Penguins win in shootout

Pittsburgh's Bryan Rust (right) is upended after colliding with New York's Johnny Boychuk (55) during the first period. (AP)

PITTSBURGH (AP) – Pittsburgh’s Kris Letang scored the only goal of the shootout with a pretty backhand past New York Islanders rookie goalie Jean-Francois Berube to lift the Penguins to a 2-1 victory on Tuesday night.

Marc-Andre Fleury stopped Frans Nielsen, Kyle Okposo and John Tavares in the shootout as Pittsburgh strengthened its hold on the first wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.

Fleury finished with 25 saves for the Penguins. Chris Kunitz scored his 14th goal of the season in the 800th game of his career. Sidney Crosby picked up the secondary assist to extend his points streak to nine games.

Berube made 33 stops in his third NHL start, including several in the extra period. Okposo’s score at 14:35 of the third sent the game to overtime, but the Islanders couldn’t pick up the additional point when they failed to solve Fleury in the shootout.

The Islanders came in riding a 7-2-1 surge, including a raucous three-goal third-period rally on Monday night against Florida that has provided them with a little wiggle room above the frantic fray below as the Penguins, Flyers and Red Wings vie for the final two Eastern Conference playoff spots.

The Penguins will have to make the final push for a 10th straight postseason appearance without center Evgeni Malkin, out 6 to 8 weeks with an upper-body injury. His teammates put together an inspired performance in their first game without him on Sunday, a 5-3 triumph over the Rangers that provided a boost in the middle of a nine-game run against Metropolitan Division opponents.

Pittsburgh wasn’t quite as dynamic two days later on home ice thanks in part to the steady play by Berube, who hardly looked like a guy intimidated by being thrust in the middle of a stretch drive.

The Penguins spent the majority of the game in New York’s end. During one stretch in the second period, the Penguins played keep-away in the Islanders’ zone for more than 90 seconds.

Berube’s ability to see the puck through traffic kept Pittsburgh at bay, though he could do nothing to stop Kunitz from getting the type of goal emblematic of his 12-year career.

The game was scoreless in the middle of the first when Crosby slipped a pass to Brian Dumoulin at the point.

The defenseman wristed a floater toward the goal and Kunitz – who has spent more than a decade planted in front of the net – reached out and deflected the puck by Berube for his 238th NHL goal, many of them from within a stride or two of the blue paint.

Pittsburgh’s defense and another typically solid effort on home ice by Fleury made it stand until late in the third period. The Islanders struggled to make Fleury uncomfortable, most of their chances frozen immediately or turned away from danger.

Still, they tied it with less than six minutes to go when Okposo stuffed in a rebound on the power play to tie it. The forward found the puck on his stick after Anders Lee appeared to kick it his way.