The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Sports

May 4, 2013

Islanders regroup, knot series

PITTSBURGH — Kyle Okposo’s first career playoff goal with 7:37 remaining lifted the New York Islanders to a 4-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Friday night, evening their playoffs series at one game each.

Matt Moulson, Colin McDonald and Matt Martin also scored for the Islanders, who spoiled Sidney Crosby’s comeback from a broken jaw by rallying from an early two-goal deficit.

Crosby scored twice in the game’s first eight minutes as the Penguins raced to a quick 3-1 lead. But they couldn’t hold it as the Islanders bounced back from a lifeless performance in Game 1.

Evgeni Nabokov overcame a sluggish start to stop 30 shots as the Islanders won their first playoff game in more than six years.

Marc-Andre Fleury made 38 saves for Pittsburgh, which allowed the speedy Islanders to effectively counterpunch all night.

Game 3 is Sunday in New York.

It wasn’t exactly the triumphant return the Penguins expected after doctors cleared Crosby to play after missing more than a month. Pittsburgh crushed the Islanders

5-0 in the opener Wednesday, and Crosby’s addition to the lineup figured to make the task for the eighth-seeded Islanders more daunting.

Instead, it only seemed to fire up New York. The result was the franchise’s first playoff victory since April 14, 2007. Coach Jack Capuano told his players after the debacle in the opener all it took was a bounce here or there to get back in it.

The bounce came in the third period, when Okposo fired a shot wide of the net that caromed back to the crease, then rolled off Fleury and across the goal line.

The Penguins couldn’t muster much in return, and the Islanders spilled over the boards after toppling the Eastern Conference’s top seed as a solemn crowd trudged to the exit.

The end played in stark contrast to the beginning, when the building erupted the moment Crosby skated onto the ice before pregame introductions. The place only grew louder when he hopped over the boards for the first time in over a month.

It helped that Malkin had already staked Pittsburgh to a 1-0 lead 43 seconds into the game when he poked in his own rebound over a sprawled Nabokov.

Crosby, who has shown a flair for the dramatic in his comebacks from lengthy layoffs, did not provide any magic on his first shift.

Instead, he waited for his second.

Standing all alone on the post, Crosby tapped in a simple pass from Jarome Iginla to make it 2-0 before the game was four minutes old.

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