This was a rough one. In one of the tougher matchups Ilya Sorokin has had to face this season, he wasn’t quite up to the task, giving up 4 goals on 9 shots and getting pulled from the game. The Islanders weren’t exactly playing great in front of him, but it still shows the growing pains he’s having this season.
The Islanders made a solid comeback, making it 5-3 before even the long shot hope of scoring two goals in under a minute was dashed by a Bryan Rust hat trick-earning empty netter. The Pens have unfortunately had the Isles’ number this season.
Oliver Wahlstrom went to the box early for goaltender interference, a slightly questionable call since it looked like he was pushed in. Either way, the Islanders were able to kill the penalty. Unfortunately, not long after that, the Penguins got a 2 on 1, and Frederick Gaudreau put the puck past Sorokin to open the scoring for the Penguins.
The Islanders then had two good looks to tie it, one from Pageau and one from Barzal, but Evan Rodrigues made it 2-0 for Pittsburgh after Barzal stumbled and lost the puck to Jared McCann in the defensive zone.
The Islanders went to the power play when Tristan Jarry was called for high sticking Casey Cizikas, an unusual call for a goalie, but deserved since he smacked him in the face with his stick on a very dramatic follow through. The power play stunk, though, and a few minutes later, Wahlstrom gave the Isles another chance at the man advantage. That one would spread to the second period, and it was pretty terrible, too.
The Penguins killed off the rest of the Isles’ power play, and then Sorokin made his only notable save of the game, stopping Zach Aston-Reese on a 2 on 1. Nick Leddy took a slashing penalty, and on that power play, Kris Letang took a shot which Sorokin initially saved before losing sight of the rebound, which Sidney Crosby picked up to make it 3-0 just a few seconds into the PP.
Scott Mayfield then took an extremely stupid cross checking penalty, and Bryan Rust scored to make it 4-0.
The Isles pulled Sorokin, but their fortunes didn’t change right away, as a still cold Varlamov misplayed the puck behind the net, which led to a mixup with Isles skaters, and Rust made it 5-0.
However, Mat Barzal would keep the Isles vaguely alive, breaking his own goalless streak and making it 5-1, blowing past Letang and beating Jarry.
Who else?— Isles on MSG+ (@IslesMSGN) March 28, 2021
Barzal gets us on the board pic.twitter.com/tPuQq3M1VG
About 5 minutes into the third, Barzal made a move to drive to the net, but this time his shot was saved by Jarry. Anthony Beauvillier was there to pick up the rebound, though, shooting it into the toy department to make it 5-2. Beau’s goal streak is now at 3 games.
Gaudreau took a slashing penalty, giving the Islanders an opportunity to make it a much closer game with some time on the board, but despite the Isles’ attempts to set up a Wahlstrom bomb, he shot wide twice, causing the puck to go out of the zone both times, and then took a high sticking penalty to cut the power play a little short. Fortunately, Rust would cut the Penguins’ power play short, too, after getting called for elbowing JG Pageau with under 3 minutes left in the game.
The Isles pulled Varlamov to make the 4 on 4 a pseudo-power play opportunity before their actual power play, and Jordan Eberle made it 5-3 with just over 2 minutes left.
Final in Pittsburgh, but here's the Eberle goal pic.twitter.com/w2gOagQ2ne— Isles on MSG+ (@IslesMSGN) March 28, 2021
With under a minute left, Josh Bailey and Ryan Pulock would both fumble the puck and ultimately turn it over to Rust who was coming out of the box, and he scored on the empty net to complete his hat trick and drop the Islanders, 6-3.
- Happy 900 NHL games to Josh Bailey, all of them as an Islander.
- It’s good to have Barzal back on the scoresheet. Maybe if he wasn’t carrying the hockey equivalent of the boat blocking the Suez Canal on his left wing currently, he might be able to get points more consistently again!
- I don’t get what Trotz doesn’t see in Kieffer Bellows. I’m not saying the guy will be a star by any means, but Trotz just really seems to dislike his game and I don’t see anything so egregious that it warrants just two shifts in the third period.
- Scott Mayfield’s been pretty bad lately. That cross checking penalty was just so dumb, and he’s taken a lot of penalties like that this season. The Isles should probably work on a rotation when Noah Dobson comes back, given that Thomas Hickey and Sebastian Aho are totally legitimate bottom pair defensemen, and Andy Greene can’t play every game at a high level at 38 years old.
Next, we have a rematch with the Penguins on Monday, still in Pittsburgh. Maybe the Isles will show up ready to play for that one.