The Islanders stole the Penguins plans for a regulation win, Thursday. It was Star Wars night at PPG Paints Arena, but two of the high flying teams in the NHL flew casual, and neither hit hyperdrive until the third period. Penguins Wookie goaltender Tristan Jarry continued his stellar play for injured Matt Murray as the Penguins beat the New York Islanders with an overtime goal from Matt Hunwick, 4-3.
Jarry made big saves throughout the game including a robbery of Anders Lee in front, just a few minutes into the game. Jarry also stopped Isles elite center John Tavares who was alone in the right wing circle in the second period.
Great, kid! Don’t get cocky.
Midway through the first period, the refs put Jake Guentel’s goal in the trash compactor. Guentzel used his hand to swat the puck to his stick, but instead, it bounced into the net. No good.
Guentzel found redemption a couple of minutes later. The second-year winger deflected a Kris Letang point blast for a power-play goal. 1-0.
The Penguins controlled territory in the first period and outshot the Islanders 15-6. However, the Islanders owned the second period–they outshot the Penguins 13-7.
Moments after Islanders forward Jordan Eberle collided with Sidney Crosby at center ice, Eberle’s shoulder made flush contact with Crosby’s jaw as Eberle skated passed, Eberle tied the score.
The Penguins Force Awakened in the third period. Seven minutes into the period and just 48 seconds after Isles forward Scott Mayfield was called for tripping, Phil Kessel whistled a wrister past Islanders goalie Jaroslav Halak. The scruffy nerf herder Kessel now leads the Penguins with 14 goals.
32 seconds later, Riley Sheahan scored his first non-empty net Penguins goal. He unleashed a nasty shot over Halak’s glove hand.
“Empty netters are nice, but it’s not the way you picture your first (goal). Yeah, it definitely felt good,” Sheahan said.
“It’s been a headscratcher for us, why they haven’t been going in (for Sheahan),” said Penguins coach Mike Sullivan.
The Empire state struck back late in the third. The Islanders pinned the Penguins in the defensive zone for the final five minutes and scored a pair of goals.
With five minutes remaining, rookie Mathew Barzal continued his increasingly dominant rookie season. As Isles forward Scott Mayfield cut into the slot, Barzal took the puck from Mayfield’s stick and snapped a wrist shot past Jarry in the same motion. 3-2.
The goal gave the Islanders life, and they nearly rallied for the win. Brock Nelson scored with just over a minute remaining, and the Islanders net empty, to tie the game.
15 seconds later, Anders Lee also beat Jarry, but hit the post.
In Overtime, Penguins defenseman Matt Hunwick went Endor to end, then finished a rebound from Bryan Rust. 4-3. Pens escaped.
Giveaways, Takeaways, & Press Box Nachos
–I beat up the leave-early crowd, Monday. Allow me to praise the folks who stayed in the third tonight, about 12-13,000 (Though far too many left before overtime. What the hell is wrong with you people?!).
Once the dead weight left, the crowd got into the game. It became a good atmosphere. Certainly a galaxy far, far away from last Saturday night.
–I didn’t think Eberle’s “hit” on Crosby in the third period was dirty. It was eerily reminiscent of David Steckel’s 2011 shot on Crosby which sidelined Crosby for nearly two years (yes, Victor Hedman checked Crosby a few days later, but the injury was likely suffered against Steckel).
Eberle held his position and skated on an acceptable path passed Crosby. Eberle’s eyes never wavered from the puck. And Sid plays a head-forward style. Crosby also likely had flashbacks to the 2011 incident as he chased Eberle and knocked him to the ice. Crosby barked at the referees for an extended time, too.
Sorry, that won’t be called in any hockey game. I don’t think any player is good enough to contact their shoulder to Crosby’s head without looking.
Sid wasn’t available after the game to speak. The hit was hard enough that I wouldn’t be surprised if Crosby develops concussion symptoms later.
–Sullivan started his fourth line against the Islanders fourth line. Gut feeling–it was a matchup thing. The Islanders fourth line Chimera-Czikas-Clutterbuck is the highest paid fourth line in the league and still a fearsome trio. They play the game hard.
Keeping Crosby away from them was a wise move.
Later in the game, Clutterbuck had the opportunity to drop the mitts against Ryan Reaves and declined. Another smart move.
The game was mostly clean. Reaves made his point.
–The Islanders are for real, because of Barzal. That second line presence makes a huge difference. Islanders coach Doug Weight also mixes offensive youngster Josh Ho-Sang around the lineup. For much of the contest, he skated on the third line with Brock Nelson, however in the third, Ho-Sang saw time on the right side of John Tavares.
The Islanders can roll four lines with some offensive potential. Nick Leddy-Ryan Pulock is also an excellent top pair.
Pencil them into the playoffs
–The Penguins got an offensive contribution from the third line and scored four goals, despite Crosby not having a great night. …That’s how it’s supposed to work.
–Hornqvist and Sheary have a chemistry beside any center. Lately, the center almost becomes irrelevant. That may not be a great combo with Crosby.
Sullivan mixed and matched his lines in the second period, adding Rust to the top line and Hornqvist to the third. Mixed results, at best.
–Chad Ruhwedel is better than he was last year. I believe he’s gone from good 7th defenseman to good top-6. That gives the Penguins some roster flexibility…if one of the teams which have been scouting the Penguins comes to the table.
–The Penguins could use an upgrade on defense. Too many mistakes which are born of ability. The Penguins rely on skating defensemen but only have three if you count Hunwick, who doesn’t use his strength enough. And, Justin Schultz is hurt.
The Penguins could afford to lose one of their defensive defensemen if they gain a better skating defenseman in return.
May the force be with you.