Islanders pull even with Pittsburgh in playoff race

UNIONDALE, N.Y. (AP) -- The New York Islanders were taking the
game to the listless Pittsburgh Penguins even before Mario
Lemieux's aching groin knocked him out.

After that, things got even easier.

Dave Scatchard scored a career-high three goals in New York's
second straight offensive outburst at home and the Islanders beat
the Penguins 6-3 Tuesday night.

Scatchard scored twice in the Islanders' second four-goal period
in as many home games and then finished his first career hat trick
with his 13th goal of the season early in the third.

"I wanted to take in the moment," he said. "I was just saying
'all right, finally.'"

The Islanders, who have won six of seven, moved into eighth
place in the Eastern Conference.

"This is our best game of the year," Scatchard said. "The
first hat is a fun thing, but the playoffs are more fun."

Oleg Kvasha and Mark Parrish also had goals in the Islanders'
big second period. Shawn Bates gave New York the lead in the first
period. Jason Blake assisted on each of Scatchard's goals.

"We had four lines going and when we do, not many teams can
match us," Scatchard said.

Steve McKenna and Mario Lemieux scored for Pittsburgh in the
second period that ended with New York ahead 5-2. Ville Nieminen
brought Pittsburgh within 6-3 with 5:03 left in the game.

Lemieux logged 10 shifts totaling 7 minutes, 46 seconds of ice
time in the first period but only four shifts and 2:50 in the
second before he left.

"It's just a strain, but I won't know until I get up tomorrow
and see how it feels and really go from there," he said.

He was hurt when he fell in the Islanders' zone. Lemieux
attempted a quick return but couldn't stay on.

"I just felt a little pop," he said. "I wanted to try it
right away. Right off the faceoff I tried to take a couple of
strides and I just couldn't go."

Pittsburgh defenseman Marc Bergevin didn't want to use Lemieux's
injury as an excuse for the Penguins to give up.

"That's embarrassing if that's the case," he said. "This was
an important game for us and we just didn't show up."

McKenna acknowledged that the Penguins, 6-1-0-1 in their
previous eight, weren't playing well even before Lemieux went out.

"It was a letdown after they scored their fourth, fifth, sixth
goal," he said.

New York, which fired 41 shots at Jean-Sebastien Aubin, earned
three out of four possible points in the important home-and-home
series with the Penguins that began with a 3-2 overtime loss
Saturday night. That defeat snapped the Islanders' five-game
winning streak, their longest since 1993.

The surging Islanders are even with Pittsburgh at 42 points in
the Eastern Conference playoff race, but they have 18 wins -- one
more than Pittsburgh.

Bates returned to the Islanders' lineup after an eight-game
absence because of a groin injury. He gave New York a 1-0 lead with
4:38 left in the first.

Lemieux tied it with a power-play goal just 2:14 into the second
when he got a funny rebound off Martin Straka's shot off the end
boards and scored his 20th of the season from a sharp angle. He has
a league-high 68 points.

It is the 12th time that Lemieux has reached the 20-goal mark in
a career that has already landed him in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Lemieux has only failed to reach 20 three times in 15 NHL seasons.

Kvasha made it 2-1 Islanders just 17 seconds after Lemieux's
goal. Scatchard scored at 5:45 and Parrish made it 4-1 just 1:40
later. Scatchard's second goal made it a four-goal lead at 14:37.

"That's a good team," Lemieux said. "They spread it out
pretty good and that's why they're on a roll."

McKenna slapped a shot in from in front to make it 5-2 with just
four seconds left in the second.

"There was no life, there was no energy," McKenna said of the
Penguins. "There were 20 guys not going tonight."

And he didn't have any answers why.

"I wish they could go look on the tape and find something
because there were 20 guys out there that weren't working as hard
as they could,"
he said.

New York scored four goals in the first period of Friday night's
8-4 victory over Boston. Mark Parrish had the Islanders' first hat
trick of the season in that game.

Game notes
The Islanders had killed 26 straight power plays and 62 of
63 before Lemieux's goal. ... Pittsburgh took 31 shots at Chris
Osgood, who won his sixth straight game. ... Scatchard has seven
career two-goal games.