PITTSBURGH -- With a three-goal flurry in a wild six-minute span of the third period, the New York Islanders defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-3 on Friday night.
The Islanders handed the Penguins their second straight loss thanks in large part to a goal and two assists from Frans Nielsen and two assists from veteran defenseman Radek Martinek, making his season debut after signing a one-year deal earlier this week.
This was the first meeting between the two teams since their Eastern Conference quarterfinal series last spring.
The Islanders scored the winning goal at 18:20 of the third period when a blocked Kris Letang shot led to an odd-man break the other way.
While goaltender Jeff Zatkoff made a spectacular save initially, the Penguins never recovered to get into good defensive position and Josh Bailey took advantage, knocking in a rebound.
"Even when we're not playing our best, we've found a way to stay in games and give ourselves a chance, and that was the case tonight," Bailey said.
At 12:46 of the third, the Islanders had tied the score at 2 on a perfectly executed shot-pass from defenseman Thomas Hickey to the stick of Nielsen, who deflected it on his backhand and into the net.
But the score wasn't tied for long. Just 16 seconds later, Deryk Engelland drove hard to the net and one-timed a Joe Vitale pass from below the goal line past Islanders netminder Evgeni Nabokov's glove hand to put Pittsburgh back ahead 3-2.
However, with seesaw swings in momentum, the Islanders came right back and tied the score at 3 when Pierre-Marc Bouchard registered his first goal of the year, sliding the puck through Zatkoff's pads from in tight.
"We had some chances to build on our lead and we didn't," Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said. "We made some mistakes and they made us pay."
The Islanders got on the board first while working with a man-advantage.
John Tavares pushed a puck toward that net that was deflected by Nielsen, hitting Zatkoff near the top of his chest protector. Zatkoff was unable to corral the rebound and it bounced to his left, where Matt Moulson was positioned. As Moulson was being shoved down by the Pittsburgh defense, he managed to bat the bounding puck into the net as he fell to the ice. The goal at 10:14 of the first was Moulson's sixth of the season.
The Penguins evened the score just over three minutes later when Brandon Sutter unleashed a hard wrist shot from the left faceoff circle that hit Nabokov high. The rebound popped in the air, but Nabokov lost track of it, allowing Olli Jokinen to streak down the slot and bat in the loose puck. Islanders defenseman Andrew MacDonald tried to swat away the rebound before Jokinen could get to it, but he swung and missed at the bouncing puck.
The Penguins took their first lead of the night, 2-1, at 5:59 of the second period when Crosby, the NHL's points leader, and Chris Kunitz broke in on a two-on-one.
With Crosby breaking down the right wing with the puck and Kunitz on the left, Crosby cut toward Nabokov and fired a laser of a wrist shot from the dot of the right faceoff circle past the New York netminder's blocker and just inside the left post for his eight goal of the season.
The goal gave Crosby 76 career points against the Islanders, more than any other opponent.
Nabokov had a chance at redemption against Crosby just over five minutes into the third period when he broke in alone on a breakaway. This time, Nabokov was equal to the task, making a save on Crosby's attempt at sliding the puck between his pads.
"The save on Crosby to me is the turning point," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said.
The Islanders' penalty kill also played a big role in the victory, killing off all five Pittsburgh power plays.
"I felt like after the second period (the penalty kill) is what kept us in the game," said Nabokov, who made 39 saves.
Zatkoff, meanwhile, turned aside 21 of 25 Islanders shots in his home debut for the Penguins in his second NHL start.
"We controlled the whole game except the last 10 minutes we kind of got away from what we were doing," Zatkoff said. "They got a good set of forwards, you give them too many chances they're going to strike eventually."
NOTES: The Penguins announced Thursday that 19-year-old rookie D Olli Maatta will remain with the team and not be returned to his junior club. ... Islanders RW Michael Grabner served the final game of his two-game suspension for an illegal hit in a game on October 19th versus Carolina. ... Scratches for the Penguins were C Dustin Jeffrey and D Robert Bortuzzo. Scratches for the Islanders were LW Eric Boulton, Grabner (suspended) and D Brian Strait (upper body). ... Both teams will be in action again on Saturday. The Penguins will travel to Toronto and the Islanders will play host to the Flyers. ... The official attendance was 18,664, giving Pittsburgh its 293rd consecutive sellout.
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