Just one goal in regulation and overtime again. However, this time Pittsburgh Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan grabbed the chalkboard and designed an effective four-on-three penalty kill. Jake Guentzel scored in the sixth round of the shootout and the Penguins beat the New York Islanders, 2-1 in the shootout. The Penguins earned two points and tied the Islanders for third place in the Metro Division.
The Penguins overtime penalty kill which faltered Saturday was huge, Monday.
“It was a huge kill in overtime. Obviously, that’s the difference in the game,” said head coach Mike Sullivan. “It was a hard fought game. There wasn’t a lot of room.”
Sullivan specifically praised Bryan Rust, Zach Aston-Reese and Jack Johnson. And goaltender Casey DeSmith.
After two periods of faltering offense, the Penguins shuffled the lines at the start of the third period. Through the first two periods, the Penguins offense was concentrated on the top line with Jake Guentzel, Sidney Crosby and Phil Kessel. In the final period, the Penguins added Derick Brassard to the top line and reunited Kessel and Evgeni Malkin on the second line.
“We just thought we’d shake it up and see if we could get a spark,” said Sullivan.
The move paid immediate dividends.
In the opening minutes of the period, the Penguins pinned the Islanders in their own zone. After shots by Guentzel and Crosby, Brassard (4) chipped the puck past Lehner to tie the game, 1-1.
The Penguins dominated the third period with 10 scoring chances but could not score a second goal, until the shootout.
Neither team had many advantages in the first two periods, but the Islanders led 1-0. In the first half of the second period, Brassard’s backcheck took the puck away from the Islanders, but he gave it back nearly in the same motion. Brassard’s steal then a quick pass to center ice was intercepted by Mathew Barzal who started a beautiful play with Josh Bailey and finally Anthony Beauvillier (8) who one-timed it past Penguins goalie Casey DeSmith.
It was a goaltender’s duel and a tight checking game. The teams combined for 32 shots–16 apiece–through two periods. The Islanders outshot the Penguins 26-24.
DeSmith was otherwise the Penguins best player. He stuffed winger Josh Bailey who was wide open in the right wing circle on the Islanders second power play of the first period and Anders Lee with a rebound chance. DeSmith also denied Matt Martin a shorthanded goal in the final seconds of the first period.
“He was really good all night. He was locked in,” Sullivan said. “He made some big saves for us.”
Not even bad luck could rattle DeSmith as the puck caromed off the glass behind the net and nearly deflected off the goalie into the net, but the puck dropped in front of DeSmith instead of behind him. DeSmith stopped 25 of 26 and six shootout attempts.
DeSmith improved to 9-4-4.
Islanders big goalie Robin Lehner who missed the last four games due to injury was as good. Lehner stoned Phil Kessel several times and did the same to Jake Guentzel and Sidney Crosby in the second period, too.
Lehner stopped 23 of 24 shots.
The Penguins took three minor penalties in the first period and another penalty in overtime, but both teams otherwise settled into a tight checking, scrappy game. Penguins defenseman Kris Letang sent Islanders grinder to the dressing room with a stiff hook to the jaw after Clutterbuck cross checked Letang during the Penguins third period power play. Both players were penalized.
The trip marked the beginning of the Penguins annual father’s trip. The players dads will travel with the team to Chicago for the Wednesday, as well.