That's right folks: you don't just get my slowness in the morning; you get my slowness in the evening, too. Please try to contain yourselves.
There was reason to fear tonight's game coming into it. The Islanders had played the night before, dropping a 3-2 contest to the Montreal Canadiens off a late Shea Weber power play rip. They had to travel to western Pennsylvania (ew) to play a rested Pittsburgh Penguins team, their first match-up against the defending Cup champs and their vaunted offense this season.
Still, there was reason to not totally despair. The Penguins were without Kris Letang, the backbone of their otherwise suspect/inexperienced defense corps, and it certainly showed when the Isles were able sustain some offensive zone time.
19 year-old rookie Mathew Barzal took an expected seat after turnovers led to between one and two goals last night, depending on who you believe. Shane Prince was activated off IR a couple hours before game time and dressed, playing on a line with Ryan Strome in the middle and Alan Quine on the opposite wing. The other three lines, as well as the defense personnel and pairings, were the same from the previous night's game. JF Berube backed up Jaroslav Halak, while Matt Murray performed the same role behind Marc-Andre Fleury.
The game started ominously enough, as John Tavares took a penalty on his first shift. Giving the Penguins an early chance on the power play is typically not something you want to do, and they reminded us why: Patric Hornqvist scored on a beautiful tic-tac-toe passing play. Upon replay Johnny Boychuk and Thomas Hickey both went after Phil Kessel on the left side, and both realized too late that Hornqvist was open on the opposite side.
After the slow first minute, they seemed to settle in, generating a good amount of chances throughout the rest of the period and giving hope that they would get that early goal back. Marc-Andre Fleury had other ideas, however. Among his saves - he robbed Andrew Ladd in front, and then Josh Bailey on the rebound on the first power play.
Shane Prince, who had himself quite the nice game (more on that later), ended up all by himself off a gorgeous stretch look from Ryan Strome, showed some spice and had Fleury beat, but dinged it off the post.
The Islanders started the second much like they started the first: slowly. Halak made a gem of a stop on Daley from in close in the first minute of the second. But much like the first period, they settled in after the hectic opening to the period.
Anthony Beauvillier, Brock Nelson, and Anders Lee had a beautiful chance on a 3 on 2 they couldn't convert. Beau carried it in, fed Nelson cross-ice, who found Lee cutting in.
About a minute later, Casey Cizikas got a breakaway on which he was hounded by a Penguin, resulting in an Islanders power play. Fleury made another amazing save on a Strome one-timer off a sweet cross-ice feed from Ladd.
Just when it seemed like Fleury was gonna give us the old goose egg (despite what had been one of our better efforts to this point), the Islanders finally popped a goal. Prince carried the puck all the way up ice for a 2-on-1 opportunity where he fed Travis Hamonic for nice, low snap shot.
The furor from the goal ended up drawing the Isles two more power plays before the period was over, and they were leading the Pens in shots 32-19. Even-strength shot attempts painted a picture of a more evenly played game (see the Natural Stat Trick link above), but against a Penguins team that lead the league in shot attempts % last season, evenly played is all you can ask for, especially on a traveling back-to-back.
The Islanders started the third continuing a power play that had briefly gotten under way at the end of the second. It didn't last long, though, after Strome took a blatant high-sticking penalty against Trevor Daley.
The Penguins generated numerous opportunities and the Isles seemed to sit back on their heels, and it only seemed like a matter of time before Evgeni Malkin sent one through Halak's five-hole. Sometimes, you can just get the sense something bad is going to happen.
The Islanders had a chance to get that goal back when Malkin tripped Hickey . Fleury made yet another gorgeous save on Bailey, but he got burned when Nelson cleared the puck behind the goal from the center line. It took an odd carom to Prince, who beat Fleury trying to rush back to his net. With just over 4 minutes left, it silenced the crowd... temporarily.
About two minutes later, with the Pens buzzing again, Hickey passed to Prince in the D-zone, which Sidney Crosby intercepted and put in the back of the net.
Off the next faceoff, Ladd took a pretty dirty penalty of frustration, pushing Carl Hagelin's face into the glass. The ensuing power play led to yet another Penguins goal, this one from Kessel. Will be interesting to see if Ladd faces any supplemental discipline. My guess: a warning, but it probably should be at least a game.
The Islanders tried pulling Halak with a minute and a half to go, but they couldn't get one past Fleury, let alone two, and drop another game in regulation.
Jack Capuano's Post-Game Comments
Overall, Cappy was pleased with the effort the guys gave tonight. He was happy with the amount of shots they were able to create, especially from the back end, but he would like to see some more goals - but wouldn't we all. He thought the defense needed to get back on Crosby's game-winner, but that both goalies played extremely well. He is unsure of Sunday's lineup.
The Islanders have two days off before their next game, a 6:00 p.m. start against the Toronto Maple Leafs. We get our first look at young phenom Auston Matthews, and longtime and beloved Islander Matt Martin returns to the Brooklyn/Long Island area for the first time since leaving. In the mean time, enjoy your Halloweekend and be safe.