The final season of Game of Thrones begins Sunday night, and The Pittsburgh Penguins (0-2) hope to pay their debts to right their early playoff scuffles. After dropping the first two games of the series, the Penguins play the New York Islanders (2-0) at PPG Paints Arena, this afternoon. The Penguins hope winter isn’t coming but they are in unfamiliar territory for both teams, as the Penguins have not fallen to a 2-0 deficit since 2013 against Boston while New York has not held a two-game lead since 1993.
Despite the hyperbole, today’s game could prove “make or break” for the Penguins.
The Penguins may not realize the predicament they find themselves in but can take solace in the fact they have recovered from two-game deficits before. After falling drop the first two games in the 2009 Divisional round to Washington, the Penguins rallied to take the series in seven games; they also went on to win the 2009 Stanley Cup. Despite the negative vibe that has overtaken the series, Penguins player feel they are close to a breakthrough.
It is still early in the postseason, but New York appears to be continuing their surprising regular season success by winning two low scoring games. New York will try for elusive a road win tonight but should feel confident as they held a 24-14-3 record on the road this season. Their last road playoff win came in 2015 against the Florida Panthers at BB&T Center, not quite PPG Paints Arena in the summer.
Matt Murray will attempt to be a difference maker for his team as he starts in net today, Murray is 28-17 in playoff games with a 2.14 goals-against. Robin Lehner will oppose Murray in net. Lehner is making just his third playoff start but boasts a 2.07 goals-against in five playoffs games.
The Penguins will need to win at least one game on the road if they wish to win the series against New York. Unfortunately, they will have to wait for a potentially game five to accomplish this task after losing 3-1 at Nassau Coliseum, Friday.
The game followed a similar script to game one as the Penguins could not solve New York’s forecheck and despite generating quality chances, lost. After a scoreless first period, the Penguins received a goal from an unlikely source. Erik Gudbranson (1) scorched a shot from the point for his first goal as a Penguin. The blast was also Gudbranson’s first career playoff goal and gave the Penguins the lead.
New York continued their peskiness in the series as they were quick to answer three minutes later in the period. After a quick two-on-one developed, Anthony Beauvillier (1) jumped on a rebound and tallied his first playoff goal. The goal killed the Penguins momentum and seemed to stiffle their attack the rest of the period.
The third period started with both teams exchanging blows, both physically and metaphorically, but neither team could gain the upper hand. The home crowd rallied behind two huge saves by New York goalie Robin Lehner and for the second straight game, a Penguins star made an untimely mistake.
Evgeni Malkin attempted to kick the puck to his stick but instead helped fuel the New York rush. Jordan Eberle (2) lifted a backhand for the game-winning goal. Josh Bailey (2) added a late power play goal to ice the game. Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel were held pointless.
Matt Murray was in net for the loss. Murray saved 31 of 34 shots. Lehner collected his second career playoff win by turning away 32 shots.
Despite missing game 2 with an injury, Jared McCann feels confident he will be back in the lineup today.
The Penguins historically have been able to rebound from losses in the playoffs. They are 17-6 all-time under head coach Mike Sullivan in the playoffs following a loss (7-1 in 2016; 7-2 in 2017; 3-2 in 2018; 0-1 in 2019). Goaltender Matt Murray is 11-4 all-time in the playoffs following a loss.
Evgeni Malkin is 4 points from tying Mario Lemieux for second place on the team’s all-time playoff points list with 172.
Jared McCann ( Undisclosed)
Andrew Ladd (Torn ACL. Out for Season)
Tanner Fritz (Upper Body)
|TEAM||Power Play||Penalty Kill|
|Pittsburgh Penguins||12.5% (12th NHL)||80.0% (9th NHL)|
|New York Islanders||20.0% (8th NHL)||87.5% (4th NHL)|
Penguins -200 Over/Under 5.5, -35
Expected Penguins Lines
|Jared McCann||Sidney Crosby||Jake Guentzel|
|Bryan Rust||Evgeni Malkin||Phil Kessel|
|Dominik Simon||Nick Bjugstad||Patric Hornqvist|
|Zach Aston-Reese||Matt Cullen||Garrett Wilson|
|Brian Dumoulin||Kris Letang|
|Jack Johnson||Justin Schultz|
|Marcus Pettersson||Erik Gudbranson|