What, exactly, was all that?
The New York Islanders were pummeled 7-0 at home to a Pittsburgh Penguins team that saw Kris Letang collect a record number of assists in a single period.
They weren’t dominated all night — the first 20 minutes was a quieter, scoreless affair (and just 5-4 shots on gaoal) — but the Penguins turned it up in the second and the Islanders never found a response. They were fortunate to still be scoreless six minutes into the middle period, but you could feel the dam-break coming.
And oh, did it ever break, with six goals in a 10:29 span. Ilya Sorokin, who was pulled at the second intermission, faced 20 shots in the period.
Ironic that the first goal was controversial, one of those classic moments where the NHL doubly screws up: After extended Penguins zone time, a shot squeaked through Sorokin and came to a stop behind him, leading to a premature whistle right before Rickard Rakell shot it into the empty net.
Everyone on the ice saw it for what it was: They blew the whistle too early, but them’s the breaks. It happens. Except...the refs huddled and decided in this case, the whistle doesn’t matter.
RICKARD RAKELL— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) December 28, 2023
You know what they say: always play until the whistle. pic.twitter.com/GCW5MEoUDk
Not that any of it mattered. Even though that goal was the first one, the Isles’ doomed fate looked written into the script by that point, and nothing that happened afterward would change that. Jake Guentzel scored on a deadly tip a few minutes later after yet more Penguins pressure.
Lane Lambert called a timeout, only to see the Isles respond by letting Guentzel free behind them for a clear-cut breakaway to make it 3-0 at 10:27. All manner of hell continued to break loose afterward.
With Semyon Varlamov in net for the third, the Penguins added a seventh at 9:48 for what should have initiated the mercy rule and a running clock.
Just ugly, ugly all around. Horrible way to come out of the break.
They should burn the tape, sure, but they get a day to relive it and stew over it and practice it out before hosting the Capitals on Friday.