Game 82 of 82, with everything locked up in terms of playoff positioning this game didn't mean too much. The Pittsburgh Penguins were in for the 4th seed, the New York Islanders are about to have an almost six month off-season. To the players though much was at stake: the Isles were a hungry group looking to put good play on tape for jobs next season. And the Pens of course wanted to see Sidney Crosby get the Maurice Richard Trophy (most goals) and as close as possible to the Art Ross (most points).
As usual, Sidney Crosby did not disappoint. 2 goals and 5 total points in the game, so he'll fall a little short of Henrik Sedin for the Ross, but he wins a share of the Maurice Richard along with Steven Stamkos of Tampa Bay. Crosby was skating like an absolute maniac out there, dishing passes, spinning defensemen like tops, drilling shots. True MVP form.
For the game itself, the Pens jumped up to a quick 5-2 lead and eventually let it flutter away as Kyle Okposo, Mark Streit and John Tavares made plays and put the puck past Brent Johnson. Then in OT Jordan Leopold scored his second extra-time goal in a little more than a week to end the Isles season and start the real season for the Pens.
- Evgeni Malkin had two goals, two assists and a game high 7 shots on goal. But he also took 3 minor penalties. Geno needs to buckle down and be more disciplined, but playing mainly wing on a line with Crosby he looked fresh and dangerous all night long.
- The Pens defensemen combined to record 5 hits on the evening. In related news, Brooks Orpik sat this one out for a leg laceration (he'll be back for Game 1).
- Only five forwards skated more than Eric Tangradi in his NHL debut. The big guy showed some hands and promise down low in his first ever taste in the show. It might not be too long before he gets the chance to play in the NHL very soon.
- Eric Godard gets his first goal of the season!
- In case you thought that last bullet was a typo: Eric Godard gets his first goal of the season! (But it still only buys him 4:32 of ice-time). Like the Islanders, we'll see Big E next October.
- Trevor Gillies goes -2 in just 5:58 of work. He knows the Masters are in Georgia, right?
We've long been looking for the Pens to "flip the switch". They were sloppy and a little too singularly focused on getting Crosby to the puck and not too intent on playing some D. But the team you saw tonight will not be the team that shows up for game one: Orpik will be back, two top six forwards are likely to be back (Chris Kunitz and Alexei Ponikarovsky), Matt Cooke perhaps and Marc-Andre Fleury will be back.
More importantly, the two-time defending Eastern Conference champions need no one to tell them what's now on the line or how they're going to have to play from here on out.