Murray returns, Pens stumble
The New York Islanders had fun again Tuesday night. Getting just their second win in the last month and beating the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions will do that.
Mathew Barzal and Adam Pelech scored in the first period and the Islanders went on to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-1. Anders Lee had a goal in the third period and Jordan Eberle added an empty-netter to help New York improve to 2-7-4 since Feb. 19.
“This feels good,” Lee said. “It’s nice to get a win. We knew we were going to come in and face a really good team that has a lot to play for and a division team we have big battles with. I thought we played a pretty good 60 minutes.”
Christopher Gibson, pulled in his last start after giving up five goals on 12 shots against Washington last Thursday, stopped 36 shots and has both wins for New York during its recent stretch.
The Islanders were contending for a playoff spot until the last several weeks. However, they are now likely to miss the postseason for the second straight year as they trail New Jersey by double-digit points for the second wild card in the Eastern Conference with nine games remaining.
“The last month we’re obviously in a tough spot,” Barzal said. “It could be a frustrating last 10 games here but winning is going to lift our spirits a little bit and hopefully we can make the best out of it.”
Conor Sheary scored for Pittsburgh, which was 5-1-1 in its previous seven but fell four points behind first-place Washington in the tight Metropolitan Division. Columbus pulled into a tie with the Penguins for second at 87 points — Pittsburgh holds the tiebreaker over the Blue Jackets.
“We beat ourselves,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. “We didn’t defend hard. We lacked discipline. We didn’t have a good start.”
Matt Murray, returning after missing nine games due to a concussion, finished with 36 saves for the Penguins.
Pittsburgh, playing for the first time since winning at Montreal last Thursday, came in with the NHL’s best power play at 25.8 percent and went 0 for 1 against the Islanders — last in penalty-killing at 74.9 percent.
“We did a really good job of staying out of the box,” New York coach Doug Weight said. “That fuels a lot of their momentum. ... They’re so gifted at the man advantage.”