Adam Pelech’s overtime goal lifts Islanders past skidding Penguins 5-4

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Adam Pelech found himself in an unusual position: on the ice in overtime, with plenty of room to work.

The New York Islanders defenseman didn’t let it go to waste, beating Alex Nedeljkovic with a wrist shot from the slot 57 seconds into the extra period to give New York a 5-4 win over the skidding Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday night.

Pelech hadn’t scored since last April but didn’t hesitate when Pittsburgh stars Sidney Crosby and Kris Letang opted not to challenge Pelech as he entered the zone. The nine-year veteran responded with a hard, low shot that beat Nedeljkovic over his right pad.

“Their (players) were kind of standing still,” Pelech said. “So I had lots of time. So I just fired it.”

Pelech’s 26th career goal in 473 career games helped the Islanders escape with two valuable points after Pittsburgh’s Valtteri Puustinen and Drew O’Connor scored 54 seconds apart in the third period to pull the Penguins even.

New York moved within four points of the second wild card in the Eastern Conference after improving to 4-3-3 since Patrick Roy replaced Lane Lambert as head coach a month ago. It also allowed the Islanders to recover after letting a three-goal lead slip away in a loss to the rival New York Rangers in a Stadium Series game over the weekend.

“It’s a huge win,” Pelech said. “I think, looking at the standings this time of year, we kind of have to put together a streak here. It’s the only way we’re going to make up ground.”

Brock Nelson scored his 24th goal of the season for New York. Mathew Barzal, Simon Holmstrom and Mike Reilly also scored for the Islanders. Ilya Sorokin, beaten soundly in his first two games against Pittsburgh this season, stopped 37 shots.

Marcus Pettersson scored his third goal of the season for Pittsburgh. Lars Eller added his 10th for the Penguins. Nedeljkovic made 28 saves but couldn’t get a handle on Pelech’s winner.

“We played good the whole night, we deserved two points,” Nedeljkovic said. “We deserved to win in regulation and I ... just kind of dropped the ball for us tonight.”

Erik Karlsson became the 19th defenseman in NHL history to reach 800 career points when he recorded the secondary assist on Pettersson’s one-timer from the right circle late in the first period.

The Penguins are 1-4-1 in their last six and are struggling to stay on the fringe of the playoff picture thanks in large part to a power play that for all of its star power can’t seem to generate much offense.

Pittsburgh went 0 for 3 against the NHL’s worst penalty kill, and a sequence that set up Barzal’s goal served as a microcosm of its season.

The Penguins passed the puck around the perimeter for almost the entirety of the two minutes rather than putting it on the net and New York managed to clear the puck just as Barzal emerged from the box. The winger raced in and beat Nedeljkovic over his glove to put the Islanders in front 2-1. Holmstrom pushed the lead to 3-1 later in the period when he jammed a wraparound by Nedeljkovic 13:15 into the second.

Eller’s goal pulled the Penguins within one but when Reilly beat Nedeljkovic 10:42 into the third, it appeared Pittsburgh — which had scored four goals just once since Jan. 11 before Tuesday — was in trouble.

The Penguins, playing without second-leading scorer Jake Guentzel who is out for a month with an upper-body injury, responded in a way they rarely have of late with arguably their best period in weeks to force overtime.

“It was a good pushback,” Crosby said. “Not the ideal situation to be in, but we battled hard and got it even ... (we’ll) take the point and move on. We need points so we got one. We’ve got to continue to grab them.”


Islanders: Travel to St. Louis on Thursday.

Penguins: Host Montreal on Thursday.



Graves is a national writer for The Associated Press, based in Pittsburgh. He covers the NFL, MLB, NHL, the Olympics and major college sports.