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Islanders Frustrate Penguins, Take 2-0 series Lead with 3-1 Game 2 Win

The Penguins struck first, but Eberle and Bailey strike, and laugh, last.

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Pittsburgh Penguins at New York Islanders
“Heeeeeeeeeey, Anthony Beauvillier...” (No? Doesn’t have the same ring?)
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Islanders built off their Game 1 win to frustrate the Pittsburgh Penguins on their way to a 3-1 victory in Game 2 at Nassau Coliseum. Sidney Crosby was again held off the scoreboard (credit to many, including Adam Pelech), though he and an increasingly frustrated Evgeni Malkin each appeared on the score sheet with three minor penalties between them.

The result puts the Penguins behind 0-2 in a playoff series for the first time since 2013 — the last year these two teams met in the postseason — and puts the perennially “split the first two” Isles up 2-0 in a series for the first time since the dynasty. It also obscures an outstanding performance by Matt Murray, who was key to the game remaining scoreless in the first half.

Period by period: The Islanders had the better of the first, sagged a bit at the end of the second after conceding and then tying the game at 1-1, then pulled away halfway through the third on a Jordan Eberle highlight goal and a very timely Josh Bailey power play insurance marker.

The final minutes of regulation were just a good ol’ fashioned Coliseum party, with the raucous crowd gobbling up all the air seeping out of the deflated Pens.

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

First Period: Murray a Wall

Jake Guentzel and Cal Clutterbuck are crosschecking each other before the opening faceoff is dropped. Playoffs.

This one started off nasty and stayed that way. Tempers flaring all over.

The Islanders played a very strong period, sticking to their structure, making few mistakes, and quickly covering for open gaps. They were also doing a great job intercepting the Penguins’ horizontal passes in the neutral zone.

Robin Lehner was really solid, but Matt Murray faced even more dangerous tests, and turned them all away, making it a stinger to reach the first intermission still scoreless.

Project: Mess with Malkin

Evgeni Malkin is going to have a tough series if he can’t control his tendency to do stupid things when irritated. Tonight they didn’t even have to try to get under his skin before he got in a foolish mood.

He didn’t need to hook Devon Toews in pursuit of a dump-in, but he did, was immediately whistled, then immediately barked at the ref that his stick was held. Toews might have clutched...but even if so, it was only after Malkin planted his hook in Toews’ midsection. Easy call.

The Islanders power play worked the puck well but couldn’t get any truly dangerous shots through.

After his penalty expired, Malkin got into it with Leo Komarov, as did Patric Hornqvist at the same time. Probably should have thrown Hornqvist off along with Malkin and Komarov, but that would not create the desired 4-on-4 result that the scales-balancing officials occasionally like to practice.

A Series of Power Play Events

On the 4-on-4, the Isles hit the post on a Toews shot, and a Josh Bailey interception set up Brock Nelson for an uncontested slapper that Murray stopped.

A Game 1 scratch after playing all 82 regular season games, Jack Johnson made his presence felt by high sticking Tom Kuhnhackl as he felt pressure on the way back for a puck retrieval, creating the second Isles power play of the night.

They got a nice early chance after Teddy Blueger, who runs some side action out of his uncle’s pizza joint, breaks his stick on the ensuing faceoff. Matt Murray shut the door and froze the puck, however, as he did on the next chance.

The Penguins killed that one, then Johnson promptly blindsided Adam Pelech away from the puck at the blueline. Johnson was rushing from the box to the bench after avoiding Johnny Boychuk, and he very well may not have seen Pelech until it was too late. But the refs just about had to call it, and did so...

...And you knew they’d take the first opportunity to even it up, and did so when Anders Lee hooked Erik Gudbranson on their way to the end boards. That didn’t come until after the Isles had a minute of power play, again with decent puck work, but no results.

That 4-on-4 was less eventful — though Barzal had a couple of close approaches with Bailey — but once the Penguins got set up on their minute of power play, things were a little scary.

With his penalty killed, Lee went Barzal Mode and streaked down the wing turning Gudbranson inside out. But Murray got a piece of the shot with his glove and shoulder, and the outside of the post did the rest. Prior to that, Nick Leddy also had an amazing rush, requiring Murray to stretch for another strong save.

Second Period: Somehow, more intense. Also: goals.

The crowd followed Barry Trotz’s post-Game 1 instructions, and did not let up a bit in the second period. By morning all of their voices must sound like Barry Trotz during an in-game interview.

In the opening minute, Matt Cullen had a clean look but was robbed by Lehner with what is quickly becoming his trademark stretch across the crease.

