Webster's dictionary defines "weaksauce" as... actually, it probably doesn't define it as anything because I'm pretty sure it was a word invented by the internet. It's also a good way to describe the Islanders' performance on a night in which they lost their first game of the season. The sharpness and focus shown in their shootout win over San Jose was present for just the first half of the first period. After that, the Penguins took control while the Islanders didn't take advantage of ample powerplays.
The Islanders picked up where they left off on Thursday versus the Sharks by keeping pressure in the Penguins zone for the better part of the first ten minutes. On a rush up ice, Brock Nelson bobbled the puck but it ended up in space and sliding towards Ryan Strome. Just before grabbing the puck, Strome saw Thomas Hickey alone on the other side of the zone and flung a sweet lead pass right to Hickey's stick. With a quick release Hickey hit the top corner behind Marc-Andre Fleury for the game's first goal.
That's when things started to unravel for the Islanders and tighten up for the Penguins. Play shifted more towards the Islanders' end, aided by a Penguins powerplay that, although scoreless, yielded a lot of shots. Patric Hornqvist had a great chance in close, but Jaroslav Halak was there to stop him.
By the end of the period, the Islanders seemed to be hanging on for the whistle. They would continue to look like that throughout the second.
The penalty parade started about five minutes into the second, but the Islanders were able to kill of Johnny Boychuk's puck-over-glass minor. Soon the Penguins were down two men for 1:23 thanks to penalties to Steve Downey and Sidney Crosby and the Islanders had a golden opportunity to pad their lead and regain a fraction of the control they had started the game with.
But too many passes and sloppy feeds whittled the time away with nary a clean shot on goal. We've seen this movie before and it was just a matter of time before the missed chance became a tide changer. A hooking call on Cory Conacher and a too many men on the ice penalty gave the Penguins their own five on three and the other best powerplay in the NHL took about .00003 seconds to tie the game on Evgeni Malkin's slapshot.
A little over a minute later, another Conacher penalty led to Malkin's second goal of the game. With Halak screened, Malkin's slapper from the top of the right circle gave the Penguins the lead.
Shots were 11-8 in favor of the Penguins in the period, but the optics of it were much worse. It wasn't as bad as the Islanders' second period against the Rangers last Tuesday, but it wasn't a whole lot better. With the game slipping away, the crowd finally into the action and hostilities rising with some pushing and finger pointing, the hope for the Islanders was a wildly successful third period like the one they had at Madison Square Garden.
The score was close and the Islanders were given four powerplays to try for the tying goal. It did not materialize. The sloppy play continued (Butch Goring accurately described the Islanders' overall game as "dull" and he wasn't talking about the excitement level) and the Penguins were never really threatened, except for one.
While racing back into the Islanders' zone to retrieve the puck, Frans Nielsen and Steve Downie came together in the corner. Downie bodied Nielsen to the ice to get the puck. Travis Hamonic, trailing right behind them and most likely frustrated by the score and a hit that forced him out of the first period early, leaped on Downie and began hammering on his skull. Downie received a charging minor and a fighting major while Hamonic got two for instigating, five for fighting, a game misconduct and headstart towards the showers. Not having Hamonic for over three quarters of the period wasn't going to help the Islanders mount a comeback, but reports after the game were that Jack Capuano praised the defenseman for his high Battle Level.
The Islanders' best chance to tie the game came during another Downie penalty and a scramble in Fleury's crease. Kyle Okposo and John Tavares had whacks but Brock Nelson grabbed the puck as it squirted loose, took two seconds to size up his shot and ended up sending it off of Marcel Goc and wide of the net.
A swing from the boards by Johnny Boychuk was picked off by Sidney Crosby, who fed Chris Kunitz who then cleared toward the the empty net. Hornqvist knocked in the ambling puck to seal it.
The Islanders' undefeated opening - and a chance to be the first team in franchise history to start a season 5-0 - were done in by careless play and seven (7) wasted man advantages. The Penguins didn't exactly run the Islanders out of the building, but they capitalized on their powerplays the way veteran, tested teams do.
Coach Capuano told me the 1st thing he said to the #Isles after the game is they need more team support like Hamonic stepping in for Nielsen— Shannon Hogan (@Shannon_Hogan) October 19, 2014
Maybe Cappy rips into them but shots were 38-35 in the end. Off night for the PP, and 2 SHG (one 5 on 3). Whattaya gonna do? Its the Pens.— Keith (@KeithLHHockey) October 19, 2014