The Pittsburgh Penguins again had a 2-1 lead after two periods against the New York Islanders. This time, not even being shorthanded in the final minutes could deter the Penguins, who beat the New York Islanders 2-1 in front of a raucous crowd at PPG Paints Arena.
More importantly, the Penguins evened the Round One series, 1-1.
The Penguins got off to the start they wanted. They dominated more than the first 10 minutes and scored a pair of goals in the period.
“We knew that every single one of us needed to bring a higher level of execution intensity,” defenseman Mike Matheson said. “And I think we did that tonight.”
At one point, the shots were 13-4 for the Penguins and ended at 19-13, which also favored the Penguins beyond the totals.
Three minutes into the game, surprise New York starter Semyon Varlamov badly misplayed an easy save. Bryan Rust (1), from the back of the right-wing circle, whipped a shot towards the net. Varlamov thought he had it. He didn’t, and it sailed past his glove. 1-0.
The Penguins pressure continued throughout the period. Later in the period, the Penguins retrieved another dump-in, and Jared McCann spotted Jeff Carter on the doorstep. Carter (1) swept the puck around Varlamov for an important second goal and a two-goal lead.
However, New York physically asserted itself in the second period, and it began to pay dividends. The Penguins had a pair of power-play opportunities but barely managed a shot under heavy New York pressure.
The lone goal of the middle period was also in New York’s favor. Winger Josh Bailey (1) cut across the slot, zipped past Carter, and his backhander eluded Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry to halve the Penguins lead.
New York outshot the Penguins 16-10 in the second period and erased the Penguins’ advantage in most metrics. After 40 minutes, the Penguins had the narrowest of margins on the stat sheets and scoreboard.
Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby found himself in the middle of more than a few scrums and helped linemate Jake Guentzel lead all players with 7 shots, not including a third period rip which hit the post.
The Penguins turned up the offensive pressure in the third period, and despite New York needing a tying goal, the Penguins had more shots and scoring chances. According to our friends at NaturalStatTrick.com, the Penguins had 11 of the first 15 scoring chances.
With just 88 seconds remaining and the goalie pulled, New York got their first power play when Rust closed his hand on the puck.
Evgeni Malkin did not play in Game 2. Malkin had an on-ice workout before the Penguins optional skate Tuesday morning. Game 2 marked another step towards normalcy past COVID-19. The Penguins were allowed to host more than 9,000 fans (and it sure seemed like more).
Overall, the Pittsburgh Penguins outshot New York 45-38. Jarry stopped 37 of 38 and was much better in Game 2.
“I think I was just trying to keep it simple as trying to get better than I was last game,” Jarry said. “I think that was something that I wanted to improve as this be better tonight. And I think that was an easy thing to do for me.”
3. Bryan Rust
Rust was in the Islanders face from the puck drop. It wasn’t his goal which stands out, but the pucks he retrieved and the number of scrums he started. Four shots and two hits seem low.
2. Cody Ceci
Ceci had four shots in the first period and was a brick wall on the offensive blue line. He kept several plays alive, which only enhanced the Penguins momentum. Ceci finished with five shots and three hits.
Damn, it was good to have you back. The place wasn’t the same without you, and I’m pretty sure there were more than 9,000 here. The energy made a huge difference in the game. The Pengiuns surge in the third period was only enhanced with the crazy crowd.
“It was that was pretty cool to be a part of, you know, the building was going crazy. Any time you look up and see those tiles spinning with that many people in the building, especially with everything going on in the world. And, you know, the fact that we haven’t been able to have everybody in the building through this season to see that gives you chills and really puts a spark and in our team…”