Then the Islanders power play received two more chances in quick succession, but came up empty again. Sidney Crosby was called for hooking, then Gudbranson for high-sticking, creating a 0:54 five-on-three. Murray again shined, blocking Bailey at the doorstep, Lee with his in-tight high backhand attempt, and Pulock on a one-timer set up by Jordan Eberle.

But the Penguins finally struck first, on a nice entry by Malkin, with Gudbranson’s shot deflecting off both Komarov and Leddy’s stick before passing through a Hornqvist screen.

Their lead didn’t last long though, as Anthony Beauvillier equalized on a rebound after a great rush with Barzal, who ended up in the penalty box after the goal.

After the puck went in and with Beauvillier celebrating with Eberle and Toews on one side, a full scrum ensued in the corner.

Marcus Pettersson and Barzal tussled, then Eberle and Hornqvist, Gudbranson and Mayfield. At one point it was three Penguins on Barzal in the scrum, yet somehow the Islanders received the extra minor on the play. Really don’t know how they arrived at that other than to chip away at the lopsided penalty ledger.

(Even with my complaints, the Penguins are going to feel aggrieved about the penalty ledger in this game, and not without reason, given the random rulebook enforcement that takes place.)

So it was 1-1, with the Penguins going right on the power play. The Islanders survived. The rest of the second was a little uncomfortable, with the Penguins generating more chances and sustained pressure, though Lehner and the collective defense did well to snuff out dangerous loose pucks.

Third Period: Eberle Magic + Power Play Goal (?!) = Party Time

Mike Sullivan mixed up his Malkin and Crosby and Kessel linemates a bit to start the third. None of that really alters the feeling of sheer terror I have when either is on the ice. They all seem to know how to play with those three stars, it’s just a matter of when it’s their night. Or period.

Indeed, Crosby had a teeth-chattering chance picking up a loose puck through the slot, and going wide around Lehner, but his pass up through the slot found no one. Soon after, Josh Bailey was point blank on Murray but the Penguins goalie made yet another massive stop.

Meanwhile, the boiling bad blood seemed to at least simmer down a little bit. Both sides were still looking for hits, but not with the same verve nor energy-wasting extra jawing afterward. Garrett Wilson was notably running around wherever he could, but he’s not as good at this as the Islanders fourth liners are.

And then...a breakthrough: Jordan Eberle’s hands have been magical through the first two games of this series, and he took a Barzal zone-entry handoff to the house, flashing back and forth before lifting a backhand past Murray off the far post.

It helped that Justin Schultz went on walkabout for what some Oilers fans used to call “Jultzing.”

That made it 2-1 Isles with 12 minutes left in the third.

Leddy then had a nice exchange and one-timer hat was blocked, leading to a race with Hornqvist toward the Pens bench for the loose puck. Hornqvist being Hornqvist, he was a little too zealous and took a penalty. (Wilson chirped Leddy from the bench as he got up, which...yeah okay.)

The power play began a little nervously, a little too carefully, and the Penguins could’ve easily had a rush the other way. They never did, however, and eventually the Islanders got sorted.

Josh Bailey retrieved a deflected Toews shot and deposited a forehand through Murray. The Islanders power play, on its sixth try of the night, finally cashed in. 3-1 Isles with 8:22 to go. The “Heeeeeeyyyy, Josh Bailey! I wanna knoow-oooh-oh” song then rang out throughout the crowd, turned up to 11.

With seven minutes left, Zach Aston-Reese missed “a sitter” as they say on the pitch, at the back door on a great setup from Malkin, which would’ve brought the Penguins right back within one. Johnny Bocyhuk was on Aston-Reese but not as much as you’d like.

That was about as close as they got to making it scary again. Crosby had an open net look he somehow missed in the final minute, and there were some good low-to-high chances creating shots from the slot. The Penguins controlled the puck with the sixth attacker, but it was all too little, too late.

Project: Mess with Malkin Update: Malkin Messes with Himself

In his typical fashion, Malkin used the final seconds to throw some stickwork, including a crosscheck to Mayfield’s back while he was engaged with another Penguin. Brock Nelson identified the situation and got Malkin going, basically matching Malkin crosscheck for crosscheck. Then Mayfield freed himself and got his own lick in, as he damn well should.

Malkin can be dangerous when he’s angry, but also wildly undisciplined. It’s fun watching him unravel.

So he continued it after the buzzer, along with the rest of the Penguins, doing the little “I’m throwing jabs at your face but not really fighting because everyone knows you’re not supposed to fight superstars” dance.

The Isles called their bluffs.

They also head to Pittsburgh with a 2-0 series lead.