The Penguins took four out of four points from this two-game series. Two they deserved, two, tonight’s points, they didn’t. That’s hockey. The Islanders played well but were unable to take any points from their trip to Pittsburgh.
Jordan Eberle scored his seventh goal of the season and Brock Nelson his fifth—and first in regulation. But Kris Letang scored his first two goals of the season, including the game-winner, and Sidney Crosby had two assists in his 1,000th career game. As Trotz said in his post-game presser: “life’s not fair sometimes.”
With Michael Dal Colle unavailable and Kieffer Bellows in the dog house, Leo Komarov re-entered the lineup on the third line with Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Oliver Wahlstrom. In so doing, Barry Trotz reunited Jordan Eberle with Mathew Barzal and Anders Lee, and put back together Anthony Beauvillier with Brock Nelson and Josh Bailey.
First Period: Everything but a Goal
The Penguins organization provided Crosby a ceremony and a video tribute to celebrate his 1,000th game, which was nice and well-deserved but delayed puck drop about seven minutes. Crosby’s line took the opening shift and on it, he clipped referee Furman South, causing play to stop. He recovered and called the rest of the game.
The Islanders started hot and went to the net, just like Barry Trotz asked them to do. On one chance, in particular, Wahlstrom fed Komarov as they entered 2-on-0, but Tristan Jarry turned the puck aside.
The Islanders thoroughly dominated the first period. The reunited Barzal line had an elite, nearly two-minute-long shift at one point. Barzal even danced around Evgeni Malkin’s check, temporarily sending him to the dressing room. But despite out-shooting Pittsburgh 16–4, the game remained scoreless.
Second Period: Tied Up at 1–1
The second period began and ended with some wide-open ice, as they traded chances. But the goals came in a bunch three-quarters of the way through the frame.
Beauvillier took the first penalty of the game and the Penguins converted twelve seconds into the man advantage. Malkin fed Kris Letang for a one-timed blast, his first of the season, past Semyon Varlamov high and on the short side. Crosby picked up the secondary assist.
The Islanders tied it less than three minutes later, though. Malkin carried the puck up on a three-on-two for Pittsburgh but put the pass off of Jason Zucker’s skate. Eberle picked up the puck going the other way and found Beauvillier. Beauvillier gave it back to Eberle as he entered the zone. No one challenged Eberle on his way toward the net, so he shoulder-faked and waited out Jarry, put it on his backhand, and floated it into a wide-open net.
Forehand ➡️ backhand ➡️ GOAL pic.twitter.com/wkeNnchM5i— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) February 21, 2021
Third Period: Up and Down
In the first minute of the third period, the Islanders grabbed a 2–1 lead. Near the blue line, Scott Mayfield intercepted Zucker’s clearing attempt and the puck sat waiting for Brock Nelson. Nelson picked it up, button-hooked, and wristed the puck through a screen and Jarry.
Mike Matheson tied the score at 2–2 with a goal similar to Eberle’s goal in the second period. He snagged the puck in his own zone and fed Teddy Blueger coming into the zone. Blueger gave it back to Matheson and he beat Varlamov cleanly.
With less than seven minutes remaining, Letang gave the Penguins a 3–2 lead. Crosby set it up from behind the cage to Letang at the point, and he lined up another shot that blew by Varlamov high on his blocker side.
Zucker gave the Isles their first power play of the game and they created a few chances but couldn’t solve Jarry. They pulled Varlamov for an extra attacker in the final minute-and-a-half but unfortunately failed to tie the game, losing 3–2 in regulation.
The Islanders head back to Long Island to host the Buffalo Sabres on Monday at 7:00 p.m. ET. Buffalo earned their first win since returning from COVID-19 break on Saturday afternoon against the Devils, spoiling Nico Hischier’s season debut and captain-dubbing.