Islanders look to end series skid vs. Penguins

Sports

The New York Islanders have earned four out of a possible 10 points this season against the Pittsburgh Penguins — better than nothing, but not nearly as many points as they could have recorded against their longtime division rivals.

The Islanders will look to earn that long-awaited second win of the season against the Penguins on Sunday afternoon, when New York hosts Pittsburgh in the finale of a two-game series.

The Penguins overcame two- and one-goal deficits Saturday night, and Kris Letang scored with 26 seconds left in overtime to lift Pittsburgh to a 4-3 win.

The loss to the Penguins was the fourth straight for the Islanders since a 4-3 win in the first game of the season between the teams on Feb. 6. The defeat Saturday marked the third time this season New York has squandered a third-period lead against the Penguins and the second loss in which it never trailed in regulation.

The Islanders held a trio of one-goal leads Feb. 11, when Sidney Crosby scored the only goal in the shootout to give the Penguins a 4-3 win. Pittsburgh led wire-to-wire in a 4-1 win on Feb. 18 before overcoming a one-goal third-period deficit two days later in a 3-2 victory.

On Saturday night, Letang tied the game for the first time in the second period before handing the Islanders another what-if defeat in the waning seconds of overtime. The defenseman picked up a pass from Crosby near the Penguins’ net, skated through the neutral zone and fired a shot that caromed off the far post and past Semyon Varlamov.

“You’d like to come out on the winning side more often than not — try to find a way,” said Islanders center Brock Nelson, who opened the scoring in the first period Saturday night. “We’ve played a couple good games against these guys, but they find a way to win. Get back to it (Sunday).”

The overtime decisions have been particularly pivotal in a predictably packed East Division, which features four teams — the Islanders and Penguins as well as the Boston Bruins and Washington Capitals — who have advanced to the conference finals or beyond since the spring of 2017. New York will enter Sunday with 24 points, one more than Pittsburgh.

The Islanders aren’t the only division rival against whom the Penguins have enjoyed success in overtime and beyond. Pittsburgh improved to 7-1 Saturday in games decided after regulation.

“They’re all big, those games against this team,” Letang said Saturday night. “They’re going to be a team we’re going to battle until the end of the season to get in the playoffs.”

The rematch Sunday will complete the first back-to-back set of the season for the Penguins. It will be the third back-to-back set but the first at home for the Islanders, who beat the Buffalo Sabres Feb. 15-16 and were swept by the Philadelphia Flyers Jan. 30-31.

–Field Level Media

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