The Pittsburgh Penguins beat the New York Islanders 4-3 courtesy of Chris Kunitz’s deciding goal in the shootout. This was a huge 2 points for several reasons: the Pens clinched home ice in the first round of the playoffs; thanks to Buffalo’s OT win against Philly, the Pens still have a shot at the Atlantic crown; and the Pens got a measure of revenge against the Islanders for the brawl-filled fiasco Feb. 11.
So, it all comes down to the 82nd game of the season. If Philadelphia wins Saturday night against the Islanders, they take the division. If not, it’s up to the Pens to seal the deal Sunday afternoon in Atlanta. No matter what happens, however, the Pens deserve kudos for wrapping up at least a 4 seed. Instead of folding after the Crosby/Malkin injuries, the team battled hard and overachieved.
As for Friday’s game on Long Island…
The Pens blew a 2-0 second-period lead and allowed the Islanders to tie it at 3 with under a minute left in regulation. Mike Rupp had arguably his best game of the season. He scored a first-period goal, set a screen on Z. Michalek’s second-period PP goal and set up Mark Letestu’s third-period goal. Quite a night for the veteran grinder. Marc-Andre Fleury was solid, making 35 saves in regulation/OT and was perfect in the shootout.
The much-anticipated follow-up to the “Debacle on Long Island” may have disappointed those looking for brawls and blood. Trevor Gillies and Eric Godard fought in the first, as did Arron Asham and Zenon Konopka. Although Gillies won the fight, Godard got the last laugh with an assist on Rupp’s goal.
The bad news for Pittsburgh? James Neal left the game with an apparent leg injury and did not return. I know Neal has underachieved since arriving from Dallas, but let’s hope this isn’t serious. He’s the kind of player you need in the playoffs, and he’s bound to break out of this slump soon.