PITTSBURGH (AP) — The New York Islanders are running out of healthy bodies.
They’re not running out of ways to stun the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Bo Horvat and Anders Lee scored less than 2 minutes apart in the third period as New York rallied for a 4-2 victory over the rattled Penguins on Monday.
The Islanders pulled off their second late comeback over the Penguins in three days when Horvat beat Tristan Jarry to the short side with 11:26 remaining to tie it. Jarry turned it over behind the Pittsburgh net moments later, kickstarting a sequence that ended with Lee jamming it home to give the injury-ravaged Islanders their first lead.
Brock Nelson’s second goal of the game, an empty-netter with 25 seconds left after the Islanders weathered serious pressure, sealed it for New York.
“That’s a team effort. That’s a full-team win,” Lee said. “Really proud of our guys tonight. It could’ve gone another way and we pushed through, we took control and we were able to come out with just a big win.”
Ilya Sorokin made 45 saves for New York and singlehandedly kept the Islanders in the game over the first two periods while the Penguins dominated, just as they did at Nassau Coliseum on Friday.
And just like the last game, the Islanders found a way in the third despite an injured list that includes center Mat Barzal and forwards Josh Bailey, JP Pageau and Cal Clutterbuck. New York leapfrogged Pittsburgh in the crowded race for the Eastern Conference’s two wild-card spots after sending the Penguins to a third straight loss.
“Belief,” Horvat said. “We believe we have done it before and we believed we could do it again. Especially in the second half of that second period … we were starting to gain momentum. I think it just carried on to the third period there.”
Jarry, who hadn’t been in net since Jan. 22 due to an upper-body injury, played well for the first 45-plus minutes before a pair of miscues dropped Pittsburgh to 0-9 in its last nine games against Metropolitan Division opponents. Jarry finished with 28 saves.
“It was a similar circumstance to the way the game was played on Long Island,” Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said. “Instead of finding a way to win, we found a way to lose. We made a couple of mistakes that ended up in the back of our net.”
Jake Guentzel scored his 24th for the Penguins. Jason Zucker’s 16th goal of the season gave Pittsburgh a 2-1 lead just past the game’s midway point.
The Penguins had their way for much of the night and showed a spark they’ve lacked for long stretches during their uneven season.
Pittsburgh led 2-1 late in the second period when all 10 skaters on the ice (minus the goaltenders) exchanged words and occasional punches, with Penguin stars Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang in the thick of things.
So was Zucker, who has spent a large portion of the season serving as the team’s emotional fulcrum. The 5-foot-11 Zucker and 6-5 New York forward Ross Johnston needed to be separated by officials, starting a parade to the penalty box that included all non-goaltenders on the ice.
The scrum and the sight of an entire line in the box brought PPG Paints Arena to life. The momentum didn’t last.
Horvat’s flip from just above the goal line tied it and Jarry’s decision to blindly pass the puck from behind his net brought to mind a similar play against the Islanders two years ago that led directly to an overtime goal by New York in a playoff series the Islanders would go on to win.
The postseason is still eight weeks out. Pittsburgh finds itself in the unusual position of trying to scratch its way into the field, something the franchise has rarely had during its run of 16 straight playoff appearances.
“We understand every game is important,” Malkin said. “Jarry’s back. Just stay focused. Stay positive. Support each other. It’s not over. We need to win a lot. I think we’ll be fine.”