutout in a single series for the same team:

Shutout by 2 Different Goalies in Same Series
Stanley Cup Playoff History
First Goalie 2nd Goalie
2013 Penguins Marc-Andre Fleury Tomas Vokoun
1979 Islanders Chico Resch Billy Smith
1976 Bruins Gerry Cheevers Gilles Gilbert
1975 Flyers Bernie Parent Wayne Stephenson
1972 Bruins Gerry Cheevers Eddie Johnston
1965 Canadiens Charlie Hodge Gump Worsley

Penguins aren't loving the home cooking

May, 9, 2013
Not So Sweet: The Penguins return home Thursday night looking to take a 3-2 series lead over the Islanders, but being home hasn’t helped in the playoffs. Over the last four seasons, Pittsburgh is just 6-10 in home playoff games. The only team that’s played at least five home playoff games over that stretch with a worse record is Phoenix (5-10). Ottawa is 3-5 in home playoff games since then (same win percentage as Pittsburgh).

Nielsen: 'We know we can beat them'

May, 7, 2013
UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- Despite trailing the Pittsburgh Penguins 2-1 in the series, the New York Islanders are a confident bunch heading into Game 4 on Tuesday night at Nassau Coliseum.

Following a Game 1 rout in which the Isles were easily dispatched 5-0, they rebounded with a win in Game 2 and a strong performance in Game 3, despite falling in overtime.

But it's not just about their ability to compete with the top-seeded Penguins. The Islanders truly believe they can pull off the upset.

[+] EnlargeFrans Nielsen
Charles LeClaire/USA TODAY SportsFrans Nielsen and the Islanders can tie the series with a Game 4 victory on Tuesday.
"We know we can beat them," second-line center Frans Nielsen said. "We want this to go as far as possible. This series, too, we've felt they have a lot of guys on their team that can't skate with us. So we want this one to go to seven, because we want to get [it] as tough as possible."

According to Nielsen, speed has been the Islanders' biggest advantage.

"I think when we're moving our feet, they've got guys up front, on the [defense] that we can see are struggling a little bit," Nielsen said. "We've gotta skate with 'em. If we stop skating, we don't have a chance."

Even Sidney Crosby admitted the Islanders have created problems for the Penguins with their transition game and opportunistic style of play.

Pittsburgh enjoys the distinct advantage on special teams, but the Islanders have been solid at even strength.

"They've probably carried the play a little bit more," Crosby said. "They've had a little more zone time, I think. They're coming hard, but I think we've hurt ourselves with turnovers. ... I think that something we can definitely improve on."

PENGUINS UPDATE: Brooks Orpik and James Neal took part in the Penguins' morning skate, though it is not immediately clear whether they will return to the lineup Tuesday night.

The Penguins have adopted a playoff policy of declining to answer injury or lineup questions. That goes for coach Dan Bylsma and the players themselves.

Neither Orpik nor Neal committed to a return, though all indications are that both players are close.

Neal, who practiced with the team's first power-play unit during the skate, said he doesn't expect to be eased back into it, whenever he returns. The 25-year-old winger was forced from Game 1 with a lower-body injury and has not played since.

"It's playoffs," Neal said. "I'm not going to go back in unless I can help the team out and play my best."

Orpik could do nothing to help his team while watching from the press box during the nail-biter of a finish in Game 3, an experience he described as "the most nervous" he has ever been. The veteran defenseman suffered a lower-body injury during the last week of the regular season and has yet to make an appearance in the 2013 playoffs.

"At this time of year, you want to heal as quick as possible," Orpik said. "It never heals as quickly as you want it to, but you just try to be patient with it. That's tough."

Barn rockin' as playoffs return to L.I.

May, 5, 2013

UNIONDALE, N.Y. – Nassau Coliseum has earned many pejoratives in its slow, stagnant march into antiquity, but Sunday's matinee was a glimpse into just how electric an atmosphere the New York Islanders' home can still provide.

Yes, it's decrepit, outdated and in shambles, but the old barn was rocking Sunday in hosting the Islanders in Pittsburgh Penguins in a riveting Game 3 of their first-round series.

