For the second consecutive game at the Nassau Coliseum, the Pittsburgh Penguins dominated the even-strength play, but for the second consecutive game, the New York Islanders burned the Penguins with a late goal, but this time the Penguins Evgeni Malkin scored in the final seconds to tie the game and force overtime and a shootout.
Sidney Crosby scored the only shootout goal and the Pittsburgh Penguins won 4-3 on Thursday night, to go above .500, 6-5-1.
Evgeni Malkin (3) blasted a shot through traffic with an extra attacker on the ice. His goal tied the game 3-3 with just 18 seconds remaining.
“For Geno to score that one, all the elements were in play. We’ve worked on that 6-on-5 a fair amount. We had traffic in front, we made the goalie’s sightlines difficult,” head coach Mike Sullivan said. “Tanger puts [the pass] right in Geno’s wheelhouse and obviously he can really shoot the puck.”
It appeared the Pittsburgh Penguins were on their way to a sub-.500 record after a sweet individual play by New York center Mathew Barzal, who raced past most Penguins then whizzed around Penguins rookie P-O Joseph. Barzal flipped the shot past Penguins goalie Casey DeSmith with six minutes remaining for a 3-2 New York lead.
Bryan Rust hit the post with 30 seconds and hope waned, until Malkin’s goal.
For most of the game, the Penguins had a big advantage on shots and scoring chances. According to the folks at NaturalStatTrick.com, the Penguins had 56% of the 5v5 shots and 53% of the scoring chances.
The Penguins again trailed after the first period and again ceded the first goal of the game. However, In the middle of the first period, the Penguins looked like their talented, gritty best.
Defenseman Mike Matheson, who was no shy about shooting the puck in the first period, blasted a shot on goal. Sidney Crosby controlled the rebound in the corner and quickly snapped a pass across the slot to Jake Guentzel, who immediately directed a pass to Bryan Rust just outside the crease.
Easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy. Rust (3) survived the bruising net-front battle to easily deflect the puck into the net. Rust now has points in nine of 12 games this season.
Newly activated from the IR, Pittsburgh Penguins winger Zach Aston-Reese had an edge to his game. In the middle of the second period, Aston-Reese’s aggressive forecheck created a turnover behind the New York net. Aston-Reese won the puck battle, then got a couple of whacks
However, New York scored a pair of goals in the first period.
“I think earlier in the year, we’ve not had great starts, and we’ve fallen behind and you’re always trying to get back in the game,” Penguins defenseman Kris Letang said. “Lately our starts have been good, but we still managed to fall behind a little bit. We managed to prove how much character is in this dressing room. Guys never give up.”
Just five minutes into the game, the best fourth line in hockey burned the Penguins. Casey Czikas (3) fished the puck out of defenseman John Marino’s skates, and despite being knocked to the ice was able to deke Penguins goalie Casey DeSmith.
Later in the first period, J-G Pageau (2) deflected Nick Leddy’s wrist shot past DeSmith. For the Penguins, it was yet another power-play goal-against. It was the 11th power-play goal allowed this season and the Penguins PK unit is ranked 26th in the NHL.
After the goal, the Penguins’ season penalty kill percentage was at 70.3%
The Penguins did show some improvement on the PK. Before Pageau scored, Penguins PK members Brandon Tanev and Mark Jankowski had a two-on-none. Jankowski passed to Tanev, who was able to shoot the puck, which made the odd-man break more successful than previous Penguins two-on-none breaks which didn’t yield a shot.
For the first time in five periods, the Penguins got a power play. And like too many of their power plays this season, it was a sad detour from their solid 5v5 play.
DeSmith stopped 21 of 24 shots in regulation. He made five saves in OT. Varlamov made plenty of big saves against the Penguins. He stopped 31 of 34 in regulation.
“He works hard,” Letang said of DeSmith. “Other than working hard, he’s really tough to read. Sometimes, you’re able to know what the goalie is going to do. He keeps the shooters guessing and it serves him really well.”
DeSmith improved to 4-1-0 this season.