The New York Islanders got another magnificent goal from John Tavares, another man-on-a-mission game from Kyle Okposo, and a few more gifts from Marc-Andre Fleury as they won 6-4 in Game 4 and tied their playoff series with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
This result came after each team blew two one-goal leads.
The events were too numerous to recount, but we'll try to record a few for posterity.
The Isles continued their good play at five-on-five, though not as dominant as Games 2 and 3. Their special teams luck (two killed penalties, one poewr play goal) and Fleury's generosity made up for it.
Corey Sznajder had the scoring chance tally like so: "Chances were 17-14 Pens tonight (5-5, 3-8, 6-4 from NYI's POV)."
Brian Strait's knuckler was a fortunate opening goal, the Penguins took advantage of Evgeni Nabokov's aggressiveness just 45 seconds later. James Neal was unaccounted for (one must look at Brad Boyes here too), and Malkin did a masterful job selling the shot and setting Neal up. Neal is one of the Penguins shooters who can kill the Isles.
Mark Streit's first goal (sure looked like Tavares', but he said no and now Tavares doesn't even have an assist) was a solid setup but was helped by Fleury tipping over:
But 58 seconds later, Brian Strait made a "didn't get it deep" pinch (he did, but then he sent the pass across the slot to no one) and Frans Nielsen made an ill-advised change and Neal and Malkin had a 2-on-1. Malkin scored like you knew he would.
Matt Carkner then got beaten, and obliterated, by Matt Cooke on the dump-in, allowing Brenden Morrow to feed Brandon Sutter alone in front. Sutter beat Nabokov shoulder glove side while Carkner continued to battle with Cooke. Bad job, everyone. The Penguins had their first lead of the game.
However, the shift in the Penguins zone late in the second period was fantastic, everything you should like about this team's offense. They were already dealing with a makeshift situation thanks to Andrew MacDonald's injury, so Travis Hamonic and Strait were together and just kind of improvising but within the structure.
Then Okposo, Tavares, Bailey, later Boyes all continued that cycling and created opportunities -- Bailey tripped by Fleury's shaft, no call -- and turnovers to keep it going was, well that's the exciting kind of offense that keeps playoff-watching hearts thumping. Bailey set up Tavares for a juicy one from behind the net.
It didn't lead to a goal right then, but a minute later Okposo was back and shoveling a goal in off of Fleury's ample but no-longer-literally-yellow equipment. They headed to the intermission with a 3-3 tie.
There would be no settling down, though the next goal was where Evgeni Nabokov was blameless. Hard to read a sharp deflection off of Pascal Dupuis' pants.
It all felt so inevitable in this goalfest, so of course Mark Streit scored three minutes later, with just enough of a nudge from Doulgas Murray's skate. Just like Game 3, it was going to be anybody's game down the stretch.
That's when John Tavares, after a great interception and feed by Brad Boyes, did this:
Casey Cizikas' play to get an insurance goal and exploit Fleury again was very Cizikas: Just take the puck and drive and see what happens.
So I'm watching a lot of playoffs and every fanbase is frustrated with officials, probably because the stakes are so high and the mistakes are magnified.
It's not that fans want the whistle thrown out in overtime or whatever, it's that they want CONSISTENCY. Not amorphous situational justice.
In the opening minutes John Tavares drew a friendly hook by Evgeni Malkin, and early on the ensuing power play, Craig Adams blatantly hooked Frans Nielsen up high to negate a prime scoring chance. How was the first a penalty but the second was not? Part of the NHL officiating's situational justice? Too soon in the game to call a 5-on-3?
Not long after, the officials then let the Penguins get away with a by-the-letter but not by-the-spirit too many men situation as well as an after-whistle punch by Brooks Orpik. Then David Ullstrom gave Brooks Orpik a shot after the whistle and Orpik went after him in retaliation, garnering the only penalty.
And I can't even fathom why Brenden Morrow and Matt Cooke were allowed to push Martin into the Penguins bench when the puck was 50 feet away and the result was an effective man disandvantage for the Islanders. Not to mention the Morrow Molestation.
So: Just accept that penalties will seldom make full sense, in either direction, so be careful and kill what you can. Otherwise, you'll drive yourself crazy.
Moment of Nabby
Credit where it's due, Nabokov made a few key and dangerous saves in the third period after Tavares scored. Finally, the Pens weren't allowed to equalize within a minute.
And the Isles are running with him anyway.
As for his counterpart? Dan Bylsma addressed questions about Fleury and Tomas Vokoun. I'd sure make a change, and one seems quite possible for the Pens. But but but:
Crosby: "We’ve got to find a way to keep the puck out of our net, but we’re not pointing fingers. Team defense is so important."
Murray: "We have full confidence in [Murray]. That's not an issue."
Please, by all means.
From Bridgeport's play-by-play man, watching so many Sound Tigers show up big:
The Islanders have some questions for Game 5, not the least of which is how they'll deal with the loss of MacDonald. But on this night, the craziest of nights, things worked out.