PITTSBURGH - The Islanders rolled into Mellon Arena last night soaring from a four-game winning streak and looking for their next victim. After obliterating Detroit one week earlier, outlasting Buffalo in an eight-round shootout Saturday, and toppling New Jersey on Monday night, the Islanders had the defending Stanley Cup champions in sight.
Coming off a five-game road trip, the Penguins had an answer for the Islanders' high-flying confidence, embracing their return home with a 6-4 victory.
With an empty-net power-play goal with 29.6 seconds remaining, Malkin scored his second hat trick of the season. Crosby finished with two goals and four assists, tying a career high with six points.
The Penguins entered last night with a 29th-ranked power play, but the unit showed no signs of difficulty, scoring four times. After giving up two power-play goals in the second, the true dagger came when they sacrificed the third - the go-ahead goal by Malkin at 11:05 in the third period that broke a 4-4 tie.
"Unfortunately, those penalties hurt us," coach Scott Gordon said. "At the end of the day, the power play was the difference for them."
Crosby began the goalfest late in a chippy first period, crashing the net and lifting a puck past Dwayne Roloson's stick at 18:37.
The Penguins broke out in the second period, scoring three goals, including two on the power play and their first five-on-three goal of the season on Malkin's one timer at 3:40.
Trent Hunter scored 48 seconds into the third period with a crisp wrist shot, and Richard Park netted the equalizer at 7:11.
"It's positive," Roloson said of the Islanders' comeback. "Any time you can battle back, it's great. Unfortunately, we didn't get the win."
A lack of discipline combined with a struggling penalty kill allowed the Penguins to reclaim the lead.
The Penguins went 4-for-7 with the man advantage as Malkin scored his second hat trick in less than a month with an empty-net goal at 19:30.
The power play resulted as the game took an ugly turn.
Pascal Dupuis was left bloodied and had to be helped off the ice after Sutton smashed him into the end boards headfirst at 17:05.
"I feel awful," Sutton said. "I obviously never intended for that to happen."