Penguins, Casey DeSmith stumble against Islanders

Pittsburgh Penguins backup goaltender Casey DeSmith reached a significant threshold Friday when his team took on the New York Islanders at UBS Arena in Elmont, NY.

He appeared in his 27th contest of the season and tied the lame starter Tristan Jarry for most games played among the team’s goaltenders.

With Jarry sidelined for most of calendar year 2023 with various injuries that have been highly speculated about and fiercely hidden, the Penguins have fielded DeSmith prolifically since early January.

“When you look at his last probably half a dozen starts, I think he’s really tracking the puck well,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said Thursday at the team’s Cranberry facility. “He has given us the opportunity to win. He’s making big saves at key moments in the game. That is very important to win in this league”.

The Penguins were winless on Friday as DeSmith was drilled by a resilient Islanders squad in a crucially vital 5-4 loss to a Metropolitan Division rival that has been dogging the Penguins regarding the standings for months.

Making his eighth straight start, the last Penguins goaltender to do so was Matt Murray, who strung together an eighth of starts between October 26 and November 15, 2019, DeSmith stopped 23 of 28 shots and saw his record drop to 10 -12. -4.

Penguins forward Sidney Crosby opened the scoring with his 25th goal of the season 12 minutes into regulation.

From the left half of the offensive zone wall, Penguins rookie defenseman PO Joseph grabbed and ripped off a cage wristband that appeared to be swallowed by goaltender Ilya Sorokin, but a rebound came loose under his left leg. . An eagle-eyed Crosby identified the puck and then swooped in from the right of the box, plowing past Islanders defenseman Noah Dobson and finishing with a forehand. Joseph and his defensive partner Chad Ruhwedel had assists.

An egregious turnover by Penguins defenseman Marcus Pettersson led to the equalizing goal 116 seconds later.

Controlling the puck behind his own cage, Pettersson faced light pressure from Islanders forward Bo Horvat and forced an ill-conceived pass to right circle on no one in particular. Islanders forward Mathew Barzal accepted the charity and sent a quick pass to the top of the box for his linemate Anders Lee, who redirected the puck into the net with a deflected forehand. DeSmith made the opening save and in the ensuing fight, he lay on his back hoping to stifle the rebound, but the puck somehow came to a complete stop over his pelvis. Lee was alert enough to locate the black puck on the black pants of a supine DeSmith and swept a backhand for his 20th goal. The only assist went to Barzal.

Penguins forward Rickard Rakell reached the 20-goal mark at 3:53 of the second period to restore the visitors’ lead.

With a clever backhand pass into the neutral zone from Rakell, linemate Jake Guentzel gained the offensive zone on the left wing and then directed a shot/pass into the box. Driving through the slot between Islanders defensemen Scott Mayfield and Alexander Romanov, Rakell redirected the puck with his forehand over Sorokin’s blocker. Guentzel and defender Kris Letang each had assists.

The Penguins went up by two goals less than two minutes later when forward Jason Zucker scored his 14th goal at 5:35.

From the right point of the offensive zone, Ruhwedel slipped a pass to the opposite point for Joseph, who flicked a Wrister towards the goal. Strutting his way across the front of the blue paint to the left of the cage, Zucker hit the puck with the right of his stick and tipped it past Sorokin’s blocker on the near side. Joseph and Ruhwedel recorded assists once again.

Islanders forward Brock Nelson’s 23rd goal made it 3–2 at 14:25 of the second frame.

After an ice cross pass from behind the Islanders’ blue line, Nelson gained the offensive zone on the left wing and, meeting little resistance, circumnavigated his way around the net and hit a forehand shot into the crease. The shot went wide, but with DeSmith struggling to get into position, the puck bounced off his right leg and slammed into the cage. Mayfield and Romanov had assists.

Rakell found another goal to regain a two-goal lead, 4-2, at 18:57 of the second.

After Crosby beat Horvat to a faceoff in the Islanders’ left circle, Pettersson sliced ​​through a shot from center that was blocked by Lee. The rebound bounced into the slot where Rakell placed it and he rushed a forehand that was partially blocked by Islanders defenseman Adam Pelech. Above the crease, Crosby furiously fended off Horvat to claim possession of the puck and slipped a deft backhand pass into the slot to Rakell, who leaned in and fired a forehand past Sorokin’s left skid. Assists were tallied by Crosby and Pettersson.

The Islanders persisted and fell back by just one score when Lee scored again late in the second period at 19:32.

Placing a bank pass into the left corner of the Penguins’ zone, Barzal dodged a slow backcheck from Penguins forward Jeff Carter and then an insufficient poke check attempt from Penguins forward Kasperi Kapanen. Maneuvering across the left circle into the slot, Barzal popped a wrist into the net. Positioned to the left of the blue paint, Lee deflected the puck with the shaft of his club past DeSmith’s glove. Barzal and defender Sebastian Aho had assists.

A power play goal by Nelson 5:01 into the third period tied the game again, 4-4.

Following a head-to-head victory by Horvat against Carter in the Penguins’ left circle, Dobson sent a pass from the top of the circle to the top of the opposite circle where Nelson slid a timer past DeSmith’s right shoulder on the other side. . Penguins forward Brock McGinn appeared to inadvertently leak DeSmith during the sequence. Dobson and Lee scored assists.

The Islanders took their first and only lead late in regulation when forward Zach Parise scored his 15th goal at 17:17.

After Penguins defenseman Brian Dumoulin lost a puck battle in his own right corner to Islanders forward Kyle Palmieri, Nelson sent a pass from the right circle to the left of the box intended for Parise. Above the crease, Letang partially blocked the pass. Penguins forward Bryan Rust, in a determined backtrack, also appeared to drive a stick into the puck, but Parise eventually directed it toward the cage.

Dumoulin protested to officials who interfered with him in any way, but to an inhospitable audience. Scorers on the site originally credited Nelson with the goal before ultimately determining it was Parise’s score.

The Penguins have little time to ponder this setback as they host another division foe, the New Jersey Devils, at 5:30 pm Saturday.


• The Penguins’ scratches were forwards Danton Heinen (healthy), Ryan Poehling (undisclosed injury) and defenseman Mark Friedman (undisclosed injury).

• The last Penguins goalie to start more than eight consecutive games was Murray. He made 11 consecutive starts between March 16 and April 6, 2019.

• Zucker appeared in the 600th game of his career.

• No team has given up more points to Crosby than the Islanders. In 80 career games against the Islanders, Crosby has 130 points (41 goals, 89 assists).

• Parise appeared in the 1,200th game of his career.

Seth Rorabaugh is a staff writer for Tribune-Review. You can contact Seth by email at or via Twitter. .

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