The Pittsburgh Penguins owned the puck, territory and offensive chances. The New York Islanders owned the scoreboard. It was an odd night for the Penguins who outshot the Islanders 15-6 in the first period but had to rally from two goals down. The Penguins also owned the offensive chances for the first 10 minutes of the second period.
But allowed the Islanders to score on three of four shots midway through the period.
And make no mistake, the Penguins team allowed the Islanders to score. Any fault with starting goaltender Matt Murray is severely misplaced.
The Penguins left players wide open in prime scoring chances. W-I-D-E O-P-E-N. It was a little bit a deja vu as the Islanders caught the Penguins in a line changes a couple of times, but the Penguins also whiffed on a couple of coverages. When the puck is bouncing for you, those chances seem to bounce away or the hockey gods intervene.
The Penguins had no such luck, Tuesday. In fact, if it wasn’t for bad luck, they had no luck at all.
Penguins coach Mike Sullivan couldn’t fault the effort, “…I thought we had a lot of energy…The first 30 minutes plus, it was a pretty spirited effort.”
But the first game back from a long road trip seems to invite gremlins, and they found the Penguins, Tuesday.
Penguins Report Card:
It’s not hard to lay a couple goals at their feet. The Islanders first goal and the backbreaking fifth goal are at Malkin-Kessel’s feet. The pair didn’t backcheck on either goal.
There was some question if Hagelin was interfered with on the fifth goal, but careful examination from this writer labeled the contact coincidental–both players unknowingly went for the same patch of ice.
When Matt Cullen spoke of impatience and frustration, his comments could directly apply to Malkin. When the Penguins fell behind, Malkin attempted to individually take over the game, but the Islanders were waiting for him. Malkin scored early in the third period and the team appeared poised for a storybook comeback, but they could not sustain it.
That certainly wasn’t the best version of Phil Kessel you’ll ever see. Or even a good one.
The bad outweighed the good from this line, Tuesday.
Matt Murray was not bad. There wasn’t a single goal allowed in which he had a prayer. Four goals on nine shots will kill his statistics, unfortunately, but refer to yesterday’s goaltending column.
Casey DeSmith was a little shaky to start but otherwise was also the victim of bad luck as Tom Kuhnhackl’s goal caromed off Jamie Oleksiak’s skate.
Dominik Simon: A+
The kid played a great game. He was everywhere. If you didn’t know better, you may have thought he was the player driving the Sidney Crosby line with Guentzel.
Actually, Simon was the driver. He had hop and Crosby became the shooter instead of the playmaker. Simon teed it up for Crosby for a couple of great chances before Simon was credited with the Penguins first goal.
Daniel Sprong: C+
Sprong got eight minutes of ice time, Tuesday. In that time, whenever possible, he was determined to shoot the puck. Come hell or high water, he was going to shoot. That’s a step up for Sprong who is attempting to assert himself.
The downside is that he didn’t make plays or cycle the puck. He looked like an AHL player trying to make a name for himself. Huge improvement for Sprong. He will need to take that assertiveness and begin to work within the framework of the game and connect to the other players on the ice.
Sprong was with center Derek Grant, Tuesday. Grant did not have a good game and was a victim of the shortened bench, that situation also limited Sprong’s ice time.
Juuso Riikola: C
For the first time, Riikola looked tentative, unsure and conservative. Riikola was paired on the right side with Brian Dumoulin. It was Dumoulin who pinched into the offensive zone, not Riikola.
Overall, Riikola blended into the background. Perhaps the 24-year-old Finnish rookie learned fear after allowing a few scoring chances in his last game, which was the 6-5 OT barn burner win against Edmonton.
SCHutdown Line: D
The only Penguins line which was a negative Corsi line was Sheahan-Cullen-Hornqvist. They had a rough night, too.
The line was given the task to contain the Islander’s “second” line with Beauvillier-Barzal-Eberle, in part because the Islanders chose to put their checking lines against the Penguins top units and the Penguins gladly took that trade. However, Cullen and company weren’t up to the task.
Eberle had one 5v5 goal (and one power-play goal), which came against the Cullen line.
Jamie Oleksiak: B+
Oleksiak had a strong game. It was his pinch at center ice which sprung Crosby for the tying goal.
Oleksiak was positive in every statistical category, with a 64.5 percent Corsi, more scoring chances (the important stat) 12-7, and was on the ice for more high-danger chances, 7-4.