While the Pittsburgh Penguins dominated the New York Islanders for the better part of five seasons, they haven't been able to keep up of late.
The surging Penguins try to avenge last week's loss to the Islanders as these clubs meet again Tuesday night at Nassau Coliseum.
Pittsburgh (6-3-0) had compiled a 23-4-2 record against New York (4-3-1) before suffering a pair of 5-3 defeats to close last season's series. The Islanders continued their recent success over the Penguins last Tuesday, cruising to a 4-1 victory at Consol Energy Center behind Evgeni Nabokov's 37 saves.
"The Islanders are maybe not (a team) that people focus on but they have talented players and they've been working hard and playing well. ... If we needed to learn that lesson, we definitely could have learned it with last game," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said.
"We know what happened last time they played us, and it wasn't a good game - they mopped us up. We'll be going into their building in an Atlantic Division game knowing that it's an important game."
New York hasn't posted four consecutive wins over Pittsburgh since a five-game run spanning the 1985-86 and 1986-87 seasons. Picking up another two points, however, could prove difficult given the Penguins' play on the road.
Bylsma's club has outscored opponents 21-12 in opening 5-1-0 as the visiting team, its best start since winning its first seven road games in 2009-10.
"When a team like that gets going, you better be prepared cause they're gonna come in hard and they've got some talent and skill on their roster," Islanders coach Jack Capuano said.
Pittsburgh is coming off its third consecutive victory overall, 6-3 at Washington on Sunday. Chris Kunitz led the way with his third career hat trick and was later credited for a career-best fourth goal on a scoring change the following day. Sidney Crosby notched a season-best three assists.
"I'm just trying to put the puck on net," Kunitz told the team's official website. "We're worried about the two points and getting our team headed in the right direction. No one cares about that other stuff."
While Tomas Vokoun made 21 saves against the Capitals, Marc-Andre Fleury, who's compiled a 0.96 goals-against average in winning both his road starts, could play Tuesday. The All-Star goaltender has posted a 5.63 GAA while starting the last three games in this series, but he's 17-7-3 against New York since 2005-06.
The Islanders fell 3-0 to New Jersey in the back end of a home-and-home set Sunday. Nabokov stopped 24 of 26 shots but New York, which allowed all three goals with under four minutes left in the game, went 0 for 7 on the power play.
"We were just uncharacteristic on things we were doing," Capuano said. "We had zone time, we had entry, but we got in there and it was - we slowed it down, we didn't make it tough on them, we didn't get shots to the net, we didn't have any net presence like we've had in the past.
"We gotta be better at it. To me, it's about work ethic."
Nabokov is 10-2-0 with a 1.70 GAA and two shutouts against Pittsburgh, allowing two or fewer goals in nine straight matchups.
Despite tallying just one assist during the Penguins' skid in this series, Crosby has 20 goals and 67 points in 37 career games versus New York - his most against any opponent. Pittsburgh is 16-2-0 against the Islanders when Crosby has at least two points.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved