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Penguins/Islanders Game 2 Recap: Pittsburgh gets nothing going, falls in 0-2 series hole

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The Penguins lose another one on the road as Robin Lehner and the Islanders bog their offense down for a second straight game

Pittsburgh Penguins v New York Islanders - Game One Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Lineups

The Penguins make two lineup changes, one by choice and one by necessity. The necessity is an unfortunate turn of events with Jared McCann (officially “day-to-day” with an upper body injury) unavailable for Game 2. Teddy Blueger slots into the lineup in his stead and Zach Aston-Reese gets a promotion to the second line.

The lineup change by necessity is also unfortunate as in an effort to improve the defensive output from last game they put in the player with the worst shot, chance and goal metrics on the season into the lineup. Fightin fire with gasoline, baby!

First period

Quiet start with a bunch of whistles, which is probably good for the Penguins. Jack Johnson with his first notable play, slow-playing a puck and turning it over in his own zone at 16:35, Casey Cizikas gets a good chance in tight but Matt Murray is there to stop it.

Evgeni Malkin takes the first power play of the game almost 200 feet from his own net getting his stick parallel to the ice and into an Islanders player. A weak call but putting a stick in that position is just begging to get called. The Pens kill it off no problems though, which is notable since they have have so many problems killing penalties as of late.

Patric Hornqvist and Leo Komarov (basically same super-annoying person post-whistle) both draw each other into the penalty box with a scrum. Devon Toews hits a post on Murray during the 4v4. Marcus Pettersson then turns the puck over and Brock Nelson gets a clean look but Murray makes a big save this time.

Johnson then takes a high-sticking penalty with 6:22 remaining in the period. The Pens kill it off. Johnson gets out of the penalty box then does a blind side drive-by hit on Adam Pelech, who doesn’t have the puck. Johnson right back to the box for the second time in the period. Thank goodness for all this grit and toughness in the lineup!

Luckily this wasn’t direct shoulder to head contact or there might have been a five minute major penalty.

With power plays 3-0 for NYI so far, an even up finally comes when Anders Lee hooks onto Erik Gudbranson quite similar to how Malkin hooked the dude earlier.

On the 4v4 Nick Leddy splits the Pens’ defense and gets a shot on Murray. Murray saves, Brian Dumoulin crashes into the net and Murray taking it off the moorings and not to read to much into it, but it looks like Murray gets up a little gingerly on a leg.

The Pens do nothing with their abbreviated power play as the period winds down

Shots on goal end up 11-7 NYI, which isn’t so bad since the Islanders had 5:05 of power play time (to 1:05 for the Pens). 5v5 SOG are 6-5 PIT. However high danger 5v5 chances are 3-1 NYI so the Islanders’ defensive structure definitely continued to frustrate Pittsburgh through 20.

Second period

The Pens’ fourth line gets the first good chance, Robin Lehner stops Garrett Wilson but the rebound pops out to Matt Cullen who swats at it. Lehner’s leg quickly kicks out to make a second save in the sequence.

NYI gets a fourth power play with Sidney Crosby going to the box for an offensive zone hook, which didn’t create a scoring chance for himself or even deny possession. Odd one to call in playoffs but cool. Then the shits keep coming with Erik Gudbranson high-sticking Mathew Barzal and NYI gets a fifth call and 54 seconds on 5v3 play. They get zone time on it but the PKers stand tall.

Pittsburgh then kills off the 5v4 as well and somehow out of the first 38 minutes of this game the Pens have played 8+ short handed.

The Pens’ first line settles things down and gets some offensive zone time.

And finally, Pittsburgh strikes. Malkin gains the zone passes to Gudbranson. He shoots and Hornqvist has a great screen on Lehner and it’s 1-0.

The Islanders strike back on the rush. Anthony Beauvillier passes it through Gudbranson and Barzal has a step on Marcus Pettersson. Murray stops one but Gudbranson overskates and the rebound is there for Beauvillier. 1-1 game.

In the mayhem of the goal the Pens get a power play when Barzal is trying too hard. They do nothing with it.

Shots in the second are 12-11 NYI, 5v5 shots are 11-9 Pittsburgh. 5v5 high danger chances though are 4-2 NYI.