Legions of Islanders loyalists packed the concrete corners of the parking lot, tailgating from the early morning until puck drop. A hearty showing of fans was on hand more than an hour before the game began, starting enthusiastic if not erratic chants, and booing even the Penguins' staff members who dared to venture out to the visiting bench before warmups.

[+] EnlargeIslanders fan
Bruce Bennett/Getty ImagesIslanders fans aren't just glad to be in the playoffs. They believe their team to win.
When the Islanders finally took the ice, shortly before noon, the noise was overpowering in welcoming the team back after a trip to Pittsburgh that left the series split 1-1.

It was an experience unlike any other for many of the Islanders, despite the disappointing 5-4 overtime loss.

Islanders forward Colin McDonald said he could sense the intensity in the bulding even before the team emerged from the locker room.

"We're sitting here in the locker room before the game, before warmups, and we could hear 'em through the walls. I felt like I was 10 years old, just getting the goosebumps, just so excited to get out there," McDonald said. "I really did feel like I was a kid."

"It [was] a pretty special moment," McDonald continued. "To be honest, I'm trying to enjoy this as much as possible, but at the same time we have a job to do and I have a job to do. But you never know when you'll get an opportunity like this again. It really was a fun night, despite the game."

Even Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma, familiar with the place from his days as an Islanders assistant coach, tipped his hat to the crowd as factor the Penguins were forced to neutralize.

"The building was crazy. They got a lot of momentum," Bylsma said. "We wanted to settle the game down."

He was, of course, talking about the way the Islanders harnessed that energy from the 16,170 in attendance to jump out to a 2-0 lead 5:41 into play. It was a captivating stretch for the crowd, which took turns lauding the efforts of the Islanders and jeering Penguins netminder Marc-Andre Fleury.

"Look at the way we started. I think it was pretty obvious there." said McDonald, who spent five-plus seasons in the AHL before earning a two-year contract extension from the Islanders with his impressive 2013 season. "It's hard to maintain that pace for a full 60 minutes. I think we've been looking forward to this for a while, even going back to the regular season. Obviously, the fans deserve this. They've waited a long time for this.

"We knew it was gonna be a great atmosphere. As a player, you really do appreciate this. It's such a humbling experience. You're thankful to be part of it."

And with the Islanders aiming to tie the series again, they know they'll be able to count on that crowd again on Tuesday.

"It was great. You feed off that type of energy. It was an unbelievable experience to get our first playoff game in here," said Matt Moulson. "And I'm sure the crowd will be just as good next game."

Nassau has energy, but Pens have power

May, 5, 2013

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- A deafening crowd at Nassau Coliseum, frenzied by a late-game comeback and bolstered at the prospect of an upset, was a veritable seventh man for the New York Islanders in Game 3, but the home team couldn't hold off the Penguins and their dominant power play Sunday.

Picking up his third assist of the game, Sidney Crosby set up Chris Kunitz in the slot for the power-play game winner 8:34 into overtime as the Penguins edged the Islanders 5-4 to take a 2-1 lead in their first-round playoff series.

It was a wild, wide-open game filled with end-to-end action and a dizzying sense of intensity, but the veteran group from Pittsburgh managed the momentum swings and exploited its strength with one of the most formidable special-teams units in the league.

Boasting the likes of Crosby, Kunitz, Kris Letang, Jarome Iginla and Evgeni Malkin on the first unit, Pittsburgh's power play was the difference in the game. The Penguins were 3-for-5 on the man-advantage to swing the series in their favor.

[+] EnlargeCasey Cizikas
Mike Stobe/NHLI/Getty ImagesCasey Cizikas' first-period goal had Islanders fans on their feet.
"They're lethal," said Islanders star John Tavares, who tied the game late in the third. "They have a lot of weapons."

It was Crosby, in his second game back after missing more than a month with a fractured jaw, who drew the penalty in the overtime period, a holding call against Islanders defenseman Brian Strait.

Asked which of Crosby's three assists was the most impressive, Penguins coach Dan Bylsma referenced that play as his best contribution.

