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Islanders 6, Penguins 3: Lehner stars, but leaves with injury

Just like they drew it up, the Islanders win by three goals while being outshot by 13.

NHL: New York Islanders at Pittsburgh Penguins
Give me ALL the shots, gobble gobble.
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

A night of Trotz Hockey saw the New York Islanders heavily outshot, but converting their grade-A scoring chances, en route to a 6-3 win over the Penguins in Pittsburgh. The win made it three in a row for the first time this season, and a perfect 3-0 trip through the red, orange and gold half of the Metro.

Robin Lehner was outstanding for the Isles, but he left after the second period, perhaps after tweaking a “lower body” part of one kind or the other. Hopefully he left before pushing it and making it too serious.

[Game Sum | Event Sum | Natural Stat Trick | HockeyViz | Corsica]

Lineup Notes

  • The Penguins were without Kris Letang, the Isles were without Cal Clutterbuck. Even trade there.
  • The latter injury scratch allowed Tom Kuhnhackl to stay in the lineup as the Islanders visited his old team. He’d get on the scoresheet with a little luck.
  • Neither starting goalie finished the game, though for different reasons.

First Period: Whaaat’s happening

Though the Islanders jumped out to a 2-0 lead with two goals in the middle of the period...they were not controlling play. They were outshot 15-6 in the period and scored on two of their first three shots: Very nice plays, but against the run of play.

That would be a theme.

Andrew Ladd opened scoring after a layered attack by the Isles and a sweet pass from the Dashing Valtteri Filppula.

Brock Nelson scored his sixth — because it’s still October — to make it 2-0 on a nice forecheck and pass from Josh Bailey, who took advantage of a curiously soft retrieval attempt by Riley Sheahan, a center by trade.

Although the Penguins drew two penalties from good offensive pressure, both were killed convincingly by the Islanders. All but one of their 15 shots to reach Robin Lehner in the period came at even strength or shorthanded.

Though the Islanders were heavily outshot in the period, the two goals conceded were not of the overwhelmed variety.

The first Penguins goal was simply an own goal when a puck redirected off Ryan Pulock’s skate in the low slot. The second came on a turnover in the neutral zone as the Isles broke out, Jordan Eberle’s whiff allowing Sidney Crosby to take it the other way and beat Lehner clean with a shot to the top glove corner.

Second Period: What is happening, still

The second period was...very much more of the same! The Penguins had the first seven shots on goal.

Then Matt Martin scored. Always stinks when you think you’re playing great, then the other team’s pesky grinders score a rather pretty goal (albeit after a bouncy entry).

That was at 9:32. A little over two minutes later, Jordan Eberle cashed in on the power play by taking a Mathew Barzal pass below the goal line and curling in front to beat Matt Murray.

With the score 4-2 and Murray facing only nine shots, they decided to pull him and change things up.

Narrator: It did not change things up.

Backup Casey DeSmith was beaten two minutes later, on the first shot he faced.

The Penguins challenged this one — because why not? — but the replay was inconclusive. They’d hoped Eberle would prove to be offside, and I confess during live play I thought he was, but the replay couldn’t prove that he didn’t keep his toe on the ice even as his heel went into takeoff position.

Assisted by Barzal, naturally. Just look at that pass:

The Isles were up 5-2 despite managing only 10 shots. As a bonus, they received another power play thanks to the Penguins’ failed offside challenge.

They didn’t convert that, but the Penguins seemed a bit deflated. They had that “it’s just not our night” look. Or, “Damn Trotz Hockey.” After starting 0-7, the Isles ended up outshooting the Penguins in the second period, 11-10. Chances were much more even overall.

Third Period: Concern for Lehner

Robin Lehner, who stopped 23 of 25 shots in the first 40 minutes, was not out for the third period. I can’t say I went over it like the Zapruder film, but I could not figure out what moment might have caused an injury.

Thomas Greiss entered the game, and the Penguins took his Fisherman-inspired mask as a welcome to notch a goal just 83 seconds in.

Evgeni Malkin fought off a Thomas Hickey check in front of the goal and on his second attempt lifted a back hand between a butterflying Greiss’ glove and leg.

The Pens were back within two with almost 19 minutes to go.

But the Islanders got the next goal, with Kuhnhackl spinning on a rebound from a bad angle and getting a fortunate bounce off the skate of Jamie Oleksiak — very nearly a carbon copy of the Dominic Simon goal that went off Pulock’s skate in the first period.

The teams exchanged power plays in the second half of the final period, and the Penguins pulled their goalie early to generate some good looks — and one knob-of-the-stick save by Greiss on Phil Kessel — but that was how the score stood.

The Isles actually sealed this win quite well, perhaps a sign of the organization and calm instilled by Trotz even when being out-talented.

So in the end, the Islanders were outshot 38-25 in Pittsburgh, but came away with a 6-3 win. How about that.

They’ll meet again Thursday in Brooklyn. That one probably finishes 8-2.