The Pittsburgh Penguins got off to a great start. They led 2-0, were controlling the play, and it looked like they might skate the New York Islanders out of the barn and down the rocky terrain of 5th Avenue.
Funny how these Penguins work.
After a hyper first period, they took a nap for most of the second. After 16 minutes of the second period, the Islanders controlled the period shot clock 19-3. If not for one bad bounce and the quick-strike first line, the game would have been much different.
But, it was the Penguins who were opportunistic.
“Every year is a challenge and you need so many things to go right to give yourself an opportunity to play in the playoffs. And it’s not given to you and you see how tight the league is. It’s not easy,” Crosby said. “So you appreciate those opportunities. You work hard and everybody works hard to give ourselves a chance to do that.”
The Penguins only zipped 26 shots on Islanders netminder Ilya Sorokin and two on the empty net, but Crosby hammered a close-ranger slapshot off Sorokin to finish a two-on-none for a 4-1 lead.
The Penguins, led by Crosby, resuscitated their waning game for the third period. Crosby even earned a roughing penalty early in the third period to serve notice to his team and opponent of what was to come. The Penguins puck control was again sharp, and scoring chances followed.
“What I love about the group we have, no one is ever looking for excuses,” head coach Mike Sullivan said. “Through suspensions, illnesses, the COVID stuff…no one looks for excuses.”
Crosby had three points (1-2-3) and Guentzel had four points, including two goals. The Pittsburgh Penguins win not only clinched a playoff berth, but put them five points ahead of the Washington Capitals, who lost to Toronto, 7-3 on Thursday night. Washington has two games in hand, but the Penguins again control their fate, regarding third place in the Metro Division.