PITTSBURGH – The Pittsburgh Penguins overcame a bloody injury to Sidney Crosby on Saturday for their 15th straight victory, beating the New York Islanders 2-0 in Jarome Iginla’s debut behind third-period goals from Matt Cooke and James Neal.
Tomas Vokoun made 35 saves as Pittsburgh moved within two wins of the NHL record of 17 straight victories set by Mario Lemieux and the 1992-93 Penguins.
Crosby skated off the ice with a towel covering his mouth after a slap shot by teammate Brooks Orpik deflected off a stick and hit the NHL scoring leader in the face. Crosby, who immediately fell to the ice and tossed his stick in the air, did not return.
Crosby, with 15 goals and 56 points, holds a 10-point lead over Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos in the NHL scoring race. Another head injury for Crosby has to concern the Penguins. The team captain has missed considerable time the past two years because concussions. He was sidelined the final 41 games in 2011 and the Stanley Cup finals, and skipped most of the 2012 regular season as symptoms lingered.
Pittsburgh went 15-0-0 in March, the first perfect month in league history. The Penguins also won a franchise best 12th straight at home.
Iginla, a six-time All-Star, was acquired by the Penguins from Calgary early Thursday and he arrived in Pittsburgh on Friday night. He was in the lineup a game earlier than originally anticipated.
The move for Iginla, who waived his no-trade clause to come to Pittsburgh, was the Penguins’ third big deal in a week, bolstering them to Stanley Cup favorites. Pittsburgh also obtained former Dallas Stars captain Brenden Morrow and bruising defenseman Doug Murray from San Jose.
The record crowd at Consol Energy Center responded with a thunderous ovation when Iginla was announced as part of the starting lineup. Iginla, who played right wing for most of his career in Calgary, skated the left side on a line with reigning NHL scoring champion Evgeni Malkin and Neal, an All-Star forward.
The excitement quickly turned to concern 1:28 into the game when Crosby left the ice.
Pittsburgh appeared stunned without its captain, and the Islanders took advantage, registering the first eight shots of the game, but came up empty against Vokoun.
Vokoun registered second consecutive shutout. It was the third shutout Vokoun has been part of, relieving injured starter Marc-Andre Fleury during a 1-0 victory Tuesday against Montreal.
Vokoun’s biggest save came in the third period while the game was still scoreless, stopping Islanders speedy forward Michael Grabner on a breakaway.
Cooke scored his sixth about a minute later, picking up the rebound from defenseman Deryk Engelland’s shot at the top of the crease, and firing a spinning shot behind Islanders’ goaltender Evgeni Nabokov.
Neal scored soon after, firing a wrist shot past Nabokov during a two-on-one. It was his 18th goal.
New York, winners of three straight, entered Saturday’s game tied with the New York Rangers for eighth place in the Eastern Conference.
The Penguins received the biggest boost from their penalty kill.
Chris Kunitz, the team’s second-leading scorer, was assessed a 5-minute major penalty and a game misconduct late in the second period for checking Islanders’ center Josh Bailey from behind. Bailey initiated contact, but Kunitz got the better of the play, sending the Islanders’ forward dangerously into the boards. Bailey did not return.
The major penalty turned into a two-man advantage for the Islanders three minutes later when Orpik was whistled for tripping, butPittsburghsuccessfully killed off both penalties.