The Penguins were without superstar forwards Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin last night, but it was the man between the pipes that stole the show.
In a superb display of goaltending from both Marc-Andre Fleury and rookie Kevin Poulin, Fleury prevailed, making 29 saves for a 1-0 win over the Islanders and recording his second shutout of the season.
Poulin and Fleury went toe to toe in the first two periods, trading save for spectacular save.
“It was a goalie’s game,” said Poulin, who stopped all but one of Pittsburgh’s 31 attempts. “It was a great battle between me and Fleury”
Craig Adams’ third-period marker ended the standoff at 8:36 of the third period. After Poulin made a tremendous kick save on Ben Lovejoy’s slapshot and another stop on a wrister from Arron Asham, Adams buried the puck to snap a scoreless draw.
“I didn’t know if [Asham’s] shot was going wide or not, so I took a chance, saved it and gave up a rebound. It just kind of bounced around and I was screened. It’s tough to stop those,” said Poulin.
Despite the goal given up, Poulin’s teammates commended his poised performance.
“As far as goaltending, I thought Poulin might’ve had the better game,” said Josh Bailey. “He played great and made some big saves for us."
Poulin was a significant factor in the Islanders’ decision to claim Russian goaltender Evgeni Nabokov off waivers Saturday.
Although the Islanders were forced to suspend Nabokov yesterday for his refusal to report, they originally planned to send Poulin down to Bridgeport for more seasoning once Nabokov arrived. Regarding Poulin as their top goaltending prospect, the Islanders feel his development would be best served in the minors.
But with Nabokov staying home in Northern California and Nathan Lawson out one to two weeks with a left knee injury, the 20-year-old rookie will be sticking around to split starts with Rick DiPietro.
“I felt great. I thought it was my best game. I saw the puck well and the [defense] played great,” Poulin said.
“You need consistency and that’s what I’m working on right now.”