Penguins drop Islanders 4-0 to regain series lead
PITTSBURGH (AP) — Tomas Vokoun stopped 31 shots in his first playoff start in six years and the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the New York Islanders 4-0 on Thursday night in Game 5 of their first-round playoff series.
Sidney Crosby, Tyler Kennedy and Douglas Murray scored during a seven-minute stretch in the second period and Kris Letang added a power-play goal in the third as Pittsburgh moved a step closer to advancing to the second round.
The Penguins lead the series 3-2. Game 6 is Saturday in New York.
Evgeni Nabokov made 23 saves for the Islanders, but also gave up breakaway goals to Crosby and Kennedy and botched a lazy wrist shot from Murray that gave the Penguins all the offense they would need.
Vokoun was thrust into the lineup after Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma benched Marc-Andre Fleury, who had started 79 straight postseason games but struggled in a 6-4 loss in Game 4. The 36-year-old Vokoun didn't look intimidated by the stage as the Penguins restored a little order to a wide-open series.
The eighth-seeded Islanders looked like the better team through much of the first four games, using their speed to keep the talented but somewhat plodding top-seeded Penguins on their heels.
Bylsma's biggest change was inserting Vokoun in place of Fleury, but he also scratched defenseman Mark Eaton and forwards Jussi Jokinen and Tanner Glass in favor of younger, quicker skaters Simon Despres, Joe Vitale and Kennedy.
The moves paid off handsomely.
New York controlled play for most of a scoreless first period before Kennedy — squeezed out of the rotation by the influx of veterans brought in at the trade deadline — broke through 7:25 into the second.
The play began innocently enough in Pittsburgh's end before Letang hit Kennedy with a sizzling 80-foot stretch pass right up the middle of the ice. Kennedy greedily accepted the puck at New York's blue line, then flipped a wrist shot over Nabokov's glove to give the Penguins the lead.
The score seemed to rattle Nabokov. Murray loped in a lazy wrist shot from the point that Nabokov tried to glove only to have the puck slip out of his left hand, over his back and into the net.
There was nothing fluky about Crosby's third goal of the series, a masterpiece that ranks among the more dazzling plays of his already highlight-heavy career.
The Pittsburgh captain, still wearing a cumbersome mask to protect his broken jaw, took a pass from teammate Jarome Iginla at center ice then effortlessly split New York defenders Lubomir Visnovsky and Thomas Hickey. Crosby crossed the blue line and poked the puck ahead as the defensemen closed in, lifting his stick before stepping through a pair of flailing poke checks.
Nabokov didn't have a chance as the wrist shot zipped over the goaltender's stick to push the lead to 3-0.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.