The Pittsburgh Penguins finally won a home game, but did it front of their smallest home crowd in nearly three years.
Robert Lang and Martin Straka scored in the second period to help the Penguins beat the New York Islanders 3-2 Tuesday night.
Two topics dominated the post-game discussion in the Penguins locker room: rookie goaltender Jean-Sebastian Aubin's 13-save third period and the relative lack of witnesses.
The crowd of 10,292 was 6,666 below the Civic Arena's capacity. It was the smallest crowd since a snow storm held attendance to 7,170 for a game against Calgary on Dec. 19, 1995.
"We need the support," said Penguins defenseman Jeff Serowik, who is in his first season with Pittsburgh. "After seeing the Steelers' game packed (on Monday night) we need the support."
Jaromir Jagr, now in his eighth year with the Penguins, said he anticipated empty seats.
"I expected 10,000 people," he said. "It was a school day and against the Islanders so I knew it as going to be like this."
The Penguins filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last month and a city councilman has threatened to padlock to Civic Arena for non-payment of taxes. The Penguins maintain that threat has hurt ticket sales.
The Penguins still have the high ticket prices brought on by their Stanley Cup years but don't have many stars left. Jagr is the only high-profile player in a lineup that used to be a virtual all-star team.
The Penguins are still finding a way to be successful, though, and tied for the overall NHL lead with 16 points. The hero on Tuesday was Aubin, who was strong against the Islanders' late charge.
"He was brilliant in the third period, a huge part," Pittsburgh coach Kevin Constantine said.
"We took it to them in the third but we've got to start winning those games," said Islanders assistant coach Lorne Henning.
Pittsburgh had been 0-1-3 at home and the last NHL team without a win on home ice. Overall, the Penguins are unbeaten in four (2-0-2) while the Islanders have lost three of four.
Lang scored 54 seconds into the second period to break a 1-1 tie. The Penguins had an extra attacker with a delayed penalty pending and Lang skated in on the left side and onetimed Kevin Hatcher's pass from 15 feet for his sixth goal.
Straka made it 3-1 with his fifth goal at 11:29. Goaltender Tommy Salo appeared to have the puck under his left pad, but it was jarred loose when defenseman Barry Richter collided with his goalie.
"Those certainly weren't Tommy's fault," Henning said.
The Islanders got within one at 1:54 of the third when Trevor Linden put a shot between Aubin's pads from the middle of the right circle for his sixth goal.
Pittsburgh's Aleksey Morozov scored the game's first gal at 1:51 of the first period. Morozov got his second of the season after Stu Barnes and Martin Straka worked the puck out of the corner.
New York's Bryan Smolinski tied the game with a power-play goal at 6:27 of the first. It was just the Islanders' second power-play score in 25 chances on the road this season.
Aubin, the Penguins' third-string goalie, made his third consecutive start. Starter Tom Barrasso missed his 10th consecutive game with a groin pull sustained on Oct. 17.
The Islanders were stranded in Pittsburgh overnight. Their charter flight back to Long Island was grounded by heavy wind warnings.
Mike Milbury coached the Islanders, but left immediately after the game and sent Henning out to answer questions. An Islanders spokesman said that Milbury had to leave but did not elaborate.
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