"The best setup he had was drawing the penalty," Bylsma said. "That's kind of typical of what Sidney Crosby can do."

Islanders coach Jack Capuano was not thrilled over that call, but the fact that Crosby was supremely effective for the Penguins was not debatable. That much was apparent when he powered past Islanders defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky to seamlessly set up Pascal Dupuis in the first period for the Penguins' third straight goal after the Islanders took an early 2-0 lead.

But even against arguably the world's best player, the Islanders threatened throughout the game, outplaying the Penguins five-on-five for significant stretches as the crowd lifted the team and provided the jolt of energy needed to sustain pressure against Pens goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury.

The Islanders did their best to rattle Fleury early in the game, tallying twice within the first six minutes of play -- first on a goal by Matt Moulson after a scramble in front, then on Casey Cizikas' shot from the left circle at 5:41.

The teeth-rattling din that resulted from the early lead was silenced quickly by the Penguins' resilient response later in the frame.

Iginla got a piece of Letang's one-timer with the Penguins on the 5-on-3, and Kunitz snuck behind the Islanders' defense for a breakaway for another power-play goal just 19 seconds later.

"Obviously, they're pretty dynamic," said Islanders defenseman Andrew MacDonald. "It's frustrating to give up that many [power-play] goals. That's the game right there."

"You know going into the series that special teams are gonna play huge, as they always do," MacDonald continued. "Right now, they have the upper hand on the power play. It's something for us that we're going to have to address on the penalty kill."

In the second period, the Islanders fell behind down 4-2 before a third-period surge in which they notched two goals to push the game into overtime. Power forward Kyle Okposo made a sensational move to handle a pass from Frans Nielsen, stay onside, and unleash a wicked wrister to beat Fleury on a short-handed breakaway 5:31 into the final frame. Then Tavares sizzled one past Fleury from the right circle to knot the game at 4 as the crowd erupted into chants of "M-V-P!"

That spirited rally was snuffed out with Kunitz's game-winner 8:44 into overtime, but the Islanders have weathered enough to know this series is not over.

An embarrassing 5-0 loss in Game 1 was the Islanders' welcome to the 2013 playoffs, their first postseason appearance since 2007, but they did not allow that to stifle their hopes. A come-from-behind, 4-3 win in Game 2 affirmed their confidence in competing against the top-seeded Penguins. New York's performance in Game 3 only furthers that belief, which has always existed in the Islanders' dressing room but has been absent pretty much everywhere else.

They are still in this thing. And they have another game at home on Tuesday, when they'll try to even the series at two games apiece.

"We're right there," Tavares said. "We've just got to get our work boots back on tomorrow, refocus, and Game 4 [is] a big game for us. We believe in ourselves in here and I think we've proven that all year. We've battled a lot of adversity, a lot of ups and downs. This is part of playoff hockey."

WHAT IT MEANS: Pittsburgh's Chris Kunitz scored a power-play goal 8:34 into overtime, sending the Isles to a 5-4 loss in Game 3. The Penguins now lead this best-of-7 series, 2-1.

With the help of a deafening home crowd at Nassau Coliseum, the Islanders rallied from a two-goal deficit in the third period on goals from Kyle Okposo and John Tavares to push the game into OT.

ALL TIED UP: Pulling the Isles within one goal, Okposo made a terrific play to stay onside and beat Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury with a wrist shot on his short-handed breakaway 5:31 into the third period. Tavares then knotted the game at 4, sizzling a shot past Fleury with 9:12 remaining -- a goal that had the boisterous crowd chanting "M-V-P!" for No. 91.

BAD CHANGE: Despite strong 5-on-5 play and long periods of sustained pressure in the Penguins' zone during the second period, the Islanders fell victim to a poor line change that allowed Pittsburgh to take a two-goal lead. With the Islanders scrambling to complete a change, Penguins defenseman Douglas Murray picked the top right corner against former Sharks teammate Evgeni Nabokov at 17:10. Evgeni Malkin picked up his second assist on the play; he now has six points in this series.

