No matter which way the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Islanders Round One series goes, it has happened before. The two teams are not familiar playoff rivals as the New York Islanders heydey was in the late 1970s and early ’80s before the Penguins organization tanked to get a guy named Mario Lemieux, and the Penguins greatest moments have come since Lemieux arrived, but the teams usually make history.
Of course, it has been New York making history.
We’ll print his name, through disgust and tense fingers: David Volek. The 1993 New York Islanders were gum on the vaunted Penguins shoe. The Penguins assembled one of the greatest teams of all-time including Hall of Famers Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr, Ron Francis, Joe Mullen, and Larry Murphy. The team also carried All-Stars like accessories; Rick Tocchet, Kevin Stevens, and Tom Barrasso.
The 1992-93 Penguins team was one of the greatest of all-time yet they didn’t make it out of the second round because of the pesky, underdog New York Islanders who wouldn’t give up.
The loss abruptly ended the Penguins championship run. They won two straight Stanley Cups before but that core group was dismantled in the couple years following the loss. Lemieux and Jagr made it to two more conference finals but never again made it to the Stanley Cup Final.
In 1975, the Pittsburgh Penguins became the first team in the expanded era beyond the Original Six to blow a 3-0 lead in a best of seven game series. The New York Islanders were in their third year of existence and their first playoff appearance.
After the Penguins took a 3-0 series lead, New York never trailed and won the seventh game 1-0 when Eddie Westfall scored late in the third period.
Two teams have overcome a 3-0 deficit since New York did it to the Penguins: The 2010 Philadelphia Flyers rallied against the Boston Bruins and the 2014 LA Kings came back against the San Jose Sharks.
However, the 2018-19 Penguins which trails New York 3-0 has not shown a spark or surge which could ignite them to four straight victories. Sunday in the locker room, the Penguins anger was muted and could hardly be called defiance. The Penguins have scored just five goals in three games but given up 11.
In the fourth playoff meeting between the teams, the New York Islanders have suppressed the Penguins and held Sidney Crosby to zero points. New York has forced the Penguins into 60 turnovers. And it appeared they took the Penguins will towards the end of Game 3.
The talented Penguins should be a lot better than this. Dan Kingerski’s takedown of the series and the Penguins failures highlighted the Penguins mistakes, mistakes, and more mistakes while New York has kept it simple and waited for those mistakes.
The Penguins will need that spark or confidence boost. And a Sidney Crosby point or Jake Guentzel goal. The Xs and Os no longer matter. It is about results. Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel could certainly contribute, too.
But you never know when history will be made. These teams have done it before. Perhaps it’s time for the Penguins to return the 3-0 favor, just like New York did in 1975.