Don't be surprised if this game starts a big-time run for the Islanders. Even though they got outshot, a stat that was aided by five fruitless Penguins power plays, the Islanders are starting to become a really tough team again. Don't get us wrong; their defense is still Swiss cheese, and no one has any idea which Evgeni Nabokov is going to show up on any given night, but the talent is starting to show.
Nothing much has changed since the Isles/Pens playoff series; the Islanders still match up extremely well against the Pens. Of all the home games thus far, the Islanders have looked like the best overall team the Penguins have faced.
As for the Pens, they served this to the Islanders on a silver platter. Zatkoff had a decent game, definitely better than his debut in Florida. But late-game defensive meltdowns allowed this game to slip away. Pens’ PP is now 1 for its last 20 or something, too.
On to bigger and funner things for the Pens, meaning they get to go into the belly of the beast tonight for a game agains the Maple Leafs. Fleury will be in net. Please, God, don't get hurt.
10,000 whistles to start the game.
Biggest note about the first was the Islander team speed. The Pens had some trouble against it in the playoffs, and they had some trouble getting used to it again.
Pens had a few chances early. A Malkin and Jokinen sick little give-and-go resulted in a Penguins powerplay.
Malkin vs. Hamonic
On that give-and-go play, Travis Hamonic buried Malkin into the boards. Big theme of the night was Hamonic being in Malkin's mouth. That’s happened before.
Power play 1
Pens power play looked sharp. Malkin and Letang on the wings, Martin running point, and Crosby down low. Some good chances, but nothing.
As the Penguins powerplay ended, the Isles drew a penalty.
The Isles wasted no time at all. Matt Moulson scored. 1-0.
Power play 2
Great movement from the top unit, but nothing. As the power play ended, the second unit got a goal. Nabokov gave up a terrible rebound. Jussi knocked it home. 1-1.
Tanner Glass got hit in the face, no call.
Then he got jobbed, penalty.
Power play 3
Letang had a great chance, but he ran out of space. Looks like Letang is going to be on the left wing of the power play unit.
Get used to Travis Hamonic. If the Norris Trophy was awarded for actual defense, this guy would be a candidate. He is a total snake, but you can't argue with how he plays D.
Power play 4
Pens got another power play because Tanner Glass's face got worked again. No dice. Crosby had nine million shots.
But the way the Pens are, all it takes is one mistake. Some guy from the Islanders fanned on a shot, and Crosby picked it off, and went the other way on a two-on-one with Kunitz. Crosby beat Nabokov to the far post. Interestingly enough, that was Crosby's first-ever regular-season goal against Nabokov. 2-1.
The game settled down.
Crosby almost turned Matt Carkner into a tree at one point.
Pens offense went from nothing to absolute ******* crazy in a matter of seconds. They drew another penalty, and Malkin and Carkner had an emotional staredown about it.
Power play 5
Second unit started it off and couldn't do much. First unit looked strong again, but nothing to show for it.
The Isles closed the period with a few good chances.
To his credit, Zatkoff made some nice saves.
Late in the period, the Isles had the puck in the Pens zone, and the pairing of Maatta/Niskanen was on the ice with the second line. They had trouble clearing the zone...
Islander got outshot badly, taking a ton of penalties, but they were still in the game. The started the third a lot more conservatively.
Again, the Isles were playing well, then boom: Crosby breakaway. But Crosby couldn't beat Nabokov, who made a nice save flowing to his right. Professional performance by Nabokov. 66 bur--
Game was jobbing along, and then **** changed.
Franz Neilsen with a nasty deflection tied it up. 2-2.
And then Engelland happened. 3-2. Great drive by Engo. Still can’t see Engelland as a full-time band-aid on the fourth line. In previous years, Jack Capuno would have stood on the Isles bench and wept. This time, he was all business:
Everyone was feeling great…until 53 seconds later. Remember when the second line, paired with Maatta and Niskanen, couldn't get it out? Yeah…
Five minutes left, and the game settled down. Under two minutes, Crosby was running around the Isles zone. An Islander, Josh Bailey, broke his stick, and the puck rolled to Kris Letang...
Bailey is skating to the bench to get a new stick. Pens have numbers in the Isles' zone.
-- Scuderi is wide open to Letang's left.
-- Letang has no shooting lane. The Isles are in position all across the board.
By firing the shot and having it blocked, Letang traps Scuderi up ice. No way Scuderi pinches there if he didn't think Letang would pass it.
It goes the other way, and It is a two-on-one now. Bailey mishandles it, and Letang flubbs it, as well. Nothing you can do about that. But Letang gets all Letangy, charging into battle going after the puck. Scuds is with the man trailing. Letang decides to chase, as well.
Leaves his feet for some reason...
Yikes. Zatkoff made a great save, but the Isles got it back to Bailey somehow. He outworked Kunitz in front because Letang buried himself in the corner, and the puck trickled past Zatkoff. Unreal effort by Bailey. Tough decision making by Kris Letang. Gotta take the good with the bad, we know.
There was still a feeling hanging around that the Pens would find a way to tie it, but it didn't happen.
-- Pens 0 for 5 on the PP. Islanders: 1 for 1.
-- Solid game for Zatkoff overall.
-- Didn't notice Megna.
-- John Tavares has a 9-game points streak. What a player. Can't really find anything about him to dislike.
-- Franz Nielsen has 14 points on the season. Crosby has 18.
-- Somewhere, John Spano took a sip of his Dr. Pepper and turned off his TV.