No Crosby, no problem for Penguins in playoff opener
The Penguins’ Kris Letang (58) congratulates Beau Bennett after Bennett scores a goal against the New York Islanders in the first period of Game 1 of their NHL Stanley Cup Eastern Conference playoff series Wednesday
in Pittsburgh. Letang also scored for the Penguins who blanked the Isles, 5-0.
Marc-Andre Fleury earns sixth career playoff shutout
Pascal Dupuis scored twice, Marc-Andre Fleury made 26 saves, and the top-seeded Pittsburgh Penguins opened the playoffs with a 5-0 romp over the New York Islanders on Wednesday night.
Beau Bennett, Kris Letang and Tanner Glass also scored for the Penguins, who had no trouble against the upstart Islanders even with star Sidney Crosby sidelined by a broken jaw. Pittsburgh hardly needed its captain to continue its mastery of the Islanders, who made their first playoff appearance since 2007.
Fleury earned his sixth career playoff shutout.
The Penguins, the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, beat Evgeni Nabokov four times in the game’s first 22 minutes, including goals by Letang and Dupuis 32 seconds apart early in the second period to send Nabokov to the bench after he stopped just 11 shots.
Kevin Poulin came on in relief and surrendered a soft goal to Glass.
Game 2 is Friday in Pittsburgh.
The Penguins hoped to have Crosby back for the first time since he was struck in the face by a puck on March 30 in a game against the Islanders. Doctors, however, declined to clear the NHL’s third-leading scorer, feeling his jaw wasn’t healed enough for contact.
Considering the way his teammates picked up the slack on the first night of what the Penguins hope is a two-month march to the Stanley Cup, there is no need to rush Crosby back.
Pittsburgh rolled to the top of the East even though Crosby missed the final quarter of the season. The Penguins were bolstered by the arrival of trade deadline acquisitions Jarome Iginla, Brenden Morrow, Jussi Jokinen and Doug Murray.
All four players are searching for their first Cup title, and all four made an immediate impact in the series opener. Iginla and Jokinen both had two assists, and Morrow and Murray helped bottle up New York’s quickly improving offense.
Islanders star John Tavares failed to find much room to maneuver and didn’t muster a shot on goal all night. Those who did get pucks in on Fleury didn’t fare any better.
The Penguins were eliminated last spring by rival Philadelphia in six chaotic games.
Pittsburgh was one of the NHL’s best defensive teams toward the end of the season and kept it going on Wednesday, keeping the Islanders under wraps even after taking a big lead.
New York coach Jack Capuano insisted his roster — featuring 16 players making their postseason debuts — was ready based on the fact the Islanders had been fighting for a playoff spot for the better part of two months.
The rookie Bennett earned a start over veteran forward Tyler Kennedy due in part to his quick maturation during the season. Playing on one of the NHL’s deepest rosters, the 21-year-old has shown a deft touch around the net and a penchant for avoiding mistakes.
He paid off coach Dan Bylsma’s vote of confidence, needing only 25 seconds of ice time to score his first playoff goal.
The Islanders had nearly killed Brian Strait’s penalty when a clearing attempt hit linesman Greg Devorski at center ice and stopped. Evgeni Malkin brought the puck into the zone and lost control, but Bennett chased it down and raced in on the right side before flipping a shot over Nabokov’s shoulder from in close to give the Penguins the lead 3:30 in.