Cal Clutterbuck was wide open near the Pittsburgh Penguins crease and buried the first of two New York Islanders’ goals early in the third period. It wasn’t a defensive breakdown that left Clutterbuck wide open but a lost lid that allowed the Islanders fourth-liner to bury a rebound chance.
New York put the Penguins on their heels, and a defeat seemed likely as defenseman John Marino’s helmet spun on the ice like the Penguins’ heads were spinning on the bench. Per NHL rules, a player cannot continue to play without a helmet, and Marino’s was knocked off during a puck battle in the corner.
Whether or not Marino’s helmet was knocked off intentionally will be a matter of debate, as will Marino’s ability to stay in the play.
“We’re actually asking for a little bit more clarity in that circumstance because it’s our understanding that John can stay in the battle there,” Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan said on Friday. “Obviously, we get outnumbered because of it. So we’re actually asking for clarity on that from the league because it’s my understanding that he can stay in that battle and look for the opportune time to get to the bench.”
After his helmet fell to the ice, Marino skated towards it but couldn’t pick it up on the first pass. On video replay, he hesitated before racing for the bench.
The second-year pro was visibly angry on the bench after Clutterbuck, who would have been Marino’s responsibility, scored.
Defenseman Cody Ceci, who changed for Marino, could not get into the play in time. The goal halved the Penguins’ lead to 3-2 and launched New York’s comeback.
The NHL instituted the rule beginning with the 2019-20 season. It also states, “shall be given a reasonable opportunity to complete the play,” but Marino was on the edge of scrum and wasn’t technically making a play on the puck.
Also, should a player internationally knock another player’s helmet off, it is a roughing penalty by rule. When it leads to a goal:
Perhaps intentionally knocking a helmet off should be reviewable?
— Dan Kingerski 🇺🇦 (@TheDanKingerski) May 21, 2021
That would have made the game interesting.
Pittsburgh Penguins 4th Line/ Zach Aston-Reese:
The Pittsburgh Penguins fourth line began and ended the scoring on Thursday night. The output continued the Penguins fourth line prominence, which has thus far kept the Islanders’ top liners Mathew Barzal and Jordan Eberle from scoring a goal.
The trio centered by Teddy Blueger, which Zach Aston-Reese on the left and Brandon Tanev on the right, has been a secret weapon since Sullivan united them early last season. Both Tanev and Aston-Reese received Selke award votes last season.
However, while a handful of Penguins have Stanley Cup rings, Aston-Reese arrived a year too late. The winger didn’t make his NHL debut until late in the 2017-18 season. Since then, the Penguins have won only one playoff series.
Aston-Reese was originally credited with the game’s first goal, but scorers later changed it to Kris Letang.
“I could have zero points and be completely happy as long as we’re winning. You know, it’s so much fun winning in playoffs,” Aston-Reese said. “I’ve had a lot of playoff experience…that previous experience kind of not doing so well stinks. So just to have team success…the last two games has been feeling really good.”
Aston-Reese has one assist in three playoff games this season. He had one assist in four games last season and three career assists in 20 playoff games. Had the original scoring stuck, it would have been Aston-Reese’s first playoff goal.
The Penguins win on Thursday night gave the team their first series lead since they won Game 1 of their Round Two matchup against the Washington Capitals in 2018. In fact, the Penguins have won only two playoff games since then.
For Aston-Reese, the difference in feeling is something to enjoy, and it’s the first time the Penguins have won a second game in any series since 2018.
On Thursday night, PHN asked Sullivan about the atmosphere and conversations on the Penguins bench when New York turned the game into a battle royal. Aston-Reese further described the scene on Friday.
“Right off the top of my head, it just comes to (Brandon) Tanev. I know he was the first guy to start being vocal. He was telling the boys ‘just relax, calm down. Play a simple game.’ We’ve got to get pucks north and get in on the forecheck,” Aston-Reese said. “(Kris Letang), too, said force them to defend…it’s just a crazy atmosphere, and we’ve got to play the right way to drown out the crowd and limit the Islanders.”