Just one of those games that leaves a bad taste in your mouth. The New York Islanders ended their ten game win streak by still picking up a point against an always tough to play division rival in the Pittsburgh Penguins, who had something to prove after getting swept in the playoffs last spring. That should be a good thing! But it came off a blown three goal lead after two periods, the Isles giving up three consecutive goals in a third period where they were monstrously outplayed, and then conceding the OT winner off a bungled play behind the net. Even though this sucks, it’s early in the season, and the Islanders have picked up 21 points in their last 11 games. Not too bad!
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Just 19 seconds into the game, Casey Cizikas opened the scoring, beating Matt Murray after picking up the puck from behind the net and backhanding it into the toy department.
That's a good start for the @NYIslanders as they go for...... pic.twitter.com/zEnm6Tl4fS— NHL (@NHL) November 8, 2019
There were some nervy moments for the Isles in the first as well, as a Ryan Pulock giveaway forced Devon Toews to get back to stop Alex Galchenyuk in alone against Semyon Varlamov. Varlamov was sharp as well, stopping 11 of 11 shots he faced in the opening frame.
The Barzal line had some good offensive pressure but never totally clicked tonight, while the Cizikas line was on fire and giving the Pens trouble throughout the first. It seemed like the Isles were fortunate to come away with their one goal lead at the end of the first, but they’d gain a more convincing lead soon.
Varlamov made a huge save on a shot that came off a fantastic Sidney Crosby set up, where Crosby made a behind the back pass between his legs that would have been a highlight reel play had the goal gone in. Cole Bardreau took a holding penalty, but Cal Clutterbuck and Casey Cizikas combined for a shorthanded goal like they did against Ottawa the night before, this time with Clutterbuck scoring rather than Cizikas to make it 2-0.
Cal blessing us with this beautiful shorty! pic.twitter.com/mndFVetxeJ— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) November 8, 2019
Just a few minutes later, Adam Pelech made it 3-0 off a blast from the blueline as the entire Isles team got a touch on the puck to move it up from the defensive zone, through the neutral zone, and into the offensive zone. Barzal set up Pelech, who was just coming off the bench.
Pelech with an absolute ROCKET! pic.twitter.com/stXQzhjHN0— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) November 8, 2019
A bad sequence by Barzal in which he iced the puck and turned it over after the faceoff led to a Penguins power play, and the Isles needed Varlamov to come up big yet again to keep the shutout.
The Isles also nearly made it 4-0 off a pretty passing play where Josh Bailey was able to find Brock Nelson, but the puck was slightly behind him and he wasn’t able to get the shot he wanted to put past Murray in front of the net.
Just under two minutes into the third, Jared McCann scored to cut the Isles lead to 3-1. The Penguins were really putting on pressure after that goal, with Sidney Crosby getting some good looks. Anthony Beauvillier had a great opportunity to put the Isles up 4-1, but Matt Murray made a huge save, getting his left leg up to deny Beau and send the Pens the other way. On that swing, Bryan Rust scored to cut the lead to 3-2. Just about two minutes after that, Evgeni Malkin scored after a Penguins shot hit the crossbar and Malkin was able to outmuscle Johnny Boychuk and get to the loose puck first to tie the game. Those two goals were probably ones that Varlamov should have had, but the Isles got brutally outplayed and outworked in the third.
Barry Trotz used his timeout after that, and the Isles had their one allotted power play of the game when the Penguins were called for too many men on the ice. Michael Dal Colle saw some time on the man advantage, but the Isles were unable to score. Nelson was later interfered with while trying to bring the puck into the zone but there was no call (hence, the one allotted power play.) With the game tied, we headed into overtime.
This was genuinely an entertaining overtime, with the Isles playing their usual strategy of holding onto the puck to tire out the opposing skaters. It seemed to be working until the momentum swung a bit as the Isles couldn’t really get any good looks on goal. Unfortunately, the Penguins did, as Rust stole the puck from Nelson behind the net after a pass from Pulock never quite got to him, and the Isles win streak was snapped in overtime.
- Hey, a ten game win streak isn’t so bad. It was going to have to end sometime...
- It’s still pretty inexcusable to just come out so unprepared for the third period. Yes, the Penguins are still an extremely talented team, but the Isles just needed to shut them down on just one of those goals. No reason to get beat by Malkin to the puck or to allow one missed opportunity at one end of the rink turn into a goal for them at the other.
- Also crazy that Trotz didn’t call a timeout after the 3-2 goal. Coaches in general seem to be so hesitant to use these things, but that’s what they’re for!!
- How the Isles respond to the win streak getting snapped might be a bigger test than seeing how long they could sustain this. We’ve seen teams build on that momentum and stay a consistently tough team to play, and we’ve seen teams fall apart. I think under Trotz the highs will never get too high, and the lows never too low, but hopefully there are some important lessons taken from games like these.
Next, the Isles will face the Florida Panthers on Saturday afternoon at the Barclays Center. Time to start another ten game win streak?