While under a remarkable amount of pressure - two more losses in this series, and his job is on the line - Penguins coach Dan Bylsma dialed all the right numbers in his team's 4-0 victory
against the visiting New York Islanders in Game 5 of the NHL Eastern Conference quarter-final on Thursday.
He made an eye-popping decision, starting goalie Tomas Vokoun instead of Marc-Andre Fleury. The decision paid dividends, as Vokoun, who hadn't started a playoff game in six years, stopped 31 shots to produce a shutout.
Vokoun's performance was the most notable of the new Penguins in the lineup, but it wasn't the only impressive one.
Tyler Kennedy, a healthy scratch through the first four games of this series, ignited the Penguins when he lit the lamp on a breakaway in the second period. He was a force throughout the game, using his speed and what he later acknowledged was extra motivation because of his earlier removal from the lineup.
"I wanted to get in there pretty badly," he said.
His performance certainly indicated as much.
Another impressive Penguins performance came from centre Joe Vitale, also a scratch through the first four games of the series.
Vitale didn't register a point, but his energy was mentioned by a number of teammates following the contest. The grinder drew a penalty in the first period, which is something he does particularly well for a fourth-line player. He also delivered a number of crunching hits and provided an uncharacteristic amount of offence.
Not to be outdone, defenceman Simon Despres, very much a surprise addition to the lineup, enjoyed one of his best games of the season.
Despres played alongside star defenceman Kris Letang. The move to insert Despres and remove Mark Eaton from the lineup was as much to trigger Letang as it was to get Despres in the lineup.
Letang typically plays a more conservative style when on the ice with Despres, a rookie. Wanting to take care of Despres on the ice, Letang always plays a more conservative style with the youngster.
The move worked to perfection.
Letang seemed to find himself in the final two periods and finished with a goal and an assist.
Despres, for his part, was barely noticeable, which is a compliment. He played a perfect positional game and was solid throughout the contest, his speed a clear upgrade over Eaton and a good part of the equation against the quick Islanders.
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- Sidney Crosby took another beating in Game 5 but is OK. He left the game briefly late in the second period when a shot glanced off his right foot. Crosby said afterward that it was a nasty stinger, but that everything with his foot is OK.
- Crosby also mentioned that his surgically repaired jaw almost took a jolt when Letang launched a clearing attempt that missed Crosby's face "by inches." Instead, it hit Crosby in the shoulder.
- The Penguins will not practice on Friday, instead opting for their second day off in three days. They'll fly to New York in the afternoon.
- Crosby is almost a lock to be among the three Hart Trophy nominees, which will be announced Friday.
- The Islanders carried the play in the first period of Game 5, and at one point were outshooting the Penguins 18-8. Pittsburgh, though, took complete control in the second period and never relinquished it.
- It is not believed the Penguins sustained any injuries. Michael Grabner left the ice at one point and it isn't known if the Islanders forward sustained a serious injury.