Pens Go from Hot to Cold, Islanders Comeback to Win 4-3

USA TODAY Sports

After a quick start, the Pens let the Islanders take over a game in embarrassing fashion.

The seats were shaking when the clock struck seven o'clock. Pittsburgh was ready, but most importantly, Sidney Crosby was ready.

After missing 12 regular season and one playoff game, Crosby was ready to crack the lineup and add to an already offensively dominant team. The cheers for the Pens were loud enough when the team entered the rink, but the second Crosby's blades touched the ice, the crowd was deafening.

For that reason, I was a little surprised to see Evgeni Malkin get the start with Beau Bennett and Jarome Iginla. Sure enough, it paid off. That line maintained good zone pressure and persistence in front of the net resulted in a Malkin goal before the game was a minute old.

Just like that. It was a continuation of Game 1 and crowd was louder than ever.

Andrew MacDonald went off for a slashing penalty about a minute and a half later. The first power play unit went on, but there was a slight delay during a stoppage of play. The first PP unit remained on the ice. Seconds later, flashbacks of the Vancouver Olympics surfaced when Crosby directed a pass from Iginla right in the paint. It was almost perfect.

Deryk Engelland went to the box twice in five minutes for penalties that really shouldn't be committed in the playoffs. Especially against a pretty solid Islanders power play. Sure enough, they cashed in on the first penalty. Didn't seem like much of a threat because other than their power play, the Islanders weren't sustaining enough pressure to feel like a threat. Dump and change was the most they could manage.

The game felt over when Crosby cleaned up the garbage on the goal line for his second of the game.

Ah, but it wasn't.

The Pens came into the second much slower. A rookie mistake for a team full of veterans and the rookie team was all over them. Just like that, the score was 3-2 off the stick of Colin McDonald. Still, you could still feel the Pens held on to some control of the game; they just needed to string together a few good shifts to snap out of it. Unfortunately, that never happened.

Instead, Kyle Okposo dueled with Matt Niskanen after he finished Moulson off. Niskanen was pretty bloodied up after the fight, very fitting for how the game would close.

Five minutes later, tie game. Stunning, but not so stunning when you see how unenthusiastic the Pens were with finishing off the Islanders.

The Pens had an opportunity to take the lead after a high sticking double minor, courtesy of John Tavares, but the Pens' aggression was non-existent. The crowd grew restless and the boos rained down. They entered the second intermission with a little time left on the power play, but the game felt decided already.

For the rest of the game, the Islanders ate up the neutral zone and the Pens couldn't get beyond the blue line except for the odd dump in that resulted in nothing. It was a complete roll-reversal between both teams. The Islanders eventually completed the comeback off a flukey goal that was very reminiscent of 2008 against the Red Wings. It was an unfortunate play because Marc-Andre Fleury had a pretty good game despite the defensive breakdowns happening left and right. This game could've been much uglier than it was.

The Pens had a few last minute pushes in them, but it ultimately wasn't enough.

Really rough game to watch, but there were a few bright spots. Among them was Crosby who looked like he didn't lose any time. Still a bit rusty, but that was the least of the Pens' problems.

I think getting a loss after a routing like Game 1 can be good for the Pens. They can see they aren't invincible and they can't play like a two-goal lead is all they need to win.

Pens head to the Island on Sunday. Hopefully they respond a little differently.

Go Pens.

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