The Pens threw a sweet closing-out party for the Igloo, with a ton of former Penguins back in the building. (Did you know Andy Bathgate scored the first Penguins goal at the Igloo? I didn't even realize he'd stuck around until expansion, but there you go.) They put all those old Pens together for a massive team photo with the current Pens, who were all genuinely excited rather than bored to see the alumni. It was the right way to say goodbye.
Then the game started and the Penguins scored 23 seconds in, and again on a powerplay four minutes later, yada yada yada Pens win 7-3.
On the bright side: John Tavares got his 50th point, Matt Moulson scored his 28th goal, and Kyle Okposo scored his 18th. Mark Streit had a nice night, assisting on Moulson's and on Josh Bailey's 16th goal with tip-in shots from the point. And if you're lottery watching, every team you want to win won (Carolina, Tampa Bay, Florida).
On the ugly side: Martin Biron was lit up early and yanked during the first intermission, and Bailey did not return to the game after being checked face-first into the boards by Alexei Ponikarovsky. Thankfully, Katie Strang reported that Bailey "has a nasty cut but is okay."
Also ugly: The Islanders powerplay in general, but especially during the five-minute powerplay that followed Poni's hit and ejection. The game was already out of reach at that point, but it would have been nice to see some life from the PP unit there. The Isles do appear to be tinkering with the PP though...
In addition to trying Frans Nielsen on the point in recent weeks, tonight they were working a sort of rotating umbrella formation, periodically having three guys high -- Trent Hunter even spent time there before going down low -- with one of them often drifting to that "soft" area of the high slot. Tavares is also showing more confidence to use his magic hands in tight around the net, which is a good sign. As he gets more assertive there -- and as that, presumably, produces results -- he's going to command more respect and create more space for teammates.
Games in the dog days of the season are great times to mess with a PP that isn't working; I just wish the full unit was giving 100 percent while they tinker. Tonight they showed creativity but no urgency, and a lot of sleepwalking. Moulson's goal was the only successful one as the unit went 1 for 6.
This and That
- For the bad guys, Sidney Crosby got
two goals to reach 50[EDIT: Crosby was originally credited with two goals and his 50th was announced, but they've since changed the scoring to give his "50th" to Bill Guerin, or rather Guerin's well-placed butt cheek.] and BIll Guerin scored an early third-period goal to reach 20[edit: that'd be 21, then] again. That man just might play again next year, too.
- Tavares was minus-3. For Bruno watchers, Gervais returned and was minus-1, though he was also on for two PP goals against. He definitely helped screen Dwayne Roloson by backing in, but so did Jack Hillen, who was covering his man cruising across Roloson's field of view.
- Jeff Tambellini skated 10:42 and assisted on Okposo's goal -- a beautiful against-the-grain snapshot from the slot. Tamby also took a penalty soon after the five-minute PP expired. Tambellini was mostly unnoticeable, but he did play with Frans Nielsen and Trent Hunter, which means several of his shifts were against Crosby's line. Combine Okposo's goal with Crosby's one even-strength goal and you get Tamby's even +/- on the night.
Greg Mauldin in his first NHL game as an Islander filled the Richard Park role: He mostly centered a fourth line with Trevor Gillies and Tim Jackman, but he won 8 of 11 faceoffs and had a couple of shots. Not flashy but responsible.
- On Biron's four first-period goals against, Alex Goligosky picked a beautiful postage stamp corner on the powerplay, Crosby scored through a screen created by Pascal Dupuis (who should have been called for interference), and Evgeni Malkin scored on a breakaway. Brooks Orpik's opening-minute goal was a floater from the point, though it went through Matt Cooke waving his stick like a signal flag. So Biron did not let in stinkers exactly, but he didn't look good, either.
- The crowd was weirdly quiet except for Penguins goals (which were plentiful, of course). After Isles goals, I've never heard a building so silent. I don't know if they were spent from the ceremony, or if it was a more special-occasion cocktail set than usual, but it was almost creepy. Nonetheless, the Pens sent the Igloo's regular season life out in style. She was a good building, and I'm sad to see her go.
Lottery Watchers Anonymous
The Islanders drop to 25th thanks to Carolina's win over the Habs. The Hurricanes are up by two points but have only one game remaining. With Tampa Bay's shootout win over Ottawa, and Florida's win over New Jersey, both Florida teams move up to within two points of the Islanders. They will share a minimum four points between them in their home-and-home this weekend.
The Devils' loss means the Penguins have tied them with an identical record, but the Devils own the tiebreaker so both teams very much want wins over the Isles this weekend.
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I think that's all I've got on the game. It wasn't very fun -- the in-game thread kept me entertained though.
Check out WebBard's growing "History Will Be Made" series as adapted for the Islanders (Rob Schremp Hockey | Messier parody | Milbury). Seeing Schremp's goals backwards is mesmerizing. WB's Nystrom one is here, and now I notice there is another Nystrom one out there that has a less amusingly ambiguous tagline.