PITTSBURGH, Pa. – It took an opponent the Pittsburgh Penguins seemingly always beat at home for them to get their first victory at the Consol Energy Center.
Alex Goligoski scored in overtime and Pittsburgh won for the first time in four games at its new US$321 million home, 3-2 over the New York Islanders on Friday night.
“I was sick of answering questions about the first win here, so that will be a relief,” Goligoski said. “It’s nice. It’s just relief to finally win one.”
Goligoski’s shot just under the crossbar from the left circle off a rebound of Evgeni Malkin’s shot beat goalie Rick DiPietro, giving Pittsburgh its ninth consecutive home win against the Islanders.
“We had been moving it around pretty quickly and got a few shots there to start and we probably tired them out a little bit,” said Goligoski, a defenceman who leads the team with three goals in five games. “The rebound popped out to me, and I tried to get it back on net as quickly as I could before the goalie got across.”
Eric Tangradi scored his first career goal, Mike Rupp also scored and Mark Letestu had two assists for the Penguins, who were unsuccessful in their first seven power play tries. Josh Bailey and Radek Martinek scored and Blake Comeau had two assists for New York, which is 2-14-3 in Pittsburgh since 2004.
“It’s been a long time since we’ve got a point in this building, which is certainly a huge plus for us—especially when you’re down 2-0 and not having anything going,” Islanders coach Scott Gordon said.
The Penguins scored twice in a 2:50 span early in the second and appeared on their way to easily breaking their hex at their new arena, facing an Islanders team playing without injured stars John Tavares, Kyle Okposo and Mark Streit.
But a questionable penalty on Penguins defenceman Kris Letang changed the momentum of the game midway through the second.
Bailey scored off a nice set up from Comeau with 11:18 into the period, drawing boos from the sellout crowd because the two were involved in an incident that gave the Islanders the power play that resulted in that goal.
Letang was given a 5-minute major and game misconduct for an illegal check to the head on Comeau 3:30 prior, even though replays showed the contact was to Comeau’s shoulder.
“The referee made a decision about protecting a player; he has to make it in a split second,” Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said, relaying the explanation he was given from the officials during the ensuing intermission.
Bailey immediately threw his gloves off and jumped Letang, drawing a roughing minor, but Comeau would not miss a shift and set up two goals in the next six minutes.
“It didn’t really look like he hit him in the head on the replay, but it’s still the kind of hit that we’re not going to accept it,” Bailey said.
Comeau assisted on the tying goal 1:48 after New York’s first tally, a tic-tac-toe passing play that ended when Martinek scored his first goal in almost a year (Oct. 24, 2009).
Under a new NHL rule this season, “a lateral or blind side hit to an opponent where the head is targeted and/or the principle point of contact” is an automatic major and game misconduct.
Comeau had at least two other scoring chances the remainder of the game. After, Comeau was unavailable and Gordon said he was undergoing testing.
“Everyone is going to look at (the hit),” Letang said. “It’s a play that I need to step up, otherwise he’s going to be by himself in the slot with a great scoring chance, so I am stepping up for the puck and hit him on the shoulder.”
Rupp opened the scoring 4:07 into the second when he backhanded a puck into an empty net off a rebound, and Tangradi scored less than three minutes later when his turnaround shot deflected off the skate of Islanders defenceman Milan Jurcina.
The Islanders did not score during three power plays over the final 17 minutes of the game—two as the result of Matt Cooke’s goalie-interference calls and one that began with 2:17 to play.
The Penguins did not seriously threaten during two third-period power plays of their own, dropping them to 3-for-27 (11 per cent) on the season untilovertime. Pittsburgh also had 1:12 of unsuccessful time while on a 5-on-3.
“We were pressing a bit during the game,” Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said of the power play, “but timing is everything sometimes. And we got it when we needed it.”
NOTES: The Islanders’ most recent win at Pittsburgh was at the old Mellon Arena on Dec. 21, 2007. … The 21-year-old Tangradi played his fifth career game.