Pens/Islanders roundup: Pittsburgh lead evaporates on the island

before the game

The Penguins are using the same personnel and groupings they had in their last game on the West Coast, even now that they’re back in the East.

First period

It’s a good start for the Pens, forcing Ilya Sorokin to be sharp early on with shots from Sidney Crosby and then Brian Dumoulin in front of the net.

Scary moment when a point shot from PO Joseph is deflected by an Islander and flies into Brock McGinn’s neck/throat area. McGinn comes off the ice under his own power and sits on the bench at first, but is eventually pushed into the locker room to check it out.

The pens keep working and hold the record longer. A big change for the second line leads to a line change. Joseph shoots from the spot, Sorokin appears to have stopped the puck but the officials don’t blow the whistle. Crosby knows why they didn’t, finds the puck and slams it into the net. 1-0 pens.

The Islanders fire back and return to the game with one of the strangest goals of the season, and perhaps one this observer has ever seen. Marcus Pettersson delivered the puck with a pass attempt from behind the net to Mat Barzal. Barzal quickly sent a pass to Anders Lee up front. Casey DeSmith stopped Lee’s opening shot, but he ended up lying on his back, the puck uncovered in his black pants. The referees did not whistle again and Lee was able to see the puck and hit it against the net. It was like he was playing golf and DeSmith was teeing off! Truly amazing. 1-1 game.

In the final minute of the period, Pittsburgh’s fourth rowers make a couple of good plays against Sorokin, but are unable to score.

Shots during a period are 17-8 pens. He was 11-4 around 1:50 p.m. before the Pettersson loss. That makes the score tied at 1. Not the best and not the worst, but considering Pittsburgh has been the better team all along, it’s disappointing that they aren’t rewarded for it.

Second period

Pittsburgh begins the second period the same way as the first, with an all-out onslaught on Sorokin. They get the first six shots of the period, including multiple chances from Evgeni Malkin and Bryan Rust. They can’t score but the first line comes out again and can. Kris Letang makes a great lead pass on the ice. Jake Guentzel throws a hard pass to Rickard Rakell and Rakell just keeps his stick on the ice and redirects it past a defenseless Sorokin. 2-1 pens.

Pittsburgh keeps it up, Rust again does everything but score as the second line continues to dominate with a prolonged switch in the NYI zone. They finally get a reward, Joseph takes a shot from left wing and Jason Zucker gives him a tip. 3-1 pens.

Joseph’s big event night continues with the first penalty of the game when he holds an islander’s club, giving the NYI a power play. Pittsburgh kills him.

Despite a very dominant effort, weak goalkeeping keeps him close. Brock Nelson takes a normal looking zone tackle and turns it into a wrap around goal. 3-2 game.

DeSmith then flips the puck behind the net, but luckily recovers in time to keep it out of the net.

Malkin is floored by Barzal and Pittsburgh gets their first power play of the night. Not dice. But the Pens double their top line and Bo Horvat blocks a straight shot at Crosby. Bad move, a quick pass later feeds Rakell into the slot and he fires his second goal of the night.

It seems the Pens have let the air out of the balloon in the arena, but the Islanders don’t go away so easily. Anders Lee targets a shot from Barzal to hold New York within one.

Shots in the second are 19-8 Pittsburgh. And it’s 37-18 overall. But the lead is one.

Third period

Joseph takes a second penalty on the night to give NYI another shot at the power play. And the islanders tie him up. Jeff Carter can’t win the matchup, McGinn can’t get to the point, and DeSmith can’t stop the puck. Brock Nelson scores his second of the game with a high shot. 4-4. (Shooting 36-21 Feathers).

As time goes by, overtime seems possible, but the Islanders opportunistically show up to remove it. Kyle Palmieri gets away with a bit of a hold on Brian Dumoulin in an underhand battle and passes the puck to Nelson, who tries to cross, but it looks like Rust might put it into his net. 5-4 JNI with only 2:43 remaining.

The Pens pull the goalie and give a final push in the last seconds. doesn’t work. The islanders escape with victory.

Some thoughts

  • It’s hard to sit back and pick up the pieces of what happened in this game. Expected goals were 5.2 – 2.4 in favor of Pittsburgh. They controlled the puck for most of the game and should have won. Should, could, could. Despite being the better team, they end up losing, and in order to boot. It’s a bitter, bitter pill to swallow.
  • But he had to be impressed by the beginning of the Pens. For a team that usually comes out very slow, disinterested, falls behind (you know the drill), tonight they were the complete opposite. Quick to upload to disks. Quick to launch it to the net. Live in the NYI zone. It’s kind of sad, it feels like a big surprise and a bonus so the team doesn’t stumble and start bad, but it’s a feeling that’s been well earned during a long season of slow and bad starts.
  • Pittsburgh’s first and third goals began on a point shot by Joseph. The Islanders just looked bad all around defensively at first, covering the point was an area. Covering the forwards was another. From Joseph to Chad Ruhwedel (two assists, doubling his season total) to Letang and Pettersson (assists), the defense was active and supported the offense more effectively than usual.
  • Sorokin was the only reason this didn’t get out of hand. Anything the Pens got, they had to earn, which usually included tipping point blank so the bouncer didn’t stand a chance.
  • The Islanders entered the standings two points behind Pittsburgh (and even more importantly, four games behind) tonight. They go out tonight tied in the standings, but still four games behind. At a time like this it doesn’t feel very good, but the overall positioning hasn’t changed much.
  • Since we’ve criticized some of Mike Sullivan’s decisions in the thoughts section, we’re going to give him his fair share with the Pens’ top line double shifting late in the second period for a free zone start right after the power play. . It resulted in Crosby’s goal on Rakell. He made it a 4-2 game and should have changed the balance of the night. However, it was not.
  • In the “you never know what you’ll get from DeSmith night after night,” this wasn’t one of his better nights. It’s hard to play winning hockey with those Nelson goals. One of them? OK, maybe things will happen. But all in all, it wasn’t a comfortable night at the net for the Penguins, despite keeping shooting down and their defense’s chances down. At some point the goalie has to keep the puck out of the net, Sorokin was doing that all night. DeSmith took advantage of almost every opportunity. The quality difference between the two netminders was an absolutely huge draw and tipped the balance of the result.
  • Bryan Rust generated an absurd 1.71 expected goals on his own via Moneypuck. And 0.0 actual goals, unless you count the one he put into his own goal. It’s been tough on him, well, he’s getting some looks with seven SOGs and 11 total shot attempts, but with 13 goals in 54 games, it would be nice to see him light the lamp a little more.

The outcome of this game is going to sting a bit. The Pens should have won it, but they lost. They have a tougher team to play tomorrow and will have less energy and a lot to overcome in a short time. Maybe it’s good to get back to that, but at this point the Penguins badly need a game where they don’t have to play DeSmith for once.

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