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Evgeni Malkin's two points lead the Penguins past the Islanders, 6-1

PITTSBURGH - Evgeni Malkin and the Pittsburgh Penguins are assured of being in the playoffs, yet they still had much to play for during their final regular-season home game.

The New York Islanders once again had nothing to play for, and performed exactly like they didn't.

Malkin picked up two assists to lengthen his lead in the NHL scoring race and the Penguins stayed in contention for home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs, beating the Islanders 6-1 Thursday night to assure New York of finishing with the NHL's worst record.

Malkin has 112 points, or four more than reigning scoring champion Alex Ovechkin of Washington. Both players have one game remaining. Ovechkin went scoreless during the Capitals' 4-2 victory at Tampa Bay.

"Yeah, I feel good," Malkin said. "One game left, it's OK. I think it's too much points (for Ovechkin to catch him)."

And if Ovechkin gets four points in his final game?

"I will score two. I will," Malkin said.

The Penguins are more concerned with getting two points of their own against Montreal on Saturday night.

They improved to 17-3-4 under interim coach Dan Bylsma and tied Carolina and Philadelphia with 97 points each in the race to finish fourth in the Eastern Conference and gain the home-ice edge for at least one playoff round.

The Flyers have two games remaining, while the Hurricanes and Penguins each have one remaining.

Carolina, which finishes the regular season Saturday at New Jersey, lost 5-1 at home to Buffalo and the Flyers were 2-1 losers to the Rangers. Pittsburgh can finish no lower than sixth.

"We want to win as many games as we can," Pascal Dupuis said. "The standings are not set yet. We still want the home-ice advantage, so tonight was a big win for us.

"We had to put our mind to it - obviously when you clinch already and you play against a team that is last in the league, it's always a little hard to get pumped up for that game, but we seemed to be able to do it in the second and third."

Dupuis put the Penguins ahead 2-1 by scoring with 3:51 gone in the second period and Matt Cooke's wide-open shot from the right circle created by Jordan Staal's drop pass made it a two-goal game less than five minutes later.

Mathieu Garon, playing for only the fourth time since joining the Penguins in mid-January, made 28 saves for his second Penguins victory.

The Islanders have two games left in a season that can't end soon enough.

Their 26-45-9 record - they went 1-5 against Pittsburgh - assures them of finishing last in the league for the first time in eight seasons. Their consolation prize is a chance for the top draft pick.

New York has been outscored 15-1 in its last two games, including a franchise-worst 9-0 loss to Carolina on Tuesday night in which it was outshot 57-12. This performance was slightly better, but not by much.

"We have a lot of guys up (from the minors) right now, getting a chance, and I think everybody should do a better job than we've done the last couple of games," Sean Bergenheim said.

The Islanders had their chances, leading 1-0 on Frans Nielsen's power-play goal about five minutes into the game before Philippe Boucher's first goal since Dec. 18 tied it later in the first period.

They also had a pair of 5-on-3 advantages but couldn't score on either, including a two-man edge lasting 1:46 when they trailed 3-1 late in the second.

"Right now, in our lineup, we don't have a lot of firepower," said coach Scott Gordon, whose team has a league-low 197 goals. "I think we hit four posts during the course of the game.

"It's not going to come as a surprise that the puck is not going to go in as easy as it would for some teams."

Like the Penguins, for example.

After New York didn't score during a two-man advantage lasting 49 seconds early in the third, former Islanders captain Bill Guerin, Sidney Crosby and Tyler Kennedy turned it into another rout by scoring in a six-minute span.

Crosby scored his 33rd goal and third in two games, a goal originally credited to Sergei Gonchar, and assisted on Guerin's 21st goal. Crosby has 103 points.

The draft pick New York receives for dealing Guerin to the Penguins at the trading deadline depends on how deep Pittsburgh advances into the playoffs.

"I told him to make sure to get us a third-round pick," Cooper said.

Notes: Malkin won the Penguins' MVP award. ... The Penguins sold out every regular season home game for the second successive season. ... Boucher (foot surgery) played for the first time since Jan. 30. ... Penguins fans contributed more than $67,000 before the game to a fund for the three Pittsburgh policemen who were shot to death Saturday, or nearly $4 for every fan. ... The Islanders have allowed 94 shots in two games. ... Pittsburgh went 25-13-3 at home by winning seven of its last eight there.


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