By WILL GRAVES
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
PITTSBURGH – Josh Bailey’s goal with 1:40 left capped the Islanders’ furious third-period rally, and New York edged the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-3 on Friday night.
Bailey took a feed from Frans Nielsen in front of the net and beat goalie Jeff Zatkoff for his fourth goal of the season. The Islanders scored three times in the final 7:14 and erased deficits of 2-1 and 3-2.
Nielsen, Matt Moulson and Pierre-Marc Bouchard also scored for New York, and defenseman Radek Martinek had two assists in his season debut. Evgeni Nabokov stopped 39 shots.
Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby scored his eighth goal of the season and now has an NHL-high 18 points. Jussi Jokinen and Deryk Engelland also beat Nabokov but couldn’t stop the Penguins from losing their second straight.
Zatkoff, playing in his second NHL game, made 21 saves.
Pittsburgh dominated the game’s first 50 minutes, peppering Nabokov relentlessly. The veteran hung in long enough for New York’s lifeless offense to get going.
Nielsen evened it 2-2 with 7:14 remaining on a nifty deflection. The tie lasted all of 16 seconds as Engelland – a defenseman being used as a fourth-line forward due to Penguins injuries – crashed the net for his first goal in 61 games.
New York, however, kept coming. Shortly after Engelland’s tally, Bouchard took advantage of a Pittsburgh turnover deep in its own end and deked his way by Zatkoff to make it 3-3.
The Penguins’ defense gave Bailey two chances to bury the game-winner.
Zatkoff made a sprawling save to stop Bailey on the doorstep, but the goalie couldn’t grab the rebound. Nielsen immediately fed Bailey again and he kept jabbing at the puck until it found its way behind Zatkoff, setting off a celebration on the Islanders bench.
The meeting was the first between the teams since a tense playoff series last spring. The heavily favored Penguins survived in six games, winning the clincher on Books Orpik’s overtime goal.
The Islanders viewed their energetic performance against the Eastern Conference’s top seed as a springboard but haven’t been able to generate any early momentum.
New York came in with just one victory in its previous six games, each of them decided by a single goal.
Moulson gave the Islanders the early lead, getting his own rebound in front of Zatkoff and backhanding the puck into an open net 10:14 into the first period.
The Penguins needed barely three minutes to tie it.
Seconds after a penalty to Bailey expired, Brandon Sutter wristed a shot from the left circle that smacked off Nabokov’s chest and went right to Jokinen’s stick. The forward had little trouble beating a badly out of position Nabokov for his fifth goal of the season and his 12th in 20 regular-season games with Pittsburgh.
Crosby put the Penguins in front to stay six minutes into the second period when he and Chris Kunitz broke loose for a 2-on-1 rush. Crosby’s wrist shot from the right circle found a sliver of space between Nabokov’s pad and his blocker before sneaking inside the far post.
Pittsburgh’s constant buzzing took some of the pressure off Zatkoff, who struggled in his only other start, a sloppy 6-3 loss to Florida on Oct. 11.
Handed the backup job when Tomas Vokoun went down with a blood clot in his pelvis that will sideline the veteran for at least three months, Zatkoff figures to only play sporadically behind Marc-Andre Fleury, who has sparkled during the first three weeks of the season.
While Zatkoff was certainly steadier than in his NHL debut, he couldn’t get a glove on Nielsen’s beautiful deflection that sparked New York’s scintillating finish.
Note: Pittsburgh D Kris Letang played 25:32 in his season debut. Letang missed nine games due to a lower-body injury.
By WILL GRAVES
Pirates, Jays rained out
The Toronto Blue Jays' spring training game at the Pittsburgh Pirates was rained out Thursday.
The game will not be made up.
Pirates rough up Blue Jays’ Morrow
Brandon Morrow allowed five runs and six hits over three innings in the Toronto Blue Jays’ 6-4 loss Wednesday to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Morrow was making his second appearance since a season-ending forearm injury last May. On Feb. 28, the right-hander gave up two hits and one run in two relief innings.
Steelers sign Polamalu, cut Foote
Troy Polamalu and Heath Miller are doing their part to help the Pittsburgh Steelers get under the 2014 salary cap.
The eight-time Pro Bowl safety and the venerable tight end both signed new three-year contracts with the team on Wednesday designed to give the Steelers some cap relief before the new league year begins next week.
Pens pick up pair of forwards
The Pittsburgh Penguins didn’t go for the big splash at the trade deadline this time.
General manager Ray Shero believes the little ripples his team made instead can be just as effective as the franchise pursues its fourth Stanley Cup.
Penguins snap out of slump
Matt Niskanen scored his second goal of the game 7:29 into the third period, and the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Nashville Predators 3-1 on Tuesday night to snap a three-game skid.
Niskanen and the Penguins helped ruin the return of Nashville goalie Pekka Rinne in his first game since Oct. 22 following an E. coli infection in his surgically repaired left hip.
Morton throws three scoreless innings in Pirates victory
Charlie Morton allowed one hit in three scoreless innings, helping the Pittsburgh Pirates to a 5-2 victory over the Detroit Tigers on Tuesday.
Morton did not strike out a batter, but he kept Detroit off the bases during his short stint, aside from Don Kelly’s second-inning double.
Alvarez, Martin hit two-run shots in Bucs’ win
Pedro Alvarez and Russell Martin hit two-run homers off Brandon Workman, who started in place of injured Jake Peavy, and the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Boston Red Sox 7-6 Monday.
Pittsburgh leadoff batter Starling Marte reached on an infield single in the first that stopped an 0-for-9 start, and Alvarez homered to right off Workman with two outs.
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Blackhawks hammer Pens
The swirling snow and frigid conditions made it even more fun for Jonathan Toews and the Chicago Blackhawks.
Toews had two goals and an assist at a picturesque Soldier Field, and the Blackhawks beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 5-1 on Saturday night in the finale of the NHL Stadium Series.
Bucs tie Rays in 10 innings
Wandy Rodriguez had a solid spring training debut while facing major league batters for the first time in nearly nine months, and the Pittsburgh Pirates and Tampa Bay Rays played to a 2-all tie in 10 innings.
Rodriguez worked one inning for the Pirates, did not allow a hit and struck out two. It was a good first step back for the left-hander, who missed most of last season due to persistent forearm pain.
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