ELMONT, NY — Kris Letang tied an NHL record with five assists in one period and six total assists. Jake Guentzel scored twice in 12 seconds. Evgeni Malkin also had two goals, and the Pittsburgh Penguins broke a four-game losing streak to the New York Islanders, hammering the Islanders 7-0 at UBS Arena Wednesday.
A ho-hum first period became a Penguins bombardment that put Letang in the NHL record book. Letang also tied the Penguins franchise record with six assists.
Only the late Dale Hawerchuk of the Winnipeg Jets previously posted five helpers (March 6, 1984) in a single period until Letang, who became the first defenseman to do it.
Letang’s big night continued when tied an NHL single-game record for defensemen with six assists. The record is now held by seven defensemen, including Letang and Bobby Orr.
“He’s an elite player. We rely on him so, so much in so many situations on both sides of the puck,” said coach Mike Sullivan. “I thought his offensive game was on display tonight. But I think his defensive game is sneaky good. He defends hard, is competitive, and wins puck battles.”
Defenseman Marcus Pettersson had four assists, too.
It was a pretty good night for the Penguins.
Evgeni Malkin also made history, becoming the second-highest goal scorer of Russian birth in NHL history by scoring twice in the second period. His 483rd and 484th career goals passed Hall of Famer Sergei Fedorov for second place behind Alex Ovechkin (828).
It was Penguins domination.
They seized on their later first-period energy boost and charged the Islanders like an angry bull in the second. In the first seven minutes, the Penguins outshot their hosts 10-1. More importantly, the Penguins got the first goal. And then another.
In total, the Penguins hung six on the Islanders in a second-period decimation not seen since the Penguins pounded the San Jose Sharks 10-2 on Nov. 4.
It was simultaneously an exorcism of frustrations and a mental reset provided by the same holiday break that crimped travel plans.
First, Rickard Rakell.
About six minutes into the second period, the Penguins gained the lead on a disputed tally. Islanders goalie Ilya Sorokin misplayed a long-range shot by Guentzel. Rakell (2) slammed the loose puck into the net as the whistle was blowing.
Officials initially ruled no goal, but a video review allowed officials to rule a good goal. It was a stark contrast to the final game before the holiday break when the Penguins seemed to be on the wrong side of a review that should have overturned an Ottawa Senators goal against them but did not.
After the review, the Penguins’ onslaught began.
“I thought (you could feel the momentum) in the second period, in particular,” Sullivan said. “I thought the first period was a pretty low-event period on both sides. There just weren’t a lot of plays, There wasn’t a lot of extended zone time on either side. I thought the second period, we did a much better job just controlling territory, establishing some offensive zone time.”
Less than four minutes after Rakell’s marker, Guentzel scored twice in 12 seconds.
At 10:15 of the second, Guentzel (15) deftly tipped Letang’s knee-high wrist shot over Islanders goalie Ilya Sorokin’s shoulder for the Penguins’ second goal.
Unhappy with the Islanders’ no-show effort, coach Lane Lambert called timeout. However, in the immediate resumption of play, Guentzel (16) buried a breakaway.
The Islanders buckled while the Penguins attacked with ferocity. The Islanders barely escaped their own zone in the second period while the Penguins peppered Sorokin with 20 shots and 31 attempts.
About two minutes after Guentzel’s quick strikes, the Penguins center added two more.
First, Malkin (12) capped a dominating shift by his line ripping a wrister from the slot past Sorokin.
A few minutes later, Malkin (13) scored from the crease, deflecting a perfect pass from Letang.
As a little frosting on the cupcake, Penguins winger Radim Zohorna broke a 14-game scoring drought. Valtteri Puustinen rushed past the Islanders’ defense on the right wing and slipped a late pass to Zohorna (4), who tapped the puck into the open cage.
Penguins rookie winger Valtteri Puustinen scored his first NHL goal from the left circle in the middle of the third period when he one-timed Letang’s pass.
Dec. 27 is perhaps the most difficult road game on the NHL schedule. Beginning on Dec. 23, teams cannot gather or travel until the 27th, meaning NHL clubs must fly on game day. Getting around New York onto Long Island is no easy task, either. The Penguins didn’t hit the ice until after noon for their scheduled 11:30 a.m. practice at UBS Arena.
The first period had the unevenness of two teams who’d been off the ice for four days. While the shot clock fluctuated throughout the period, as scorers added and subtracted shots, the official tally showed only nine shots combined and five for the Penguins.
The Penguins were 0-for-3 on the power play but used the second chance in the first period to get their legs.
Correction: Sorokin allowed six goals goals on 25 shots. He was relieved by Semyon Varlamov in the second period. Varlamov stopped six of seven shots.
Tristan Jarry, a seeming afterthought, made several difficult saves in the first period and a couple more in the second and third periods.
“It might have been a different game if we converted those early chances and scored the first goal,” said Islanders center Matthew Barzal.
Jarry faced only 20 shots, but several were of high quality, earning his league-leading fourth shutout. Jarry’s record is 10-11-2.