ROLLER-COASTER RIDE: The Islanders ignited the Coliseum crowd with two goals in the first six minutes of the game. The first came just 1:43 into play, as defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky's centering feed set up a scramble in front of Fleury. Okposo got a couple of whacks in before Matt Moulson buried a loose puck for the game's first goal.

Casey Cizikas extended the lead to 2-0 with his shot from the left circle at 5:41 -- a scoring play that had the old barn shaking.

But the Penguins weathered the storm and answered with two quick power-play goals within a span of 19 seconds. Jarome Iginla got a piece of Kris Letang's one-timer with the Pens on the 5-on-3 at 13:18, and Kunitz followed up to tie the score. With one minute remaining in the first, Crosby made a terrific move to set up the Penguins' third straight goal. Crosby powered past Visnovsky and cut to the net, backhanding a pass to the streaking Pascal Dupuis for a 3-2 lead.

UP NEXT: The Islanders host the Penguins in Game 4 on Tuesday at 7 p.m.

Should Islanders just concede?

May, 3, 2013
Series Over? The Penguins welcome back Sidney Crosby Friday night and look for a 2-0 series lead on the Islanders. From Elias: If history is an indicator, the outcome of this series might be decided. From 1954-2012, there were 31 best-of-seven NHL series in which the home team won the first game by a margin of five goals or more. In all 31 instances, the Game 1 winner won the series.

Penguins' determination fits to a 'T'

May, 2, 2013

PITTSBURGH -- The Pittsburgh Penguins showed up for work Wednesday morning wearing T-shirts with the No. 4 on the back, a nod to the immediate task of winning four games to get out of the first round of the playoffs.

No word on whether those same shirts will be worn Thursday with the "4" crossed out and replaced by a "3" after the Penguins whipped the New York Islanders 5-0 in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series.

They’re just T-shirts, of course: some fabric and a little lettering, including the phrase, "Here We Go."

But the shirts speak to a mindset, a narrowing of the focus to the task at hand.

When you are a team as deep and talented as the Penguins -- and when there is as much discussion about a long playoff run, a possible trip to the Stanley Cup finals, another championship -- it might be easy to forget about first things first.

If you look at the big picture, if you look at what is needed to win a Cup, "It’s a bit overwhelming," Pittsburgh forward Craig Adams said after Wednesday’s game.

And if you start thinking about that, "you’ll never get there," he said.

"Everyone wanted to hand us the Cup last year, and we saw how that turned out," Adams added.

And there’s the rub.

In an interview before Wednesday’s game, Pittsburgh GM Ray Shero went to great pains to reinforce that his team was very mindful of the Islanders, even though the Pens were the top seed in the Eastern Conference and the Isles the eighth seed.

"I know this team has a great deal of respect for the Islanders," Shero said. "There’s no way we’ll be underestimating them."

Those are the kinds of sentiments that are on display when you’re coming off a 2012 playoff season that really ended before it began with the Penguins blowing a 3-0 lead against Philadelphia in Game 1 and quickly falling behind 3-0 in the series en route to a six-game loss. It was the second consecutive one-and-done playoff spring for the Penguins, and they have won just one playoff round since winning the Stanley Cup in 2009.

So you can understand if there is an emphasis on the details this time around.

"We’ve been preaching that all year," Adams said. "I think we’ve been humbled."

After one game, it would appear the message has sunk in, as the Penguins methodically took apart an inexperienced Islanders team that is playing in the postseason for the first time since 2007.

The Pens took advantage of an early power play to go up 1-0 after a terrific play by Beau Bennett, who cut in from the right side and roofed a shot over veteran netminder Evgeni Nabokov. Bennett wouldn’t be in the lineup if it weren’t for the fact that doctors declined to let captain Sidney Crosby suit up for Game 1.

Talk about taking advantage of your opportunities: Bennett scored in his first-ever playoff game.

The Penguins would add another power-play goal early in the second period by Kris Letang before Pascal Dupuis, the king of even-strength goals, added two while the teams were playing five aside. Tanner Glass rounded out the scoring with his first-ever postseason goal.

