PITTSBURGH (CBSNewYork/AP) — The rookie scored. So did the enforcer. The Norris Trophy-candidate defenseman too. And the underrated forward in the midst of a career season did it twice.
Yep, it was quite the massacre at the Consol Energy Center on Wednesday night.
The Pittsburgh Penguins crushed the New York Islanders 5-0 in their playoff opener, looking very much like a Stanley Cup contender even with captain Sidney Crosby relegated to well-dressed cheerleader due to a broken jaw that isn’t quite healed.
And maybe that — and not the way the Penguins toyed with an eighth-seed making its first playoff appearance in six years — is the scary part.
“He’s Sid so it will be amazing when we do get him back,” forward Jarome Iginla said. “It speaks for itself. He controls games with his speed and everything he does; it will be great when we do get him back. Hopefully, it’s the next game. I know he’s close. The focus is just to keep trying to play well as a group.”
So far, so very good.
Pascal Dupuis scored twice, Marc-Andre Fleury tied a franchise record with his sixth career shutout and the Penguins showed few weaknesses in their quest to bookend the Stanley Cup they won in 2009.
Not that Pittsburgh is getting ahead of itself after three straight early exits from the postseason.
“It’s one win,” Dupuis said. “We definitely feel good about it but we’ve just got to put this one behind us and get ready to work for the next one. They’ll definitely look at tape and come out harder, that’s for sure.”
The Islanders will have to have any hope of making the series competitive. Looking to win a playoff series for the first time in 20 years, New York fell behind less than 5 minutes in and never recovered.
“I thought some guys worked hard and played a good game,” Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. “Again, with our club we need all 20 guys going, and we didn’t have all 20.”
That isn’t an issue for the staggeringly deep Penguins.
Rookie Beau Bennett, grinder Tanner Glass and defenseman Kris Letang also scored for Pittsburgh.
The Penguins wasted no time in pouncing on the Islanders, beating Evgeni Nabokov four times in the game’s first 22 minutes, including goals by Letang and Dupuis 32 seconds apart early in the second period. That sent Nabokov to the bench after he stopped just 11 shots.
Kevin Poulin came on in relief and surrendered a soft goal to Glass. Capuano said it is too early to decide who will start in goal for Game 2 on Friday night.
Whoever it is will need help from the guys in front of him. The Islanders’ playoff drought soon will be at 21 years if they can’t keep Pittsburgh’s skaters in check.
“When you make it easy on them, they’re going to light you up,” New York forward Matt Martin said. “For most of the game we made it pretty easy on them, and if you do that they’re just going to run up the score on you.”
Pittsburgh rolled to the top of the East even though Crosby missed the final quarter of the season. The Penguins have been bolstered by the arrival of trade deadline acquisitions Iginla, Brenden Morrow, Jussi Jokinen and Doug Murray.
All four players are searching for their first Cup championship, and all four made an immediate impact in the series opener. Iginla and Jokinen both had two assists, and Morrow and Murray helped bottle up New York captain John Tavares.
The Islanders star failed to find much room to maneuver and didn’t muster a shot on goal all night.
“We’re going to need to (forget it quickly),” Tavares said. “These series are long, but they can be real quick, too.”
Those who did get pucks in on Fleury didn’t fare any better. He turned aside all 26 shots he faced, receiving a boost from a group that blocked 17 shots before they even got to the net.
Capuano insisted his team — which had 16 players making their postseason debuts — wouldn’t be overcome by the moment. Still, the Islanders looked jittery.
The Penguins, not so much even with the lines seemingly in a constant state of flux.
“We play one way,” Dupuis said. “It doesn’t matter who you play with. Anybody you play with, you play with great players.”
NOTES: Pittsburgh F James Neal left in the second period with an undisclosed injury and didn’t return. … Jokinen left with 2:20 to play after taking a hit to the knee from New York’s Marty Reasoner. … The Islanders went 0 for 4 on the power play. … Pittsburgh D Brooks Orpik was scratched due to a lower body injury. … New York’s loss was its second in regulation since March 30.
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