Even without three of their top centers and their All-Star goaltender, the Penguins shut out the Islanders for the second time in eight days with a 3-0 victory Wednesday night that culminated with a fight between goaltenders in the final seconds.
And it was a good thing backup netminder Brent Johnson got the start in place of Marc-Andre Fleury because he delivered the knockout punch, both literally and figuratively.
Before doing the heavy lifting in the shutout, Johnson smoked Rick DiPietro in a goalie brawl with less than 17 seconds remaining.
Trailing by three goals with the clock winding down, DiPietro came out of his crease to hit Matt Cooke, who was racing toward the end-boards in pursuit of defenseman Dylan Reese. A heated scrum ensued and DiPietro found himself engaging with Johnson.
DiPietro didn’t see Johnson’s wicked left hook coming soon enough because it hit him flush on the right cheekbone and dropped him to the ice.
After the game, DiPietro was sporting the early stages of what will likely be a monster bruise.
“Any time you’re going to lose you want to lose hard. [Matt] Cooke was bearing down on Dylan Reese. At that point, I was just trying to score some time for him and I ended up in a fight. I don’t even know what he said, but it was a fight and things happen,” he said."He’s got long arms.”
Sidney Crosby (concussion), Evgeni Malkin (sinus infection) and Mark Letestu (lower-body injury) may have left a gaping void down the middle, but the Penguins supporting cast stepped up throughout the night.
The top-ranked Penguins penalty-kill was on display, denying the Islanders on all five attempts. It was the 10th time in 12 games the Penguins have been perfect while down a man.
“We didn’t move the puck. We had chances, we had lanes, but we were stagnant and we held on to the puck too long,” Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. “The thing that hurt us is that we didn’t win any faceoffs on our power play.”
Tyler Kennedy seared a shot short-side past DiPietro for a power-play goal at 8:08, although the circumstances that led to the man advantage were somewhat suspect.
Blake Comeau was shaken up after a hit from behind by Penguins center Max Talbot and stayed down on the ice while tended to by trainer Garrett Timms. Zenon Konopka and the Penguins’ Mike Rupp got roughing penalties in the scrum that ensued. Konopka was slapped with four minutes while Rupp only got two, putting the Penguins on the power play. Talbot did not receive a penalty for his hit on Comeau.
“I don’t think he hit my head but it definitely was a blind-side hit,” said Comeau. “I chipped the puck out and didn’t see him coming from anywhere so obviously he got me from the back side. I asked him to fight and he didn’t want to so we moved on.”
Chris Kunitz then lifted a deceptive backhander past DiPietro for a 2-0 lead at 13:10.
“I cheated on it,” DiPietro admitted after the game.
Talbot scored an empty-net goal with less than 41 seconds in regulation and the Penguins rolled to their seventh win in eight games.
"They've got a good team, they have some depth," Comeau said. "I think if we would've capitalized on our power play it may have been a different game."