Defensively, the Pens killed off four Islander power plays and limited the Isles to 26 shots, providing netminder Marc-Andre Fleury with ample protection. Fleury, who endured a nightmare series last postseason against the Flyers, earned his sixth postseason shutout.

"Everything went great tonight," Dupuis said. "Yes, we did play the right way, but you have to keep saying to yourself it’s only 1-0."

If there was cause for concern for the Penguins, it was the loss of James Neal, who got tangled up with Travis Hamonic early in the second period and did not return. There was no information on his status for Game 2 Friday.

Also, Jussi Jokinen, who added two assists and continues to be a point machine since coming over from Carolina at the trade deadline, went off the ice gingerly after a collision with Islanders forward Marty Reasoner, who was assessed a kneeing major with 2:10 left in the game.

The Islanders, meanwhile, looked like a team whose most important players (outside Nabokov) were playing in their first playoff game. Reasoner, playing in his 24th career postseason game, was the player with the most playoff experience among Islander skaters, and he’d been a healthy scratch for the final 10 regular-season games.

John Tavares, who figures to be among the finalists for the Hart Trophy as the league’s MVP, was a nonfactor, finishing the night without a shot. Likewise, Brad Boyes and Matt Moulson weren’t the players who combined for 25 regular-season goals.

Head coach Jack Capuano said the team’s work ethic and determination weren’t what they had been during the final month of the regular season, when the Isles secured an unexpected playoff berth, and the execution was lacking.

Nabokov, a player Capuano referred to as an extension of the coaching staff given his experience, was given the hook just 1:51 into the second period after the Pens made it 4-0 with two goals in 32 seconds.

Although he was beaten twice by hard, high shots courtesy of Bennett and Letang on the power play, this loss wasn’t a function of poor goaltending. Instead, this was a loss that was, pure and simple, about one team being light years ahead of another in terms of getting the job done.

"Obviously, I think it was a little bit too easy for them, for the Penguins. All-around game has to be better. Better saves, more saves. I guess it’s got to start with me," Nabokov said.

"I’ve got to make key saves at the key times and give the guys a chance to battle. But the game was over basically at the beginning of the second period, it’s four-zip, and it’s really tough to come out of it against that type of team. So [I] have to find a way to tighten up and be better," he said.

Of course, as the Pens’ T-shirts remind us, this series is not the best of one.

The Islanders have a chance to regroup, and one imagines whatever nerves and butterflies might have invaded their bodies Wednesday will have dissipated by the time Game 2 rolls around Friday night.

"I don’t think anything is easy. You have to come out, and you have to work hard. It’s got to hurt to play; I heard somebody in the locker room actually say that: It’s got to hurt to play," Nabokov said.

"I think we have to come out next game, and we have to be ready, be more physical and just make it hard on them everywhere, every inch of the ice. We have to battle for every inch of the ice, everywhere. I think that’s the only way we can play with that team because, otherwise, they’re too skilled. They’re too good."

Bad penalty, bad bounce costs Isles

May, 2, 2013

PITTSBURGH -- Islanders coach Jack Capuano talked before the game about the need for his team to stay disciplined. Yet early in the first period, former Penguin Brian Strait took exception to a Matt Cooke hit on one of his teammates and gave Cooke a shot as Strait was coming onto the ice, drawing an interference penalty. The Pens’ Beau Bennett scored late in the power play to put the Isles behind the eight ball early on. The power-play goal was aided by the fact a clearing attempt by the Isles struck one of the on-ice officials in the neutral zone and allowed the Penguins to quickly return to the Islander zone.


Veteran netminder Evgeni Nabokov was yanked early in the second period after allowing four goals on 15 shots. Three of those goals came after he took a Jarome Iginla rocket off the top of his mask, a shot that left him momentarily dazed in the first period.

"I never had that. The chunk was out, and I think the mask is done," Nabokov said.

"It’s the first time I’ve actually felt it," Nabokov said, adding that he was lucky the puck hit the top of the mask as opposed to a more direct impact on the forehead or cage.

