The New York Islanders continue to frustrate the Pittsburgh Penguins, keeping their big guns off the scoreboard while getting contributions from red-hot Jordan Eberle and Brock Nelson. Even the oft maligned Leo Komarov got in on the action, scoring a the much-needed insurance goal to make it 3-1 in the third, and Anders Lee sealed the victory with the 4-1 empty netter.
That win at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh has given the Islanders a 3-0 lead in the series, putting them just one win away from advancing to the second round.
There were chances traded on both sides to start, but the first goal would take place just after the Islanders finished killing an Adam Pelech hooking penalty. Garrett Wilson deflected a shot from the point past Robin Lehner, firing up the Pittsburgh home crowd that was desperate to hype up their team the way the Coliseum crowd got the Islanders going.
Unfortunately, their party would be cut short, as Jordan Eberle tied the game under a minute later. Ryan Pulock made a great pass to pick out an open Eberle, who found a space to shoot the puck past Matt Murray.
A minute and two seconds after that, Brock Nelson forced a turnover from Sidney Crosby, and then got the puck to Tom Kuhnhackl who sprung Nelson and Josh Bailey on a 2 on 1 as Justin Schultz got caught on a bad pinch. Bailey provided just enough of a decoy to allow Nelson to wrist it past Murray, giving the Islanders a 2-1 lead and shifting the momentum in the game.
Lehner made some huge saves on Patric Hornqvist and Jake Guentzel, and the Penguins nearly tied the game when Adam Pelech turned over the puck and let the Pens get a 3 on 1 opportunity. Dominik Simon couldn’t get a handle on the puck with a wide open net, and the Islanders held on to their lead.
There were some big chances for the Islanders in the second, with Mat Barzal setting up Anthony Beauvillier on a 2 on 1, but Beauvillier shot the puck high. Bailey got the puck to Nelson but he mishandled the puck, and it felt like those chances might come back to bite the Isles later.
Valtteri Filppula was called for hooking, but Lehner was huge on the penalty kill. Then, the Islanders headed to their own power play which became a 5 on 3 once Jack Johnson was sent off for holding, but the only good look of the two man advantage was a Ryan Pulock shot that Murray got a shoulder on that sent it off the post. Barzal was called for tripping and Lehner was again a big factor on the PK.
A great shift from the best fourth line in hockey nearly resulted in a goal as a Cizikas shot was saved by Murray. Then, the Islanders finally got the insurance goal they desperately needed, as Leo Komarov got the puck from Beauvillier and scored. Filppula made a heads up cross-ice pass that Beau tipped to slow down perfectly for Komarov.
Matt Martin almost got the puck to Cizikas off a Murray turnover behind the net, but Marcus Pettersson made a good defensive play to keep the Pens in it. Hornqvist boarded Pelech and then threw a punch to his face, but both players were sent off for roughing and holding respectively.
The Penguins pulled Matt Murray with just over three minutes to go, and Anders Lee was able to lift the puck out of the Isles’ defensive zone and into the empty net, sealing a 4-1 victory and a 3-0 series lead. And, breathe.
Next, another game in Pittsburgh on Tuesday. For the Penguins: a loss will end their season much earlier than they anticipated. For the Islanders: a win means sweeping a long-time rival and advancing to the second round. No pressure.