The Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Islanders always seem to play intense and interesting hockey games, and Tuesday night would be no different. The Pens rallied from a two goal deficit to force overtime and eventually won the game on a spectacular individual effort from Sidney Crosby to down the Isles.
In the first period, it didn't start well for the visitors. Chris Kunitz made a poor play in the offensive zone, turning an odd-man rush for into an odd-man rush against, with NYI's talented top line of Thomas Vanek, John Tavares and Kyle Okposo on the ice. They'd race back the other way, and when Kris Letang tried to get back on defense, he ended up accidentally knocking Okposo's centering bid past Marc-Andre Fleury. Whoops.
Three minutes later, Okposo took a Tavares pass, used some great hesitation on his shot and unleashed a slapper that Fleury let trickle by him. Suddenly the Pens were in a 0-2 hole, and visions of last spring when Fleury couldn't finish the playoff series due to bad goals (some by Okposo) were back.
The Pens would stabilize though, limiting shots, attempts and chances the rest of the way out. Fleury did his part too. James Neal got the Pens on the board late in the second period when he took an Evgeni Malkin pass from behind the net to make it 2-1. Then Letang's comedy of errors continued, when (on a power play) he slashed Frans Nielson on the hands, giving one of the NHL's best at shootouts a penalty shot. Fleury made a huge save to bail Pittsburgh out and keep it a 2-1 game. If he surrenders that goal, the game probably ends differently.
Instead, on that same power play a little over a minute later, Crosby scored a goal to tie it up. It'd stay that way until overtime.
In OT, Crosby would end it, on a spectacular individual effort to intercept Vanek's zone exit pass, then Crosby wheeled around and beat Vanek, Travis Hamonic and Calvin de Haan to the net and batted a backhand past Anders Nilsson. Game over, two points secured.
A few more thoughts on the game:
The offense was basically a three man show between Neal, Malkin and Crosby, who scored all the points (less a Chris Kunitz secondary assist) and combined for 20 of the team's 34 shots on goal for the night.
- Underwhelming night for Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis, who didn't seem to have a lot going and were on ice for both goals against (with Crosby too). Puck just didn't seem to be bouncing their way tonight.
- Letang was awful. The less said the better. Just about anything that could go wrong for him did. A puck off him into the goal? Check. Ill-advised pinches? Check. 6 (!!) missed shots on goal? Check. Poor positioning, confidence and play? Check, check and check.
- Fleury will lose pub for his play based off what Crosby did to end the game, but not enough can be said for him to keep the Pens in the game after Okposo's second goal. That game could have spiraled out of control, but it didn't, and it didn't because MAF was really good from there on out. It's not going to exorcise and playoff demons, but it's the best that can happen in December.
- A tip of the cap to the PK for 3:23 of clean work, including for 1:23 left in the game's final two minutes or so.
And in the end, Sid did what Sid does and that's play big time hockey. A win is a win is a win and the Pens can now take two points back home, where they'll see the very impressive San Jose Sharks and old friend Tyler Kennedy.