PITTSBURGH – Jason Blake, New York’s ninth shooter of an extended shootout, nearly lost the puck but recovered to steer a shot past Jocelyn Thibault and give the Islanders a 3-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins.

As Blake came down the slot, the puck seemed to slide off his stick momentarily, but he got it back and beat Thibault by faking a backhander only to slide the puck inside the near post.

Islanders goalie Rick DiPietro stopped the Penguins’ final six shooters, including Mark Recchi, Ziggy Palffy and John LeClair, to give New York its second shootout victory in two attempts. The Penguins lost the second of their three shootouts, even though rookies Erik Christensen and Sidney Crosby kept the shootout going by scoring after getting Pittsburgh’s only goals in regulation.

Alexei Yashin and Shawn Bates scored in the second period to give the Islanders a 2-0 lead – a seemingly safe one given their 52-0-8 record in the last 60 games they’ve led after two periods.

For two periods, the Penguins looked as lifeless and disinterested as they did in a 6-1 loss to the New York Rangers on Saturday night, getting outshot 25-12 while repeatedly giving little defensive help to Thibault.

But the Penguins finally showed some life after Crosby scored his seventh goal, one-timing Christensen’s pass to the slot past DiPietro after Christensen intercepted Brent Sopel’s pass from behind his own net.

The Penguins pressed the play after that, getting far more good scoring chances in the third period than they did in the first two periods combined, and Christensen tied it at 18:42 with his second career goal by taking Ric Jackman’s soft pass in the right circle and beating DiPietro with a hard wrist shot.

The Penguins didn’t help themselves by going 0-for-4 on the power play and are 2-for-35 with the man advantage in their last six games. Since scoring a team record six power play goals Oct. 27 against Atlanta, the Penguins are 6-of-55 on the power play.

Yashin, moved back to center on Saturday after a brief trial at left wing, got the game’s first goal – the 300th of his career – with a bad-angle shot from along the goal line midway though the second. The Islanders kept the puck in the Pittsburgh end for nearly 90 seconds – even changing lines while keeping the puck – before Yashin beat Thibault inside the far post.

Bates made it 2-0 with his third goal in two games, escaping defenseman Brooks Orpik with an excellent move in the right circle to skate to the slot and switch from his backhand to his forehand to easily beat Thibault.

In the initial group of three shooters that begins a shootout, Trent Hunter and Bates scored for the Islanders. After Bates scored, Christensen – playing only his eighth career game – needed to score to keep the shootout going.

Notes: The Islanders have won three of four. … Pittsburgh is 2-4-3 at home. … Yashin has nine goals and Bates has six. … Penguins D Sergei Gonchar sat out with a strained groin and is listed as day-to-day. … The Penguins beat the Islanders 5-1 in their only other meeting this season. … The Islanders are 7-0 this season when leading after two periods. … New York has won consecutive games for the first time since Oct. 19-20 against the Rangers. They beat the Boston Bruins 5-2 Saturday. … Pittsburgh has scored the first goal only four times in 19 games. … Mario Lemieux hasn’t scored on any of his three shootout attempts. … Two of the three games on Pittsburgh’s homestand went to a shootout. They beat Montreal 3-2 Thursday.

AP-ES-11-14-05 2229EST


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