It was Pittsburgh that drew first blood. The new look 3rd line struck again, with Steve Downie finding Paul Martin back at the point and Martin sending a shot in that Brandon Sutter deflected 1:13 in for his 6th goal of the season.
The lead wouldn't last long. As we mentioned in the preview, New York wouldn't be fazed by going down early (they had a league best 5-1-0 record when giving up the first goal coming into the game) and they weren't. Later in the first period, within two minutes they scored three straight goals to take a commanding lead. First Matt Martin caught the Pens on a line change and blew a shot by Fleury. And yeah, Matt Martin sucks but you give an NHL player that much space and no one in front of him and he can do this with his stick flex and make a nice shot.
The second goal was for Nikolay Kulemin 's highlight reel, making Martin and then Kris Letang look bad in open ice before firing the puck past Fleury. The Isles got some luck on their third goal, when Thomas Hickey 's point shot hit Ryan Strome 's skate and angled perfectly into the net. Strome made some of his own luck for going to the net, too, of course.
It was 3-1 and all hope looked lost before ex-Islander Blake Comeau tried to center a pass and it fittingly went in off of Martin, generous enough to give his goal back.
The second period saw each team net a goal, first Strome found Nick Leddy all alone for a nice shot to make it 4-2 before the Pens clawed back within one goal when Nick Spaling collected a rebound from a Patric Hornqvist shot and beat Chad Johnson.
The Pens didn't seem to build off any momentum for the third period, but Malkin found Hornqvist for a nice shot that tied the game at 4.
With that, overtime and no goals, so we went to a shootout. Sidney Crosby scored for the Pens but Frans Nielson and Kyle Okposo won it for the Islanders.
A few more thoughts on the game:
- OK, it's got to lead off. Simon Despres was made a healthy scratch for the first time this season, despite playing very well in his role. Robert Bortuzzo, a scratch last game, was put in. On one hand, it makes sense- you've got 7 healthy, good defensemen on the roster, you don't want anyone sitting for too long and getting rust. On the other hand, if it's not broke, don't fix it. Despres and Rob Scuderi were in a groove and that was disrupted, and it didn't go well early with Bortuzzo (who's been a little shaky coming back mid-season from an early injury) flopping around and going out of position and ending up playing the Leddy goal pretty poorly.
- Not the greatest exhibition of goaltending on the night. Fleury with a rare "not sharp" start tonight and it seemed like his confidence and rebound control was shaky after the initial flurry of the Islanders.
- The first two periods couldn't have been more opposite: in the opening frame NYI out-shot the Pens 13-5, had the homeboys back on their heels and were very sharp. In the second, Pittsburgh flipped the script and out-shot the Isles 17-6. Alas, the score was only 1-1 for 2nd period goals though.
- Like the team, Evgeni Malkin started slow. He lost all 5 of his first period faceoffs and didn't look that awake. And like the rest of the team, that definitely changed in the second period, with Malkin coming to life, flat out dominating some of the shifts and getting an assist on the Spaling goal.
- Through the first 50 minutes of the game, the teams combined for 53 hits, but there was only one early penalty on the Penguins, a fighting bout between Martin and Robert Bortuzzo and coincidental minors for Downie and Hickey. No power play chances early for the Pens. Sometimes it be's that way. The refs at least set the bar early and let both teams do pretty much whatever they wanted, but weird to see a game called that way in November.
- Kris Letang had a nice game- picking up some extra minutes due to Bort in the box for fighting, but still 29:04 played is a ton, OT or not. Also a tied for team high 5 shots on goal, 2 hits, a giveaway and a takeaway to go along with a blocked shot too.
- Here's how much the coaches think of Beau Bennett and Sutter- they got the second shift in OT, after Crosby/Malkin took the first one. Later in the OT they did put Hornqvist out with Sutter for an o-zone draw.
- Sick backhand move by Crosby on the shootout. Interesting to see the coaches ride the hot hand for Sutter to shoot third and not go with Letang like usual. Didn't pay off, but hey, no guarantee it would have the other way either.
No time to cry about it, both teams fly to LI and get right back at it in 24 hours. Hopefully the Penguins have a better start and can avoid having to work OT tomorrow. But if they aren't sharp, they'll be right back in the same boat that they found themselves in tonight.