UNIONDALE, N.Y. (AP) — The New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins invariably play entertaining games at Nassau Coliseum. Just as predictable is the visiting team emerging with a victory.
Rookie defenseman Olli Maatta scored the go-ahead goal early in the second period and Evgeni Malkin added an insurance score in the third as the Penguins rallied from an early deficit and held on for a wild 6-4 win over the Islanders on Thursday night.
The Islanders had a 5-on-3 power play for 50 seconds late in the third, but couldn't score against backup Jeff Zatkoff, who made 30 saves for the Eastern Conference-leading Penguins (36-13-2). Pittsburgh improved to 17-5 against Metropolitan Division opponents.
Zatkoff (8-2-1) stopped Frans Nielsen point-blank during the power-play and denied John Tavares, second in the league in scoring to Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby, with a shoulder save in the closing seconds.
"Jeff hung in there and was strong when he had to be," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said of his goaltender. "He made that huge late save and showed fortitude — as we all did — to stay with it tonight."
Brandon Sutter scored an empty-net goal for the Penguins, who trailed 2-0 early and also got goals from Crosby, Chris Kunitz and Kris Letang.
Michael Grabner, Brock Nelson, Josh Bailey and Kyle Okposo had goals for the Islanders.
Maatta scored his fifth of the season at 5:35 of the middle period to give the Penguins a 3-2 lead when the 19-year-old Finnish defenseman skated through the Islanders defense before sliding a backhand past Kevin Poulin.
Letang scored at 17:44 after the Penguins' league-best power-play unit kept the puck in the Islanders zone for nearly an entire man advantage. After hitting the post, Letang blasted the puck past Poulin for this 10th goal of the season to give Pittsburgh a two-goal cushion.
Bailey pulled the Islanders within a goal at 4-3 at 3:10 of the third when he beat Zatkoff on a breakaway. The goal came after Matt Martin of the Islanders fought Pittsburgh's Tanner Glass.
But Malkin slapped a perfect cross-ice pass from James Neal past Poulin at 5:59 for this 14th goal. Malkin has points in 24 of 27 games since Nov. 1, with 11 goals and 30 assists during the stretch.
"The emotion was there for both teams tonight as it always seems to be when we play the Islanders," Crosby said. "We found a way to stay strong and make key plays at the right times."
Okposo received credit for a goal at 10:55 of the third to make it 5-4 after the puck crossed the goal line in a scrum in front of Zatkoff. The play was reviewed and the goal awarded, the 21st for Okposo.
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