PITTSBURGH, PA - OCTOBER 27: James Neal #18 of the Pittsburgh Penguins handles the puck against Steve Staios #24 of the New York Islanders during the game at Consol Energy Center on October 27, 2011 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
An old-fashioned shootout, but with an odd twist.
Fresh off the bench, in his first bit of action all season long (that includes a single second of actual ice time), DiPietro was sent between the pipes for the Islanders during the shootout. In theory, he knows the Penguins' tendencies better than Nabokov, which may have led to the swap. In reality, it didn't do much to deter the Pens from picking up two points.
We'll start this recap in the third period, the only period that really mattered for Pittsburgh. After finding themselves in a 2-0 hole following Islanders goals from Frans Nielsen and Matt Martin, the Pens were able to tie it up within a three-minute span thanks to Chris Kunitz and James Neal. We mentioned earlier in the season that this Pens team has the tendency of playing well under pressure, so it was comfortable to think they were going to take this one down in regulation. But after 60 minutes it went to overtime, at least assuring the Pens they'd get one point on the night.
In OT, we really got to see what Evgeni Malkin is capable of doing when he wants to take over a game. His end-to-end rush nearly amounted to a goal after some nifty moves sent him around three defenders. If Neal is crashing the net all the way on that attack, it's a sure goal. We also saw former Pen Mark Eaton make a goal-saving clear that likely brought back some fond memories of him stacking his legs and diving in front of shots while wearing the black and gold. Of course, there was also a span where doing so would've resulted in him limping off the ice, but that was then and this is now.
Once this advanced to the shootout stages, we could see Nabokov standing along the boards chatting with DiPietro. I'd imagine the conversation going something like this:
Nabokov: "Any tips?"
DiPietro: "Yeah, Letang likes to deke, leg kick and go back hand. Malkin tends to go right at you. Neal prefers to..."
Nabokov: "Do you want to just do it?"
DiPietro: "Yeah Let me get my stick..."
Just a weird situation sending a cold goaltender onto the ice after he hadn't played a single minute this season. If it worked, Nabokov and/or DiPietro would look like the genius. If it didn't - well, the Islanders would still leave Pittsburgh with a point.
And that they did after Malkin snuck one in around a sprawling DiPietro for the only goal in the shootout.
That'll close out Pittsburgh's home-and-home series against the Islanders, void of goaltending fights, 200+ penalty minutes and outward cheap shots. In other words, a series well spent for Pittsburgh, who picked up four points in the process and extended their win streak to five straight.
Pens return to action Saturday when they pay a visit to the Maple Leafs. Puck and thread drops at 7pm ET.