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Pressure Intensifies, Game 5: Penguins Lines, Notes & Matchups vs. Islanders

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Pittsburgh Penguins

The Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Islanders have alternated wins in the most hotly contested Round One series in the NHL. Perhaps no two teams hate each other quite as much as the Penguins and Islanders. Game 5 is back in Pittsburgh. The puck drops at 7 p.m., though it is on NBCsn, so expect the game to start fifteen to 20 minutes later.

The series is tied 2-2 after the Islanders’ thorough Game 4 win. 

The Penguins held the lead for most of the series until Game 4, in which the Penguins never led. The team that has scored first in each game has won.

The physicality in the series has become an issue. Not only are the Islanders a more physical team, but their ability to be disciplined in Game 4 stood in contrast to the Penguins’ loose discipline. Head coach Mike Sullivan alluded to the Penguins’ lack of playoff time.

“…It’s tough to evaluate it when you get 30 seconds of power play time, and that’s all we got last game…but we know going in that the Islanders have a real good power play,” Sullivan said. “They’re very aggressive…They’re going to put pressure on us. We’re going to have to be able to support the puck and make sure that that we have people in the right places to support the puck so that we can beat the pressure.”

The goalies are set. Tristan Jarry and Ilya Sorokin will stay in goal unless Barry Trotz is crazy enough to back to Semyon Varlamov. Sorokin has won both of his starts in the series and is clearly outplaying the Islanders starter.

Expected Pittsburgh Penguins Lines & Special Teams

LWCRW
Jake GuentzelSidney CrosbyBryan Rust
Jason Zucker Evgeni MalkinKasperi Kapanen
Jared McCannJeff CarterFreddy Gaudreau
Zach Aston-Reese Teddy BluegerBrandon Tanev
LDRD
Brian DumoulinKris Letang
Mike MathesonCody Ceci
Marcus PetterssonJohn Marino
Expected Islanders Lines  
Leo KomarovMathew BarzalJordan Eberle
Anthony BeauvillierBrock NelsonJosh Bailey
Kyle PalmieriJ-G PageauOliver Wahlstrom
Matt MartinCasey CzikasCal Clutterbuck
Adam PelechRyan Pulock
Nick LeddyScott Mayfield
Andy GreeneNoah Dobson

Penguins PP Overall: 1-8, 12.5%

Penguins PK Overall: 9-12, 75.0%

What to Watch:

The cat and mouse game with the Islanders’ physicality. The Pittsburgh Penguins came for a scrap in Game 4 and found a conservative New York team.

The Penguins will have to hold back and let New York be the aggressors because the reverse just isn’t the Penguins game.

Here’s what the Penguins must and can’t do in Game 5. 

And here is what the betting experts say. 

The line matchups center on the Penguins’ top line and the Islanders fourth line. The Penguins haven’t had an answer for the Isles bangers, but the Islanders–until Game 4–didn’t have a great answer for Sidney Crosby or Jeff Carter. The Penguins fourth line has kept Islanders’ top-line center Mathew Barzal off the scoreboard, and Brandon Tanev has hit everything that moved.

However, Penguins’ top liners Bryan Rust has one goal, and Jake Guentzel has only one assist. Which team’s top line will break through first? The team whose top-line cracks the score sheet probably wins the series.

The forecheck battle will also dictate the winner.

“…It’s just control and momentum. It’s keeping the game simple. It’s making good decisions between the blue lines. So I think the forecheck is an important part of our identity,” Sullivan said. “That’s what our team at its best. And when we’re playing on our toes, we’re anticipating, and we’re making good decisions with the puck between the blue lines, I think that’s what our team is at its best. So it boils down to a mindset, but it’s also about decision making and execution.”

Pittsburgh Penguins Game Notes:

-The Penguins have an all-time series record of 15-9 in best-of-seven playoff series when entering Game 5 tied 2-2 in the series. In those series where Pittsburgh has home-ice advantage, they are 8-5.

-The Penguins are 19-9 all-time under Sullivan in the playoffs following a loss (7-1 in 2016; 7-2 in 2017; 3-2 in 2018; 0-3 in 2019; 1- 1 in 2020; 1-0 in 2021).

-With his first career playoff goal in Game 4, Zach Aston-Reese registered the Penguins’ first shorthanded goal in the playoffs since April 29, 2017, when Matt Cullen tallied a shorty in Game 2 of Round Two at Washington.

-In the first two games at PPG Paints Arena, Jarry 1-1 record, 2.20 goals-against average, and a .937 save percentage.

-Among the 2013 NHL Draft class, Jake Guentzel’s 25 goals trails only Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon (26), and Guentzel’s 47 points trails only MacKinnon (63).

-Evgeni Malkin is just one point shy of tying Penguins’ Hall-of-Fame owner Mario Lemieux for the second-most playoff points in franchise history.

How to Watch

TV: AT&T NBCSN; Radio: 105.9 The X

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