Spoiling everyone else’s party is all the New York Islanders really have left this season, so they hoped to prevent the Pittsburgh Penguins from clinching a playoff spot. All the Pens had to do was win in any fashion, and they won in regulation.
The Penguins become the first team this season to clinch against the Islanders, so that’s not terrible, I suppose. And Zdeno Chara finally scored his first goal of the season, probably setting a record for most time between goals for one franchise.
Kieffer Bellows entered the lineup in favor of Oliver Wahlstrom—this probably would have happened Tuesday night, but Bellows fell ill.
Ilya Sorokin started for the Islanders, while Tristan Jarry did the same for the Penguins.
Sorokin had to be sharp early, including on a wraparound chance by Jeff Carter created by a Grant Hutton turnover. But that wasn’t enough to prevent the Penguins from grabbing the lead before the game was five minutes old. Jake Guentzel got the puck deep and went around Zdeno Chara and briefly outmuscled Noah Dobson before feeding Kris Letang at the point. Letang lined up a screen with Guentzel, and Sorokin never saw it.
The next whistle led to an Islanders’ power play; it came when Danton Heinen slashed the stick out of Matt Martin’s hands as he tried to jam home a loose puck set up by Ross Johnston. It took them about a minute and forty seconds to set anything up, and it resulted only in a Ryan Pulock miss. Then Brian Boyle sprung Heinen on a breakaway out of the box. He whipped the puck through Sorokin, quickly putting the Isles into a 2-0 hole.
While the Islanders tried to sustain some pressure, Pittsburgh extinguished anything after one chance and counterattacked. But New York received some good fortune in the form of pain for Casey Cizikas: Mark Friedman clipped him in the cheek with a high stick, cutting him under his eye. The referees reviewed and confirmed their call on the ice of a double-minor. The first thirty seconds of this power play saw the Islanders move the puck with speed, and Mathew Barzal both nearly hit an open net on a wide rebound try and then shot a puck off of Jarry’s shoulder, but then the highly ranked penalty kill of the Pens cleared and prevented anything else until Zach Parise high-sticked Letang, creating a full but uneventful two minutes of four-on-four.
With their remaining forty-seven seconds of power play time, the Islanders did set up and get the puck on net, but they didn’t score. Back at five-on-five, the Penguins tried to get the puck at Sorokin, but Adam Pelech and Jason Zucker collided awkwardly. Pelech left gingerly but returned for his next shift; Zucker went down the tunnel but returned in the second.
Much like Tuesday’s game back on Long Island, the home team entered the first intermission with a two-goal lead on the back of a strong first period, only for the road team to completely turn the tables on them. The Islanders took control of the game in the second period, and it resulted in them cutting the deficit to one goal before the Penguins even got a shot on goal. Barzal took the puck off a Penguins turnover and skated low. The Penguin defenders, Friedman and Heinen, tried to stack up. But Barzal stopped on a dime, knocking them out of position and allowing him to dance toward the front of the net. With Jarry moving side-to-side, Barzal waited long enough for Parise to appear and hit the open net from the wing.
Barzal earns his 50th point of the season in style - fakes out everyone and feeds Parise for the pic.twitter.com/UnuINLoyJQ— Isles on MSG+ (@IslesMSGN) April 15, 2022
Palmieri had a rebound try on an odd-man rush that he put off the post. Cizikas and Kieffer Bellows each had good chances, too, but Jarry stayed strong. Pittsburgh barely had control, as play was mostly in their end. But while the Islanders controlled this period, they couldn’t mirror Tuesday’s game by tying the game; in fact, they entered the third period at the same deficit. The Pens restored their two-goal lead by capitalizing on one of the very few Isles mistakes this period. Johnston missed a pass at the point, leading Sidney Crosby to start a two-on-one with Guentzel with only Chara back. Crosby looked off Guentzel before hitting him for a one-timer that beat Sorokin.
The Islanders got a power play right off the faceoff following the goal, but despite their best efforts, they could not get one past Jarry. Late in the period, Guentzel pressured Pelech deep in the Isles’ zone, forcing a turnover and getting the puck to Crosby right in front of Sorokin. He was turned around, though, and saw Rickard Rakell coming into the zone. He hit him with the pass, but Sorokin made an excellent save. On the next shift, the Penguins managed to keep the puck in the Islanders’ zone and drew the frustration of Pelech, who took a cross-checking penalty that lasted the rest of the period. They killed off the penalty—the call was made at 1:59, so there was technically one second of penalty time left at the beginning of the third—and went into the second intermission.
Pulock began the period by blasting the puck at 106.1 mph at Jarry, making a big thud. Crosby led a chance the other way, but he took a penalty on the way back. Brock Nelson, the subtle needler, made like he was pushing off and swinging his arms but used the chance to give him a little butt-end on his way to the bench. Crosby responded by shoving his head into the bench. The power play wasn’t too dangerous, but the fourth line wreaked havoc right after it ended, generating the best chances that they had to that point of the frame. Martin swept the puck right across the goalmouth on a rebound try, and then Dumoulin blocked a shot with a wide-open net. Bryan Rust probably would have converted some tic-tac-toe passing had his stick not broken. Right back the other way, Barzal while getting checked chopped at a puck right in front of Jarry, forcing him to make a stellar save.
Inadvertently, Anders Lee crashed into Jarry and knocked off the net. Lee went toward the net against Brock McGinn, and it looked like their skates clicked. He wiped out and took out Jarry’s legs. Both were slow to get up, but they remained in the game. As the period wore on, the Islanders held onto the puck and played decently well. But then they fell asleep and made just a horrendous change without even getting the puck over the red line. Dobson turned it over to Mike Matheson, who sent Guentzel and Crosby on a two-on-none. They played catch before Crosby slipped it in on the short side to make it 4-1.
Pelech took another penalty, this one an uncharacteristic tripping call. The Islanders actually had a chance shorthanded, and Chara rang it off the post—so close to ending his goal drought and getting his first as an Islander in over twenty years. But the Islanders killed it off.
The Penguins just tried to kill the clock. Nelson made a beautiful play to set up Lee and get the Islanders within two goals, making it 4-2. It allowed the Isles to pull Sorokin for an extra attacker, but that lasted thirty seconds before McGinn scored an empty-netter. It was 5-2, and then Chara actually did score! His first as an Islander this season, his first for New York since January 2001, and his first in 108 games was a blast from the point that sneaked past Jarry and made it 5-3, but then Guentzel added another empty-netter for a final score of 6-3.
Chara's first goal as an Islander since... Jan 12 2001 pic.twitter.com/4N54IWw2nf— Isles on MSG+ (@IslesMSGN) April 15, 2022