First period: bad. Second period: good(ish)! Third period: oomph. It was nice to see the Islanders -- led by Yann Danis, who made 27 saves -- make the playoff-chasing Penguins sweat a little. But after rebounding in the second with some good scoring chances, the Islanders were on their heels through most of the third. This yawner of a game's single goal, a Petr Sykora tap-in with just 2:28 left, had the feel of inevitability as the Penguins' pressure mounted.
I'm just glad that, if the Isles were going to lose, they didn't take it to OT for the lottery-spoiling loser point in the NHL's "To Every Game a Winner, To Some Games Three Points" system.
Mark Streit logged nearly 27 minutes in this one, but the power play somehow managed zero shots on three chances. The power play wasn't as bad as that -- they moved the puck at times and created a few chances -- but it wasn't good.
Sean Bergenheim was one of the bright spots. Most Islanders 5-on-5 (and shorthanded) chances seemed to generate from him, and his failure to finish on a breakaway and other odd-man rushes was some tough luck. The Kid Line of Comeau/Bailey/Okposo had an off night (except for Okposo, who never seems to disappear) and were on for the game-winning goal.
Still, Scott Gordon was pleased with the effort:
"The bottom line is that for 60 minutes, 5-on-5 after the first period, we were pretty good," New York coach Scott Gordon said. "Most of their shots in the third period came on the power play and it wasn't so much great plays by them, it was our inability to get the puck down the ice when we had opportunities. They got chances off those."
Hmmm. Talk about faint praise. Honestly, the Crosby-less Penguins did not look all that great. Certainly not like a team that desperately needed to take two points -- other than their running Evgeni Malkin out there again and again until he set up the goal. It was fun to see the Islanders hold them off for so long, more because you know the demons of self-doubt creep into a team on the outside looking in when it can't finish games like this.
But finish, the Pens did, in a style that suits interim coach Dan Bylsma just fine and getting them to just two points from 8th in the East:
"There weren't a lot of pucks to the net until the third period. But that's the kind of recipe you play and win hockey games with - you get into the offensive zone, stay there and grind it down and set yourself up for the third period."
Good luck to them. For this Isles fan, one of the benefits of a lost season like this, where a top-two pick has become the overriding goal: Losses like this are pretty easy to shake off.