The hockey gods are an interesting bunch.
The Islanders entered the early evening matchup with the Penguins on a five-game losing streak, their playoff hopes nearly extinct. They’ve reached the point where, realistically speaking, losing more often down the stretch may be more beneficial to the long-term future of the franchise.
In that vein, a game against the defending champs that began less than 24 hours after their previous one did should be the perfect opportunity to walk away with zero points in the chase for two lottery tickets in the Rasmus Dahlin sweepstakes. Not to mention, Pittsburgh has been steaming-hot over the last couple months, but entered tonight on their own three-game skid. Christopher Gibson, though, wouldn’t let the Pens off easily.
Tristan Jarry was not ready for the first shot thrown at him, and Brandon Davidson earned his first goal as an Islander when his little backhand flip snuck behind the flopping Penguins goalie.
The play was decidedly Pittsburgh’s for the rest of the period, but they couldn’t muster a goal against Gibson. Shots on goal ended lopsidedly in their favor.
Play unfolded slowly throughout the period, ending with a similar result as its predecessor in shots on net, but the Penguins broke through Gibson toward the end of the period.
An unnecessary Cal Clutterbuck penalty, which is becoming a frequent nuisance, gave Pittsburgh a man advantage. They regained a clear from their own end and the ensuing three-on-two was tipped past Gibson by the recently-extended Patric Hornqvist.
The game was a bit more even down the stretch, both in shots and in goals. Anders Lee got a goal five minutes into the period, but the Penguins re-tied it around the halfway mark with new acquisition Derick Brassard notching the tying tally.
Gibson surrendered two goals against, but ended regulation with 45 saves.
It wasn’t as fiery as you might expect for a game between two potent offenses, but the teams had some chances. The Islanders were blessed with a power play when the Penguins were whistled for too many men, but they didn’t do a whole lot with it, and Sidney Crosby finished it off.
A tip of the invisible cap to Christopher Gibson. The Finn hadn’t seen NHL action in almost two full years, and was thrown to the wolves against the Penguins on the second half of a back-to-back. He performed quite admirably, completing the night with 47 total saves against a talented offense.
The losing streak does continue, though, for good measure. Of course they get a point tonight. Whatever, I suppose.
Off to western Canada they go. They start in Vancouver, taking on the Canucks Monday night at 10:00 p.m. ET. Stay up late at your own risk.