PITTSBURGH -- It would be a bit odd to say the Islanders blew a real opportunity here, given that they were facing a team that had won 14 straight, the last two by shutout.
But that is what happened in Saturday's matinee. The Islanders played a sound, structured road game and had a shot to break open a scoreless game with a five-minute power play that turned into 1:55 of five-on-three time -- all with the Penguins' top two scorers out of the game.
The Islanders did not take advantage, though, mustering only two shots on goal during that five-minute stretch. The Penguins sensed their chance to charge and stole away with a 2-0 victory, their 15th consecutive win and third straight by shutout.
They did so without Sidney Crosby, who took a deflected shot off his mouth 1:28 into the game and did not return. They also were without Chris Kunitz down the stretch, as his dangerous hit from behind sent Josh Bailey headfirst into the boards late in the second period, drawing a major penalty and game misconduct. Bailey got up slowly, skated off slowly and did not return, but indications were there was no major injury.
"It cost us the game," John Tavares said of the power play, which is now 0-for-its-last-12. "That's two games in a row we've been sloppy with the power play against three men. It really hurt us."
The Isles had a four-on-three power play to start overtime on Thursday in Philadelphia but failed to register a shot during a very stagnant two minutes before bailing themselves out with a shootout win.
But Saturday afternoon, the momentum swung around to the home team's side after the first power-play unit didn't get enough puck movement, body movement or shots on Tomas Vokoun. Pesky Penguins forward Matt Cooke blocked Mark Streit's blast as the second period wound down, and Cooke then helped kill off the remaining 1:23 of two-man advantage time to start the third.
And it was Cooke who swung around and got a rebound through Evgeni Nabokov's pads 8:10 into the third to break the tie.
"We even had an intermission to talk about it," Streit said. "When you don't score five-on-three, you usually lose the game. We did a lot of good things today, but you have to get a point out of a game like that, probably two."
Vokoun made 35 saves for the shutout but wasn't tested nearly enough. With the game still scoreless in the third period, Michael Grabner picked off a pass and went in on a breakaway, but Vokoun got Grabner's wrist shot with his blocker.
James Neal scored off a rush at 13:04 to cement the Isles' loss, dropping them back to .500 as they finish off this four-game road trip in Newark Monday night.
"They've proven they can play without Crosby, without Malkin," Tavares said. "It's not really about them, it's about what we can do and what we needed to do with the power play. We didn't get much going five-on-five, but we didn't give them much, either. We just have to capitalize on our chances."