(Sports Network) - The surprising New York Islanders will try to grab their
first lead of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals when the series shifts back
to Pittsburgh for Thursday's Game 5 at CONSOL Energy Center.
The Islanders entered this best-of-seven series as heavy underdogs, but are
giving the top-seeded Penguins a run for their money.
The Pens hope a switch in net for Game 5 can get their Stanley Cup quest back
on track, as the team announced Wednesday that Tomas Vokoun will get the call
in goal tonight over the struggling Marc-Andre Fleury.
Since Pittsburgh routed New York by a 5-0 score in Game 1, the Isles have won
two of three games to even the series at 2-2. New York followed the poor
performance in the opener with a 4-3 win in regulation, but the Pens earned a
5-4 overtime victory in Game 3 to regain the lead.
However, the eighth-seeded Islanders really got the attention of Pittsburgh in
Tuesday's Game 4, when they torched Fleury for six goals on 31 shots in a 6-4
The clubs were tied at 3-3 after 40 minutes on Tuesday, but Pittsburgh struck
first in the third, taking a one-goal lead on Pascal Dupuis' goal 41 seconds
into the period. However, the Isles tied the game less than four minutes later
on a score from Mark Streit and John Tavares recorded the go-ahead goal midway
through the third period.
Casey Cizikas sealed the win -- the Isles' first home playoff victory in 11
years -- with New York's sixth goal of the game with 1:16 left.
Streit had two goals and an assist for the Islanders, while Cizikas added a
goal and two assists. Kyle Okposo and Brian Strait had one goal apiece and
Evgeni Nabokov made 27 saves for the victors.
Not only did the Islanders tie this series at 2-2, but they posted their first
playoff win at Nassau Coliseum since a 5-3 victory over the Toronto Maple
Leafs in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals on April 28, 2002. In
the process, New York snapped a seven-game home playoff losing streak.
"We've got a lot of heart, we've got a great group, we never give up, and
we've got a great goaltender," Streit said. "And this place, right now, it's
great to play, and we want to come back here a few more times."
The Pens, meanwhile, will try to regroup in Game 5 with the veteran Vokoun
between the pipes. Vokoun, who was signed to a two-year deal prior to this
season, was excellent against the Islanders during the regular season, going
3-0 with a 0.90 goals against average and .970 save percentage in four games
"We brought Tomas Vokoun in to play big games for us and be a goaltender we
can count on to go in and play big games. He's done that this year for us,"
Pens head coach Dan Bylsma said.
Although the 36-year-old Vokoun has appeared in 700 regular season NHL games,
he has only seen action in 11 postseason contests. All of his playoff outings
came while with Nashville and he was 3-8 with a 2.47 GAA and .922 save
percentage in those games. His last playoff appearance was over six years ago
when he lost Game 5 of the Western Conference quarterfinals against San Jose
on April 20, 2007.
Fleury stopped only 18-of-24 shots the Game 4 loss and is 2-2 with a 3.40 GAA
and .891 save percentage in this series.
Evgeni Malkin had a goal and an assist for the Penguins in Game 4, while James
Neal, Brandon Sutter and Pascal Dupuis also lit the lamp.
"You go game-by-game. After that you let it go and focus on the next one,"
Neal said. "We'll regroup and come out fired up in our own building."
Neal and defenseman Brooks Orpik returned to the lineup for the Penguins on
Tuesday. Neal missed the previous two games in this series with a lower-body
injury, while Orpik sat out five in a row dating back to the end of the
regular season due to a lower-body injury.
Islanders defenseman Andrew MacDonald left the game in the second period with
an upper-body injury, later reported to be a broken hand. MacDonald, who is
expected to miss the remainder of the playoffs, led New York in ice time this
season, averaging 23 minutes and 31 seconds per game.
New York head coach Jack Capuano expects to use veteran Radek Martinek to take
MacDonald's spot on the roster.
The Penguins went 18-6-0 as the host this season and the Islanders had a solid
14-6-4 record as the guest.
Game 6 is scheduled for Saturday on Long Island.
This is the fourth time the Penguins and Islanders are meeting in the
playoffs. The Isles won the previous three series (1975, 1982, 1993) including
an upset seven-game victory over the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion
Pens in the Patrick Division finals in '93, which was the last time the club
won a playoff series.
The Sports Network