Game 1 sets the tone for a playoff series, and what a message the Pittsburgh Penguins sent tonight.
Brian Strait took a penalty early in the game and Jarome Iginla took a slap shot that hit Islander goalie Evgeni Nabokov in the head. It might not have hurt him (he'd stay in the game) but it definitely seemed to rattle the goalie (obviously) and Beau Bennett would score the first game of the playoffs on the power play by sneaking in and throwing a shot up of Nabokov's shoulder just 3:30 into the game.
From the the Pens never looked back. Ten game minutes later, Pascal Dupuis made it 2-0 when he collected a loose puck after a wild scrum with Iginla and Craig Adams also applying pressure. Nabokov was way out of the net and Dupuis batted it in.
A minute into the second period, Kris Letang picked a corner on the power play and beat Nabokov high and short side. Then less than 30 seconds later Dupuis really put the game out of reach, collecting a pass from Mark Eaton and ending Nabokov's night.
New goalie Kevin Poulin wasn't bad, until he allowed a bad angle shot from Tanner Glass (!!!) of all people who snuck in a goal to make it 5-0.
From there, pretty much cruise control. Marc-Andre Fleury made 26 saves for the shutout, but he was asked to do very little in terms of quality chances. The Penguins asserted themselves early and just overwhelmed the Islanders, many of whom making their playoff debuts. Now they got a taste of what it's all about. Some more thoughts on the game:
- About the only negative mark is the status of James Neal. He got rode into the boards by Travis Hamonic on a routine looking play but Neal's legs kicked out from under him and he wouldn't return. We'll see how that goes but he definitely was in obvious "lower body" discomfort.
- The Pens really set a physical tone. They found and abused John Tavares every chance they got. Evgeni Malkin even dropped Andrew MacDonald with a huge check. Matt Cooke, Brenden Morrow were running around hitting everything that moved. It took NYI out early, as they learned first hand the physical price to pay to make it in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
- Officially Fleury saw 18 shots through the first two periods, but most were kept to the outside and weren't very dangerous. Just one night, but so far so good.
- Malkin, though he had 2 assists, along with Chris Kunitz weren't really huge factors. With some early goals, especially by depth guys in Bennett and Glass, they didn't have to be.
- Speaking of, for all the gruff Dan Bylsma takes from Penguins fans, you have to tip your hat to him for playing Bennett over Tyler Kennedy. It paid off tonight.
- One game closer to getting Sidney Crosby back.
- Dupuis with two more goals. Man, what can you say about him. He's not the dominant "best player on the ice all game" type of player, but he's always in the right place at the right time.
- Kris Letang, in addition to scoring, looked dangerous, showcasing his skating ability and puck control. Letang was pretty much smooth and in control, playing 25:20 and.
- Bush league move by veteran Marty Reasoner to take out the leg of Jussi Jokinen in the dying minutes of a blowout. Replays appeared to show him adjusting his leg positioning to make sure he got a piece of Jokinen's leg. Thought he was better than that.
While it's tempting to get over-confident, it's just a start. As Bylsma likes to say it's a race to 4, and while the Penguins were very dominant tonight, it's just one game.
1 down, 15 to go.