PITTSBURGH – Blake Comeau probably wouldn’t be in the NHL if Chris Simon hadn’t been suspended again, yet the New York Islanders won a game because he is.
Comeau scored his first career goal to give the Islanders the lead midway through the third period, Trent Hunter added a goal 37 seconds later and New York shook off a recent slump to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-2 on Friday night.
Comeau, a rookie playing only his second game this season and the fifth of his career, took fourth-line centre Andy Hilbert’s pass in the left circle and beat Dany Sabourin inside the far post to put the Islanders back into the lead at 3-2.
“Andy did a great job of getting me the puck,” Comeau said. “When I looked to the net, I heard guys yelling ‘Shoot.’ There were bodies there and the lane was open. So I put my head down and tried to put it on net as hard as I could and it ended up going in.”
The 21-year-old Comeau also had his first two-point game, assisting on Hilbert’s tying goal about 8 1/2 minutes into the second period after Jordan Staal had given Pittsburgh a 2-1 lead. Comeau was recalled Monday, shortly before Islanders forward Chris Simon was suspended for the eighth time – for 30 games, the longest suspension in NHL history – after tripping Penguins forward Jarkko Ruutu and stomping on his leg with his skate blade last Saturday.
“You have to reward people who deserve it, and Andy Hilbert’s line maybe wasn’t getting as much ice time and, all of a sudden, he had a big one and it leads to another,” Islanders coach Ted Nolan said. “Tonight, they deserved it.”
Hunter’s seventh goal assured Pittsburgh’s fourth loss in six games, a night after the Penguins couldn’t hold a 4-0 lead but came back to beat Boston 5-4 in a shootout. Rick DiPietro made 24 saves as the Islanders won for only the third time in 11 games, going 2-7-1 in the previous 10.
“Obviously, no one likes to be put on the fourth line, but with the fourth line we have it’s really not a fourth line,” said Hilbert, who played for Pittsburgh two seasons ago. “I think our whole team played well. It was a huge win and all four lines played a part.”
No line did much for the Penguins, who are 4-3 when playing on the second night of consecutive games.
They seemed to have gained the momentum when a long-slumping Staal scored only his third goal in 35 games, on a power play early in the second. Sidney Crosby was knocked off his skates after carrying the puck down the slot, but it deflected to Staal along the goal-line and he stuffed it inside the near post.
That was Pittsburgh’s only goal in six power play chances, including a four-minute power play in the second. They are 2-for-25 with the man advantage in the last five games.
“We have the skill to make some plays and make some passes (on the power play), but we have to move the puck better. We have to be better,” Crosby said. “It’s easy to talk about, correct this and correct that, but we’ve got to find a way.”
Sabourin stopped only 20 of 24 shots in losing his fourth in five starts, giving up goals to a player who hadn’t previously scored (Comeau) and another who had scored only two other goals (Hilbert). Miroslav Satan also scored only 44 seconds into the game.
“We expect him to be better,” said coach Michel Therrien, who may go with backup Ty Conklin against Boston on Sunday.
Notes: Penguins forward Gary Roberts’ assist on Erik Christensen’s goal in the first period was his 900th career point. … Satan has scored in five consecutive games. Three of his nine goals are against Pittsburgh. … The first three games between the teams ended with 3-2 scores, with the Penguins winning twice. … Both teams failed to score on four-minute power plays, the Islanders also doing so after Penguins rookie Tyler Kennedy’s double minor in the third. … Crosby has 35 points in 19 games against the Islanders, but was limited to the lone assist.