Malkin leads Pens past Isles
PITTSBURGH -- Evgeni Malkin picked up two assists to lengthen his lead in the NHL scoring race and the Pittsburgh Penguins stayed in contention for home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs, beating the Islanders 6-1 Thursday night to assure New York of finishing with the NHL's worst record.
Malkin has 112 points - four more than last season's scoring champion, Alex Ovechkin of Washington. Both players have one game remaining. Ovechkin went scoreless during the Capitals' 4-2 victory at Tampa Bay.
The Penguins improved to 17-3-4 under interim coach Dan Bylsma and tied Carolina and Philadelphia with 97 points each in the race to finish fourth in the Eastern Conference and gain the home-ice edge for at least one playoff round. The Flyers have two games remaining, while the Hurricanes and Penguins each have one remaining.
Carolina, which finishes the regular season Saturday afternoon at New Jersey, lost 5-1 at home to Buffalo and the Flyers were 2-1 losers to the Rangers.
The Islanders have two games left in a season that can't end soon enough. Their 26-45-9 record - they went 1-5 against Pittsburgh - assures them of finishing last in the league for the first time in eight seasons. Their consolation prize is a chance for the top draft pick.
New York has been outscored 15-1 in its last two games, including a franchise-worst 9-0 loss to Carolina on Tuesday night in which the Islanders were outshot 57-12.
Pascal Dupuis put the Penguins ahead 2-1 by scoring with 3:51 gone in the second period and Matt Cooke's wide-open shot from the right circle created by Jordan Staal's drop pass made it a two-goal game less than five minutes later. Mathieu Garon, playing for only the fourth time since joining the Penguins in mid-January, made 28 saves for his second Penguins victory.
The Islanders had chances in this one, leading 1-0 on Frans Nielsen's power-play goal about 5 minutes into the game before Philippe Boucher's first goal since Dec. 18 tied it later in the first period. They also had a pair of 5-on-3 advantages but couldn't score on either, failing to take advantage of a two-man edge lasting 1:46 when they trailed 3-1 late in the second.
New York also didn't score during a two-man advantage of 49 seconds early in the third, before former Islanders captain Bill Guerin, Sergei Gonchar and Tyler Kennedy turned it into another rout of the Islanders by scoring in a 6-minute span in the third period. Sidney Crosby assisted on Guerin's 21st goal and Gonchar's seventh, giving him 103 points.
Notes: Malkin won the Penguins' MVP award. ... The Penguins sold out every regular season home game for the second successive season. ... The Islanders' 197 goals are the fewest in the league.... The Islanders are 2-7-1 in their last 10. ... Boucher (foot surgery) played for the first time since Jan. 30. He hadn't scored since getting his second goal in three games Dec. 18 in Atlanta. ... Penguins fans contributed more than $67,000 before the game to a fund for the three Pittsburgh policemen who were shot to death Saturday, or nearly $4 for every fan. The Penguins' players and staff contributed an additional $20,0000. ... Pittsburgh held a 37-29 edge in shots; the Islanders have allowed 94 shots in two games. ... Pittsburgh finishes Saturday night at Montreal.
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