"Yeah. Good mask," he said ruefully.


Pittsburgh defenseman Mark Eaton, who was part of the Pens’ Cup-winning team in 2009 before departing for Long Island, where he played for two seasons, signed with the Penguins in February as a free agent when the Penguins were beset by injuries. He drew an assist on Pascal Dupuis’ second goal Wednesday night, his first point of the season. He led all players with eight blocked shots. When the Penguins are healthy along the blue line (Brooks Orpik missed Game 1 with an injury sustained late in the regular season), Eaton usually plays with Kris Letang his defense partner during the ’09 Cup run.


Marc-Andre Fleury’s sixth postseason shutout leaves him tied with Tom Barrasso for the most playoff shutouts in franchise history.

Deadline Day: A look back

April, 4, 2013

Although plenty wondered (including myself) whether this year's trade deadline was going to be an uneventful one, it proved to be anything but on Wednesday for the Rangers.

Here's a quick look at all that transpired on Wednesday, and where things stand in the aftermath of a huge trade and the important win that followed.

-- Making room for some new arrivals?

In a move that surprised no one following coach John Tortorella's telling comments Monday night, the Rangers sent down both J.T. Miller and Chris Kreider to the team's AHL affiliate, the Connecticut Whale. Neither player saw the ice past the second period in the Rangers' 4-2 win over Winnipeg on Monday, and Tortorella intimated his concern whether the two youngsters could handle the responsibilities thrown their way at this critical point of the season. Considering what was to come hours later, these two would've been scratched for Wednesday's game, anyway. Important to note, however, that roster flexibility wasn't, and isn't, the issue. The 23-man roster limit no longer applies now that the deadline has passed. However, each team only receives four recalls between now and the end of the regular season.

-- Marian Gaborik traded

The writing was on the wall for weeks as rumors and speculation dogged the struggling scorer. Gaborik said he tried not to focus on the incessant trade talk in which his name surfaced repeatedly, but it must have taken a toll, nonetheless. So, it was not altogether shocking that, with less than an hour before the 3 p.m. deadline, the Rangers moved the three-time 40-goal scorer to the Columbus Blue Jackets for three players and a sixth-round draft pick. Gaborik got a much-needed change of scenery while the Rangers addressed some immediate needs in adding center Derick Brassard, defenseman John Moore and gritty forward Derek Dorsett, who is injured but expected to return in the next three weeks. More importantly, the Rangers rid themselves of Gaborik's $7.5 million cap hit, allowing them the flexibility to sign restricted free agents Carl Hagelin, Derek Stepan and Ryan McDonagh this summer. They may also have the cap space to sign pending unrestricted free agent Ryane Clowe, if they want.

-- Rangers pound Penguins

If his Rangers debut was any indication, the Rangers may want to lock up Clowe for the future. The slumping forward, who had yet to score his first goal of the season when he was acquired by the Rangers on Tuesday, broke out with a pair of goals and an assist to lead his new club to a 6-1 rout over the first-place Penguins. He wasn't the only newcomer to chip in, either. Brassard had a career-high four points, and Moore notched a goal as well. According to Elias Sports Bureau, it was the first time in team history that three players scored a goal while making their debut. For a team that entered Wednesday's contest ranked last in the league in scoring, it was a welcome, and wild, surprise.

-- Back in the mix

With that statement win over the Penguins, the Rangers passed two division rivals, the Islanders and Devils to jump from 9th to 7th place in the Eastern Conference standings. With 12 games left until the finish line, they travel next to Pittsburgh to wrap up a home-and-home against the Penguins.

Rangers wish Gaborik the best

April, 4, 2013

As the New York Rangers welcomed three newcomers to the lineup Wednesday, and watched them each score a goal, they also said goodbye to veteran Marian Gaborik.

Gaborik, who was traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets, joined the Rangers in 2009 and had been one of the team's top scorers in his four seasons on Broadway.

"It's a tough situation," Rangers center Brad Richards said. "He wanted to work here, but he's going somewhere where they're welcoming him with open arms and they're excited to have him.

