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Grabner whipped a loose puck past Zatkoff at 1:39. Then, Grabner set up Nelson at 8:21 to make it 2-0.

Kunitz answered for the Penguins at 9:32 with a slap shot from the top of left circle past Poulin. Crosby and Maatta assisted on the 25th goal of the season for Kunitz, who will join Crosby on Team Canada at the Winter Games in Sochi next month.

Then, Crosby tied it at 11:24 with his 27th goal of the season when he jammed a rebound past Poulin.

“They play an aggressive style and they create opportunities,” added Crosby, who also had two assists and leads the league with 72 points. “We were able to create some of our own and hold them off when we had to.”

The Penguins entered 26-2-1 when scoring first and 9-11-1 when they didn’t. This time, they found a way to recover and overcome the Islanders (21-25-7).

New York has been on a torrid streak that pulled them from a 9-19-7 record after a shootout loss to Tampa Bay on Dec. 17 within five points of a playoff spot before meeting the Penguins. The Islanders lost for just the fourth time in 14 games.

“Again, it was about our battle level or the lack of it,” Islanders coach Jack Capuano said. “We have to defend harder. You can’t give a team with as much firepower as the Penguins all that time and space. We got away from how we have to play for about 10 minutes and it cost us.”

The three previous Islanders-Penguins games this season were decided by one goal. The teams split two games in Pittsburgh before Crosby capped a Penguins comeback with an overtime goal at the Coliseum on Dec. 3.

Pittsburgh is 7-1-1 over its last nine and 15-3-1 in its last 19 contests. The Penguins have also won seven of their last eight regular-season games against the Islanders at Nassau Coliseum. The Penguins defeated the Islanders in a six-game first-round playoff series last May.

NOTES: Crosby has 25 goals and 58 assists in 45 regular-season games against the Islanders, including 11 goals and 24 assists in 21 games at Nassau Coliseum. … The Penguins are 11-1 in their last 12 division games. The only loss was a 2-1 setback against the Devils in Newark on Dec. 31. The Penguins are 13-4-2 in their last 19 games at Nassau Coliseum. … The Islanders continued to be without D Travis Hamonic (upper body).