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Islanders 3*, Penguins 2 (*SO): Greiss goes Dubi on Crosby in OT, Bailey wins shootout

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The Isles pull into a tie for first place in the Metropolitan.

NHL: Pittsburgh Penguins at New York Islanders
Bailey does it again.
Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports

Debuting their latest third jerseys, the New York Islanders, almost inexplicably, had a chance to take over first place in the Metro Division in the Brooklyn half of their home-and-home with the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday night.

Instead, they had to settle for a tie, with the modern version of a tie-plus, by pulling out a 3-2 shootout victory that gave them two points, and the Penguins one, to bring both to 15 points on the young season.

The goalies were great, the teams were both, heh, well, well coached, and it’s the first time in memory that these teams met and both played a controlled, steady game without massive odd-man rushes, counterattacks, or wild swings in play.

I’m in no way willing to dismiss concerns about their roster and how badly they’ve been outshot most of this season, but they are showing increasing signs that the Barry Trotz Effect is, well, in effect. The goalies are playing a little out of their mind, but that is much more possible when there is organized and defensive effort in front of them. When Trotz arrived I figured he would surely make the most of whatever roster he’s handed, warts and all, and their recent form has hinted at that for longer and longer stretches of games.

Tonight their poorest stretch was the opening five minutes of the third period, rather than the first 30 minutes or so like some other nights.

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

First Period

After recovering from abysmal starts in recent games — Tuesday’s first period was “the worst of the season” in Barry Trotz’s estimation — the Islanders came out strong. Really strong. Exhibiting many of the positive tight-checking, intense-backchecking efforts from their best showings this season, while avoiding the passive mistakes from Tuesday.

They didn’t dominate, but they arguably outchanced the Penguins or at least held serve.

But hockey being hockey, they reached the first intermission trailing 1-0.

  • The teams had an early 4-on-4 when Jamie Oleksiak and Leo Komarov both went off for harassing each other. No major action there though.
  • With Mathew Barzal in the box a couple of minutes later, the Penguins opened scoring 10 seconds before the power play would expire. Dominic Simon arrived at the perfect time to knock in the rebound of a Jake Guentzel shot.
  • The closest the Isles came to tying it was not an official shot; Adam Pelech rang one off the post from the slot on a setup from Mathew Barzal.

Second Period

The second period was a little weaker, but still solid, and turned on a a shorthander late in the period.

But before all that, there was a scary moment for the Penguins and Matt Murray, who has a concussion history in his young career, when Brock Nelson crashed into him after a hard shove from Jack Johnson. The trainer checked on Murray, but he stayed in the game.

And there was a scary (non-health related) moment for the Isles when Greiss was forced to make a quick glove save on a Phil Kessel breakaway after a quick counter when Anthony Beauvillier blew a tire carrying the puck into the Isles zone.

Matt Martin looked like he might be lost to injury, and for a while when he left the ice favoring his shoulder, then headed to the locker room. He returned for a shift late in the period, however, and came back out for the third, too.

The Isles got the equalizer on a momentous series of events:

After an exchange of penalties — Josh Bailey was called on the weakest of hooking calls to negate an Isles power play — the teams played at 4-on-4 until Anders Lee made a risky pass along the blueline to Adam Pelech, who doesn’t really have the hands/mobility combo to assure that would be a high percentage play.

The puck bobbled on Pelech, so he interfered with (but didn’t pull down or ultimately stop) Evgeni Malkin, and thus a 2-on-0 resulted with Oleksiak afforded a solo chance that Greiss stopped.

With the Penguins looking at a 37-second 4-on-3 that would then become a 14-second 5-on-3 — a golden chance to double their lead late in the period — Mike Sullivan called a timeout for them to rest and strategize.

Instead, the Isles killers bore down, with Valtteri FIlppula up top doing much of the work. With Filppula smartly consuming most of the remainder of the 5-on-3 on a slow-walk clear, he went to the bench for a change with Casey Cizikas. Cizikas then blocked a chance, fought his way to win the puck on the sideboards, and made a bank pass to...Josh Bailey! Out of the box and ready to get karmic restitution for the bad call.

Bailey smartly sprinted toward center ice, deftly accepted Cizikas’ bank pass, and then faked a shot on Murray to open up his legs and score five-hole.

That’s points in seven straight games for Bailey, who I guess must still be riding the fumes of coattails of 91 or something.

Third Period

The third period opened quite poorly. The Isles were essentially hemmed into their own zone for most of the first five minutes. Chance after chance for the Pens, blown clears and puck watching from the Isles.

Against the run of play, Brock Nelson nearly set up Bailey at the doorstep on their lone counterattack, but Bailey was tied up — you might say it was a blatant hook, given the previously exhibited standard — and it went off his skate without a shot.

But like Tuesday night, the Isles got a go-ahead goal even while being swarmed. Thomas Hickey sent a horizontal pass into traffic in the low slot, and it deflected in off of Anders Lee’s right skate.

The Islanders were in position to take a lead late into the third, but...SOFT PENALTY ALERT. This time it was Lee receiving a slashing call at the offensive blueline. And this time the Penguins cashed in, Evgeni Malkin’s rising shot deflecting downward off Pelech’s stick and bouncing through Greiss’ legs.

The home team actually had the better of chances after that, while both teams played carefully yet still looked for opportunities to assert some offensive chances. Trotz went to the Mathew Barzal line a few times during the final stretch, and the Penguins did their best to double him up, interfere and even trip him away from the play.

Overtime

The first three minutes of OT were careful. Chances, but no back-and-forth rushes. Mathew Barzal forced a couple of passes when he really should’ve shot. The second one became a {gulp} Sidney Crosby uncontested breakaway.

So what did Thomas Greiss do? The Dubi. Classic poke-check a la Wade Dubielewicz.

Unreal.

Dubi, er Greiss, stopped Crosby again in the shootout, though this time by simply waiting out while Crosby perhaps wondered if he’d see another poke check.

That could’ve put the Pens ahead in the shootout. Instead Bailey converted the only goal, on the Isles’ third try, with a Frans Nielsen-style backhand of judgment.

Greiss then ended the game by standing up straight and tall — nonchalant and cool all the way — to block Kris Letang’s five-hole attempt.

Next Up

The Isles have another Metro opponent — no sweat at all this year — when the Devils visit Saturday night. New Jersey has been quite good so far, so it will be another fun test for the Isles. (Yes, I said Isles and fun. In November!)