After losing captain Sidney Crosby just 1:25 minutes into the game, the Pittsburgh Penguins were able to find a way to win their 15th straight game, and record their third straight shutout.
A game that saw newly-acquired forward Jarome Iginla debut in his first contest post-trade, also saw Crosby in the hospital after he took a deflected high-rising shot from Brooks Orpik to the mouth, on his first shift of the game.
“Sidney Crosby, took a puck to the mouth, to the teeth and I think lost a few of those. He (Crosby) went to the hospital and had to have oral surgery. We’ll continue to evaluate and monitor that.”
While Crosby was having his grill checked out, the team was busy setting records without him.
Beating the Islanders 2-0, the Pens tied for the second-longest streak ever (15) in the NHL and also broke their own record of 187:30 minutes without allowing a goal, with now 208:24 straight minutes.
A lot of that has to do with the play of backup goaltender Tomas Vokoun, who’s been in for the injured Marc-Andre Fleury.
Finishing up Fleury’s shutout in the third period against the Canadiens a few games ago, Vokoun now has back-to-back shutouts against the Jets and Islanders.
Saturday, Vokoun stonewalled all 35 shots from the Isles to improve his record to 10-3-0 and he won his fifth straight start. He now has a 2.33 goals against average and a .922 save percentage on the season.
But what showed more impressive was his ability to stand tall when the Pens were shorthanded for five minutes, in which two of those minutes gave the Isles a five-on-three advantage.
Losing Chris Kunitz to a game-misconduct 16:23 into the second period, Pittsburgh killed off 3:04 of the Kunitz foul, only to have Orpik add the pressure on by committing a tripping penalty that gave New York a five-on-three for 1:56 minutes.
With the crowd getting into it, Vokoun turned away chance after chance and his shot-blockers kept their legs moving, preventing pucks from reaching his net mount.
Goaltending was phenomenal for the Pens, but the team doesn’t win Saturday’s game without Matt Cooke.
Breaking the tie 8:10 into the third period, Cooke not only scored the game-winning goal, but he gave the whole building enough energy to feed off of from his penalty-killing and his dominant forechecking presence alone.
Hats off to “Cookie.”
James Neal scored the second goal for Pittsburgh and his first in ten games. Matter of fact, the last time Neal scored was against these same Islanders on March 10th, so it was a much needed tally for him.
Assisting on Cooke’s goal was defenseman Deryk Engelland and forward Tyler Kennedy.
Evgeni Malkin grabbed an assist on Neal’s tally and big defenseman Douglas Murray record his first point as a Penguin, assisting on Neal’s goal as well.
Although Iginla failed to register to a point, the veteran still had a pretty good first game, considering he hadn’t practiced with the team yet.
“I think (Neal) was feeling bad for me in the first. I was a little lost as far as left wing and trying to adjust to different stuff. He was trying to make it easier on me and was just going to switch me back. But as it went on, we switched back and kind of felt more comfortable. But yeah, it was nice of him in the first. Lots was happening quickly. You want to do good things out there, but you’re also trying to stay out of trouble and help the guys out.”
The team announced before the game that they will be without defenseman Paul Martin for the next six weeks, and although the news on Crosby seems to be a little comforting, the Pens are showing their depth right now.
In this game alone, besides being without Crosby and Martin, Pittsburgh also didn’t have their best defenseman Kris Letang (broken toe), their starting goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury (neck injury), and their resurgent forward Chris Kunitz (game-misconduct).
To put into perspective of how big those losses are, that’s two top-5 point-scorers in the NHL (Crosby, Kunitz), the top NHL defenseman in points (Letang), and of course any team’s going to potentially struggle without their starting goalie.
However, that’s not the case with Pittsburgh.
It’s nice to see that no matter what gets thrown at them, the team finds a way to win.
Pens go for 16 in-a-row against the Buffalo Sabres in Pittsburgh at 7:30 p.m.