PITTSBURGH — Bryan Rust was not thrilled by the tripping penalty with over six minutes remaining in the game. Until that moment, the Pittsburgh Penguins were in full control of the hockey game were set to end the New York Islanders 14-game points streak. After the penalty, New York scored three straight goals, including the overtime winner, and the Penguins were left a little salty by the squandered opportunity. New York beat the Penguins 5-4 in OT at PPG Paints Arena.
Late in the third period, Rust was on the forecheck and chased New York defenseman Nick Leddy into the New York zone. Leddy retreated for the puck as Rust bore down on him when the pair became intertwined. Rust’s legs fell between Leddy’s as Rust curled and raised off the ice. Tripping was the call.
Technically, the Penguins killed the tripping minor, but before Rust could rejoin the play, New York winger Justin Bailey buried a wrist shot over a fallen Matt Murray and in front of four Penguins defenders. Bailey’s tally pulled New York within one goal in the waning minutes. Then defenseman Ryan Pulock tied the game with the New York net empty and the extra attacker on the ice.
“You’ve got to fight for ice. Two guys got tangled up. The ref saw it one way. I mean, I was just trying to play hard. It is what is it,” Rust gritted.
“(The referee) thought I tried to sweep my leg. I’m falling down and bringing my legs back, and it trips the guy,” Rust said.
Brock Nelson scored his second goal of the game in overtime, and the Penguins otherwise good game became a 54-minute effort, and they yielded another point to their division rival.
Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan also noted the failed defensive zone coverage on the Bailey goal. There were a lot of Penguins around their net, yet Bailey was wide open 10 feet away. It’s the sort of mistake which the Penguins have made against New York, over and over, to the Penguins angry disappointment.
“It’s a tough time of the game to take a penalty, and I think the third goal was the killer. For the most part, we did a really good job on the penalty kill,” Sullivan said. “The penalty is about to expire, and it’s a two-against-four rush. We just have to do a better job.”
Rust had played well, again. He led all players in shots (5) for most of the game and finished tied with several others. He scored the Penguins first goal of the game on the power play and had several more great chances throughout the game. But the penalty was the flashpoint.
And regardless of the circumstances, it looked like a penalty, too. Though, Penguins center Evgeni Malkin had his teammate’s back.
“We had four power plays, maybe they want it to be even,” Malkin trailed off.
The Pittsburgh Penguins beat their tormentor 12 days ago by rallying from a three-goal deficit. Tuesday night, the Penguins couldn’t hold the lead. New York got the third goal, and there seemed to be little doubt they would get the tying goal, too. In fact, thousands of fans accepted the coming defeat and left after New York scored the third goal.
The Penguins were fresh from their 6-1 drubbing of Toronto on Saturday. They outskated and thoroughly dominated New Jersey in a 2-1 loss last week. There was some feeling around the team they could find their stride without Sidney Crosby in the lineup. Ordinarily, four goals would do the trick as the team remains one of the leaders in fewest goals allowed.
In the Eastern Conference, only Boston and, of course, the New York Islanders have allowed fewer.
“Down the stretch, they were a lit tle hungrier than we were. Just those last few minutes when we got up 4-2, they turned it up a notch, and we didn’t match it,” Rust said. “Doesn’t matter how the last game went, this game is going to leave a sour taste in our mouth.”
Pittsburgh Penguins Bryan Rust: