Inquirer Daily News

NHL Preview from The Sports Network



Saturday, May 11th (All times Eastern)

(1) Pittsburgh Penguins (3-2) at (8) New York Islanders (2-3), 7 p.m.

(Sports Network) - A switch in net helped give the top-seeded Pittsburgh Penguins an edge in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals, and they'll try to end the series when they visit the New York Islanders for Saturday's Game 6 at Nassau Coliseum.

After Marc-Andre Fleury struggled through the first four games of this series, the Penguins decided to hand the reins to Tomas Vokoun in Game 5 and he recorded a shutout to help Pittsburgh grab a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series.

Pittsburgh can advance to the conference semis with a win tonight, or else it will have to face the eighth-seeded Islanders in Sunday's decisive Game 7 at CONSOL Energy Center.

Playing in his first playoff game in six years, Vokoun stopped 31 shots for his second career playoff shutout while Sidney Crosby and Kris Letang each gave a goal and an assist to lead the Penguins in a 4-0 win over the visiting Islanders.

Vokoun hadn't been between the pipes in the postseason since 2007 with Nashville, but in Game 5 he successfully replaced an ineffective Fleury, who had given up 14 goals in the previous three games after posting a shutout in Game 1.

"I was a little bit nervous, to be honest, the whole day," said Vokoun. "I think you wouldn't be human if you weren't and I haven't played in a long time in the playoffs, so it's hard to remember some years ago what to expect."

Although Vokoun hasn't been officially declared the starter for Game 6, but it's a near certainty he'll be getting the call over Fleury again.

Also, the team benched Tanner Glass, Jussi Jokinen and Mark Eaton in Game 5, with Simon Despres, Tyler Kennedy and Joe Vitale taking their spots on the ice.

Kennedy, who had a rough regular season with just six goals and 11 points in 46 games, scored the first goal of the game while Douglas Murray also lit the lamp for the Penguins, who are trying to make it out of the opening round for the first time since 2010.

The Isles, meanwhile, need their offense to get back on track if they're going to stave off elimination in Game 6. New York scored six times in a 6-4 victory in Game 4 only to get blanked in Thursday's meeting in Pittsburgh.

Evgeni Nabokov was touched for all four goals on 27 shots in the loss for the Islanders. Kevin Poulin played the final 14 minutes after the fourth goal and stopped all four shots he faced.

"The last three games before tonight we've played the way we wanted to play," said Islanders defenseman Brian Strait. "We've got to make them work for it. After Game 1, we came back and played great, so this is the same thing."

Despite his struggles in Game 5, Nabokov will get the start in net on Saturday.

New York forward Frans Nielsen suffered a lower-body injury in Thursday's setback, but is expected to play in Game 6.

The Isles and the Penguins split Games 3 and 4 at Nassau Coliseum, where New York had a 10-11-3 record during the regular season. Pittsburgh, meanwhile, had identical 18-6-0 marks at home and on the road this season.

This is the fourth time the Penguins and Islanders are meeting in the playoffs. The Isles won the previous three series (1975, 1982, 1993) including an upset seven-game victory over the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Pens in the Patrick Division finals in '93, which was the last time the club won a playoff series.

05/11 10:43:08 ET