BY IRA PODELL
UNIONDALE, N.Y. —
James Neal staked Pittsburgh to an early lead, and Marc-Andre Fleury and the rest of the Penguins then held on to beat the New York Islanders 4-2 on Tuesday night.
Pittsburgh looked plenty comfortable when it took a 3-0 lead 1:44 into the third period on Brandon Sutter’s goal, but the Islanders suddenly stormed back just as it seemed they would be shut out at home for the second straight game.
Michael Grabner began the comeback at 3:14, and Brad Boyes – moved up to the top line for this game – made it 3-2 just 35 seconds later when he flung a shot past Fleury, who was sprawled on the ice.
Penguins coach Dan Bylsma called timeout and settled down his club, which won its fourth straight dating to a home loss against the Islanders last Tuesday. Defenseman Simon Despres added a second-period goal for Pittsburgh.
Pascal Dupuis finally put away the Islanders with an empty-net goal with 39 seconds left.
The Islanders’ offensive woes came as a surprise. New York had scored at least four goals in five of its first seven games this season before being blanked by New Jersey on Sunday.
Pittsburgh made the most of limited pressure on goalie Evgeni Nabokov. The Penguins were being outshot 23-10 at the time of Despres’ goal with 4 minutes left in the middle period that made it 2-0.
Fleury was strong in keeping the Islanders at bay over the first 40 minutes as New York was constantly on the power play. The Islanders had been potent with the man advantage in the early part of the season, but they have gone cold in their past 14 opportunities over two games – 0 for 7 in each.
Fleury got help from a quick whistle in the first period after he smothered a shot by Matt Moulson in his midsection. The puck trickled behind Fleury and was swept in by John Tavares, but the goal came too late.
Fleury finished with 32 saves. Nabokov stopped 22 shots.
Nabokov was bailed out by his defense 6:21 in when Penguins captain Sidney Crosby nearly slipped a shot in from near the right post. The puck got behind Nabokov and sat on the goal line before Andrew MacDonald used his hand to swat it out of danger. A video review confirmed the puck never crossed the line.
Neal gave the Penguins a 1-0 lead on Pittsburgh’s second shot, 6 seconds into Marty Reasoner’s holding penalty.
After Crosby won a faceoff in the left circle, he retrieved the puck along the boards and sent it across the zone. Neal curled into the right circle and snapped a shot that beat Nabokov at 2:58.
Nabokov held New Jersey without a goal for more than 56 minutes Sunday and then gave up two in short order. The Devils closed the barrage with an empty-net goal to hand the Islanders a 3-0 loss.
Adding in Neal’s early tally, New York allowed four goals in 6:52 of playing time over two games.
Even the Islanders’ strength on special teams has taken a hit recently. New York had been 26 of 27 when killing penalties this season until New Jersey’s Steve Bernier gave the Devils a 1-0 lead late in the third period Sunday.
After clicking six times in the previous eight power-play chances over three games, the Islanders failed on all seven opportunities against the Devils and couldn’t find the range versus Pittsburgh, either.
Notes: Crosby left briefly in the second period after he was struck in the face by the puck. ... The Islanders were the only Atlantic Division team the Penguins hadn’t beaten this season (5-1). ... Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin was kept off the score sheet after he posted multiple points in three straight games. ... The Islanders had beaten Pittsburgh three straight games by a combined score of 14-7. ... New York hadn’t been 0 for 7 on power plays in consecutive games since March 28-30, 2003.