Once upon an evening dreary, the Pittsburgh Penguins (10-8-1) pondered weak and weary. The team has just two shots in the first period, and things didn’t improve much through the second period. Perhaps an afternoon start time, the second of back-to-back games, or simply the inconsistency which GM Ron Hextall said his team had to improve, but the Penguins barely came tapping at the New York Islanders door.
The Penguins went quietly, and New York won 2-0.
The loss means the Penguins are two points behind the Philadelphia Flyers for the fourth spot in the East Division, but Philadelphia has two games in hand. The Penguins trail the Islanders by three points.
The Penguins earned at least a point in 10 of the last 11 games against the Islanders, but it was clear this would not be the 11th game with points. The Penguins had just two shots in the first period. Their first shot didn’t come for nearly 16 minutes into the game.
“They play hard, they’re up and tight in the zone. They play high in the D-zone,” Penguins defenseman John Marino said. “We have to do a better job.”
Casey DeSmith made his first start since Feb. 11 and was solid. He stopped 23 of the first 25 shots through two periods.
Islanders goalie Ilya Sorokin has struggled this season with a 1-2-1 record, but New York took care of him. Sorokin had nary a test or anything resembling a hard save until New York established a 2-0 lied.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. The Penguins trailed after the first period. New York winger Oliver Wahlstrom staked the Islanders a first-period lead. After Marcus Pettersson’s hooking penalty late in the opening period, Wahlstrom blasted a one-timer from the LW dot.
DeSmith may have heard the puck as it whistled past, but he certainly couldn’t have stopped it.
New York similarly turned down the volume in the second period. The Penguins improved on their first-period snoozer but had only eight shots. New York had 16.
“You see how the Islanders played (Sunday). They just worked for 60 minutes,” Evgeni Malkin said. “They don’t play a pretty game. They play simple and they won every battle in the offensive zone but to win, we have to play hard.”
And, in the second period, New York scored a second power-play goal. J-G Pageau’s (9) one-timer in the slot was deflected and hidden in traffic. The off-speed shot fooled DeSmith.
The Penguins had just 10 shots after two periods. New York sat on the lead in the third period, which allowed the Penguins to close the shot-clock gap, but it wasn’t nearly enough.
According to AT&T Sports, it was the first time the Islanders shutout the Penguins since 1986. Kelly Hrudey was the winning goalie.
Head coach Mike Sullivan was terse following the game. Included in several short answers was his reponse regarding the Penguins PK, which gave up two more goals and is statistically among the worst in the league.
“We are what we are. We’re giving up too many goals. It’s not good enough.”
Pittsburgh Penguins Talking Points:
Head coach Mike Sullivan swapped the RWs on the first three lines to start the second period. Brandon Tanev played with Evgeni Malkin. Bryan Rust was reunited with Sidney Crosby. And Kasperi Kapanen was demoted to the third line with Teddy Blueger.
Jake Guentzel-Sidney Crosby-Bryan Rust
The four players showed noticeable effort and pushback.
Kasperi Kapanen was again demoted during the game. He was benched last weekend. Sunday evening, he was given limited ice time.
The entire team: New York was very strict defensively, but the Penguins didn’t crack New York or come close for the first 50 minutes.