"You look at that and wish him the best. He did a lot for the Rangers, played a lot of good games and put up good numbers and we all wish him the best."

Gaborik's tenure with the Rangers can be described as inconsistent, as he had brilliant offensive seasons and then baffling ones. In 2009-10 and 2011-12, he had his great years as he scored more than 40 goals each season, tallying a combined 162 points.

In his two other season, the results weren't there. In 2010-11, he had just 48 points, and this season he has just 19 despite a scorching start. Gaborik scored five goals in the first month, but has just four over the past two.

While it was assumed that playing with Rick Nash would take Gaborik's game to new heights, he never made that jump.

"It's sad to see someone leave that you got to know, but it's part of the game. I think everybody knows it and understands why it happens sometimes," Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist said. "I really wish [Gaborik] the best. He's such a great player and a great teammate."

BOYLE'S BEST: Rangers forward Brian Boyle scored a career-best four points in Wednesday's victory over Pittsburgh, scoring a goal and adding a career-best three assists. Boyle had just two points entering the game.

"He's playing better and better," Rangers coach John Tortorella said. "The last couple of games, he's beginning to come and do more things for us."

NEW PLAY: As the Rangers finally beat the Penguins for the first time this year, improving to 1-3 against them, Lundqvist saw a different attitude permeate the team. The Rangers will see if that carries to Friday's game in Pittsburgh.

"We were definitely a more in-your-face type of team and we didn't give them much room," Lundqvist said. "A lot of great things today, that's for sure. The forecheck was outstanding. Usually they just fly in the zone, but it was hard for them to make good passes."

DORSETT STATUS: Tortorella said newly acquired forward Derek Dorsett is "a ways away" as he recovers from a broken collarbone that was presumed to sideline him for the season. Dorsett is on IR and last played March 7.

Rapid Reaction: Rangers 6, Penguins 1

April, 3, 2013

Marian who?

Hours after trading veteran forward Marian Gaborik to the Blue Jackets, the New York Rangers notched their season high in goals by defeating Pittsburgh 6-1 on Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden.

The Rangers received eight points from three players they acquired before the trade deadline.

PLAYOFF UPDATE: With the win, the Rangers are now in a three-way tie with the Devils and Islanders for seventh place in the East. The Rangers currently own the tiebreaker over both teams because they've played one less game than the Islanders, and have won more games in regulation than the Devils. The teams all have 39 points.

RYANE'S HOPE: Ryane Clowe hadn't scored a goal in 28 games with the Sharks this season, but it only took him 15 minutes as a Ranger to notch one. The veteran forward, acquired Tuesday night for draft picks, had a memorable MSG debut as he scored two goals and added an assist. The Rangers acquired him to add depth and ruggedness, but on Wednesday he gave them an offensive lift.

NOT THE ONLY NEW STAR: As part of the Gaborik deal, the Rangers acquired Derick Brassard, Derek Dorsett and John Moore. Brassard led all the newcomers with four points as he notched a goal and three assists Wednesday. The four-point night marked his best game of the season.

AND THERE'S MOORE! Moore added a goal in the third period to make sure that all the new Rangers acquisitions, aside from the injured Dorsett, scored a goal. It marked Moore's first goal of the year and third in his young career.

POWER PLAY: So this is what an efficient power play looks like? The Rangers were a stunning 3-for-4 on the power play Wednesday night. Normally, the Rangers are awful with a man advantage, and they had just three goals on the power play in their last 13 games. The Rangers received power-play goals from Brian Boyle, Brassard and Clowe, with all the goals coming in the first.

HOT FIRST: The Rangers had their best first period of the year, scoring three goals.

FINALLY BEAT 'EM: Pittsburgh has been a thorn in the Rangers' side lately, winning all three of the games this year by a combined score of 12-3. The Rangers finally cracked Pittsburgh on Wednesday, taking advantage of a weakened Pittsburgh lineup without Sidney Crosby.

UP NEXT: The Rangers conclude this home-and-home series with a trip to Pittsburgh on Friday.