Did you guys know that if an attacking player dislodges the net but the defending team comes away with possession of the puck, play isn’t blown dead until puck possession changes teams? And so Cal Clutterbuck’s interception and easy look at an empty net as the Penguins pulled Casey DeSmith for an extra skater was blown dead, preventing the Islanders from potentially locking down a 4-2 regulation win.
Instead, the Islanders blew their 3-2 lead when Evgeni Malkin tied the game with 18 seconds left, and would inevitably lose in a shootout where Sidney Crosby scored the lone goal. Just one of those weird things on the 10 year anniversary of a very weird game.
The Islanders played a solid first period, opening the scoring off a Casey Cizikas highlight-reel goal. Cizikas was able to deke DeSmith while falling down, and the sequence was pretty awesome:
He did what!?!?!— Isles on MSG+ (@IslesMSGN) February 12, 2021
Casey Cizikas with an insane goal pic.twitter.com/GdeX8vrTbo
The lead would be short-lived, though, as a few minutes later, a pretty passing play from Crosby to Guentzel to Rust beat Varlamov, and Crosby registered his 14,865th point against the Islanders.
The Islanders headed to the power play after Cody Ceci put the puck over the glass for delay of game, and it seemed like it was going to be one of those power plays when the Penguins had a 2 on 0 shorthanded breakaway, and though Varlamov made the save, a rushing Noah Dobson collided into him, and he looked to be down injured. Fortunately, both Dobson and Varlamov were fine, and JG Pageau tipped a Nick Leddy shot to restore the Isles’ lead.
Varlamov was excellent this game, and made two big stops on Mike Matheson and Kasperi Kapanen to keep the 2-1 lead. Mat Barzal nearly made it 3-1, but hit the post after beating DeSmith.
The Penguins pushed hard in the second, and were rewarded when Zach Aston-Reese tied the game at 2 - Varlamov made a good save on his first attempt, but Aston-Reese was able to get the puck past him on the second try.
The Isles’ only penalty of the night came when Jordan Eberle, in an attempt to throw away his broken stick, actually ended up playing the puck. Weird play that put the Penguins on the power play. The Isles had their own shorthanded attempt when Pageau had a breakaway, but DeSmith made the save, and the Islanders killed the penalty.
There was a scary moment near the end of the second when Cal Clutterbuck crashed into the boards, hard enough to actually leave a blue mark from his helmet on the ad on the boards. He left for the Isles locker room, but returned for the beginning of the third.
Mat Barzal had his first one on one battle with Pierre-Oliver Joseph, made a great room to get around him, and then was stopped by DeSmith, keeping the game tied at 2.
Brandon Tanev crosschecked Casey Cizikas, but no call was made despite Cizikas being slow to get up. Varlamov made a good stop on another try from Rust, continuing his strong game.
Then Barzal had his masterpiece - he got past Joseph with a sick move and then lifts the puck past DeSmith. It was hard to believe the Cizikas goal would be topped in the same game, but there it was - a beauty from Barzal.
And then... the weird empty net thing. According to Rule 63 in the NHL Rulebook, play isn’t automatically blown dead when the net comes off the line if the attacking team is the one that did it and the defensive team ends up with possession of the puck. That basically gave the Penguins a free opportunity to pull DeSmith, and also stopped a Clutterbuck empty net goal in its tracks. It’s not the direct cause for the blown lead - sloppy defensive play is - but it’s hard not to be frustrated after Evgeni Malkin was able to tie the game very late.
An eventful overtime led to Mat Barzal staying out for the 1:20ish of OT, and the Penguins got away with a couple of penalties (most egregiously a too many men on the ice penalty), but neither team would light the lamp, and onto a shootout we go.
Eberle, Barzal, and Bailey were the shooters for the Islanders, and neither were able to get past DeSmith. Guentzel was stopped by Varlamov, but Crosby stayed patient with the puck and eventually outmaneuvered Varlamov and scored, giving the Penguins the win.
- Barzal has been really, really good so far this season, and some of the goals he’s scoring are incredibly impressive. It’s good to see him going to the net and shooting more.
- Brock Nelson and Josh Bailey have basically been missing in action. Both have just 4 points so far this season and have looked invisible most games.
- This “not being able to clamp down on leads” thing kinda sucks! Can’t keep losing out on points and giving them away to other teams in this kind of setting.
The Bruins come to town on Saturday. Last game against Boston was a 1-0 win off a clutch Pageau goal. While the game was pretty boring, I wouldn’t mind that result again!