PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Penguins again had a lead almost immediately evaporate as the New York Islanders quickly scored following a Penguins tally. This time the Penguins lead last 94 seconds but New York scored a pair of first period goals and never let the Penguins score again. The handshake line commenced as the New York Islanders defeated the Penguins 3-1 in Game 4 and completed the Round One sweep.
The Penguins rode a wave of crowd support and desperation to a goal on the first shift of the game. Penguins captain Sidney Crosby owned the puck down low in the offensive zone and feathered a pass to linemate Jake Guentzel in the slot. It was just like old times as the dynamic playoff scorer Guentzel (1) buried a top-shelf wrist shot.
The Penguins were lifted and nearly all of the 18,609 fans roared their approval.
But the Penguins have not been able to contain New York in the moments and minutes following a Penguins goal and Game 4 was no exception. For the fourth straight game, New York scored within minutes of a Penguins goal and for the third straight game, the New York goal erased a Penguins lead.
“It’s disappointing because it seems that was the case the whole series,” said Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan. “Everytime we scored, get some momentum, we gave it back.”
Penguins defenseman Kris Letang followed a loose puck in the offensive zone but Dominik Simon did not remain high in the zone. Both Simon and Letang chased the resulting New York two-on-one which Jordan Eberle (4) finished.
The Penguins continued their attack in the opening 20 minutes but per the script of the series, New York scored the next goal.
Late in the first period, New York won a pair of puck battles and again finished their chance. The Penguins fourth line forwards were not able to gain the loose puck near the red line, then New York forechecker Josh Bailey cleanly beat Penguins defenseman Marcus Pettersson behind the Penguins net for another New York opportunity.
Brock Nelson (3) beat Garrett Wilson to the net and neatly deflected Bailey’s pass into the net.
“They blocked shots, they forechecked, they backchecked. They looked like they wanted it more,” Evgeni Malkin said who backtracked when his words were repeated back to him. “Tonight we played better. It doesn’t mean we’re not trying.”
The second period was a thrill ride which nearly culminated a player-goalie fight, but no goals were scored. In the middle of the second period, Penguins forward Patric Hornqvist hit everyone and everything within feet of the New York crease until New York goalie Robin Lehner began whacking Hornqvist with the goalie paddle.
A melee ensued but neither side was able to use the emotional surge for good. Sidney Crosby hit the post with an open net in the second period and that was as close as the Penguins would get.
The Penguins pressed and pressured the New York Islanders in the third period, but neither team lit the lamp until Josh Bailey scored the empty net goal with 37 seconds remaining.
Robin Lehner stopped 32 of 33 shots for his first playoff series win. Penguins goalie Matt Murray stopped 23 of 25 shots.
–The Penguins series report card coming up. Also–LIVE CHAT tomorrow at Redbeard’s on 6th Ave. downtown Pittsburgh. It will be a Penguins wake. Join us at 1 p.m.