Terreri stops Penguins, 3-1
Most of the familiar faces, plus four new ones, gathered in the Penguins’ dressing room Wednesday.
The NHL’s trade deadline had passed without a major move, leaving the team mostly intact and optimistic about its playoff possibilities.
‘We’re as good as any team in the East,’ left winger Kevin Stevens said.
Certainly, the Penguins are better than the New York Islanders – that hardly makes them unique – but they failed to demonstrate it last night, dropping a 3-1 decision at Mellon Arena.
It would have been easy to underestimate the Islanders, who played with just four defensemen for half the game, but the Penguins were willing to sweat. They were fairly pleased with their effort. They just couldn’t find a way to beat goaltender Chris Terreri, who stopped 33 shots in his first game in 24 days and his first start since Jan. 31.
He got a little help from his goal posts.
‘He stood on his head, obviously,’ Penguins defenseman Marc Bergevin said. ‘I think we played pretty hard. We just couldn’t score. He’s a good goalie. He’s been in the league for a long time.’
Terreri, 36, played his 399th NHL game. He joined the Islanders Tuesday, a day after he was acquired from the New Jersey Devils.
Mario Lemieux had a feeling early on that Terreri would be hard to beat.
‘The first shot I had on him, he came out about 10 feet,’ Lemieux said. ‘It seems like he was on right from the start. It’s always tough to play a goalie like that, who gets a lot of confidence early in the game.’
The Islanders snapped a three-game losing streak and broke the Penguins’ three-game unbeaten streak.
Islanders winger Dave Scatchard scored the game-winner at 2:55 of the third period when Penguins newcomer Frantisek Kucera fumbled the puck in front of the Penguins’ net. Scatchard pounced on it and beat Jean-Sebastien Aubin for his 16th goal of the season.
‘They passed it in front, and the puck just bounced over my stick,’ Kucera said.
Lemieux nearly tied it but misfired on a point-blank attempt just before Eric Cairns scored a length-of-the-ice empty-netter with 3.3 seconds left.
‘I was trying to look through the crowd to see where the puck was coming from, and by the time it got to me, it was just too late,’ Lemieux said. ‘I tried to whack it, and it went off the heel of my stick and just went wide.’
Despite the loss, the Penguins seemed content to have been reunited yesterday without a major shakeup. At least now each player knows who will be sitting beside him for the next several weeks.
Actually, they hope the time will be measured in months.
‘The guys in this dressing room have to do it,’ team captain Jaromir Jagr said. ‘Nobody else is going to do it.’
Asked if anything separated his team from the others in the East, Stevens said, ‘Two guys: 66 (Lemieux) and 68 (Jagr). Those are the two major guys, and our second line’s been pretty good. There’s a lot of talent there, but having Mario here now is huge.’
Especially if he can skate like he did on his second-period goal. The Islanders had taken a 1-0 lead on Tim Connolly’s marker at 13:22 of the first period, but Lemieux tied it on a gorgeous power-play goal at 8:39 of the second.
Martin Straka started the play when he hit Lemieux in stride near the red line with an 80-foot bullet pass. Lemieux turned on the jets, blew past Zdeno Chara and drilled a short wrist shot off the post, sending the sellout crowd of 17,109 into a frenzy.
Rarely has Lemieux displayed such acceleration since his comeback began. The goal extended his point streak to 10 games.
‘I thought I skated pretty good tonight,’ Lemieux said. ‘I felt good handling the puck and skating-wise. I feel that my game’s coming around.’
Aubin made his fifth consecutive start in goal, but general manager Craig Patrick said that NHL novice Johan Hedberg will see some playing time down the stretch. Coach Ivan Hlinka said Hedberg ‘probably’ will start Friday at Florida. When asked if it’s realistic for such an inexperienced goalie to play in the playoffs, Patrick said, ‘very realistic.’
The Islanders, already missing Kenny Jonsson, lost two defensemen in the second period. Roman Hamrlik got a match penalty for a two-handed slash on Straka, and Branislav Mezei took an early shower for not having his shirt tied down in a fight with Krzysztof Oliwa at 9:49.
Hlinka flip-flopped Jagr and Alexei Kovalev at the start of the second period, just as he’d done in the third period of a 3-3 tie Monday against the New York Rangers.
Kovalev played on a line with Lemieux and Stevens. Jagr played with Straka and Robert Lang. They were switched back in the third period.
Two of the Penguins’ four newcomers made their debuts. Kucera played defense behind the first line, and left winger Dan LaCouture replaced an injured Wayne Primeau on the third line.
LaCouture played 10 minutes. Kucera played 16 minutes, 20 seconds. Both players were minus-1.