Third period

New lines with Malkin starting the period with Hornqvist and Bryan Rust. Crosby comes out next (with Kris Letang on defense) as well as Dominik Simon with him, and Jake Guentzel per usual. Third line now has Zach Aston-Reese with Nick Bjugstad and Phil Kessel.

Also the fact most of these forwards haven’t been mentioned in the first two periods of play until talking about their new lines in the third is a big problem!

Jordan Eberle skates past Jack Johnson, Johnson can’t stop the pass from Barzal and Bailey goes high backhand before Schultz can cover up the mistake to make it 2-1 NYI with 12:06 left in the game.

Hornqvist trips Nick Leddy and NYI gets their sixth power play of the game with 10:10 remaining. The Islanders make the Pens play with Josh Bailey scoring from in tight to make it 3-1 with 8:22 left in the game.

Aston-Reese gets a good but tough chance in front from a Kessel centering effort but it goes wide.

With 2:30 left the Pens pull Murray for an extra attacker, they get some zone time but Lehner stops Kessel with the glove on the only real look they get.

And that’s it, scrum at the end with Kessel getting tied up and dropping his gloves and losing his helmet, Malkin slashing at guys left and right. Just a lot of frustration through two games for the Pens’ star players and credit to NYI who have given them nothing.

Some Thoughts

  • The Pens won just 6 of 25 faceoffs in the first period and just 24 of of 57 (42%) in the game. Seems to be a trend of chasing the game and the puck from the very beginning.
  • At the second period, for the first time to start a period, the Pens blinked. As visitors for the first 5 periods (counting OT) they sent the Crosby line out and were dutifully met by Cizikas. For this, they sent the Malkin group to start the period (a rarity for Sullivan, who typically does start with Sid) and Trotz was quick to counter-point him by not sending Cizikas and keep him fresh for the Pens’ top line.
  • Malkin would also start the 3rd, and against Cizikas where interestingly Trotz relented and was just pushing for a good start over trying to match against #87.
  • Kessel with a team-high 7 shots on goal. That’s good to see him firing but not many seemed all that dangerous.
  • The Pens’ PK did a good job until the end, killing a bunch early. Still, they were relied on too much. Malkin and Crosby taking o-zone penalties is bad, even though the calls were questionable.
  • The Pens’ power play going 0 for 5:05 worth of time is also a bummer. Pittsburgh isn’t going to win many games when they lose the special teams battle in this series, and they lost it tonight. Lehner has been very strong, but the skill players need to put it together.
  • The Islanders cashed on twice on the rush. The Pens haven’t been able to find much at all for space or chances on the rush.
  • Great to see Gudbranson score, but tough on the next shift for him to over-skate and lose his guy in front of the net.
  • And the support players aren’t doing much either. Rust, ZAR, Simon all of those guys have to be contributors as third optons on their lines. Tonight, not much was there.
  • The Pens also throwing a lot at the wall to see what sticks, Malkin and Kessel were reunited in the third period to no real avail. From between this and the unsuccessful change to put Johnson in, just looks like Sullivan is pushing lots of buttons but none of them are working right now.
  • Speaking of: Johnson an impressive 55% Corsi for but break it down and it was 5 scoring chances for, 9 against. 0 high danger for, 5 high danger against including a goal. As predicted putting Johnson in to try and suppress chances and goals against is a fool’s errand.
  • When Johnson wasn’t on the ice the high danger chances were 11 for the Pens and only 3 against. What’s the big deal, why harp on it? See the GWG. All those chances add up to bad news sooner or later and it ended up being sooner.
  • NYI holds serve at home. That’s significant, in the history of the NHL’s seven game series when a team goes up 2-0 at home they win 89% of the time. The Pens need to buckle down and just do what they need to do to find a way to win Game 3 and see where it goes from there.

And see where it goes we shall. The series has been a dud so far for the Pens, but it’s about to shift back to Pittsburgh and for an early noon start as well. Maybe all the changes will mean some more changes. Can’t be worse, right? The Pens are looking at major adversity, especially since NYI’s stiffing defense and tough goaltending has provided a formidable challenge. Will they rise to it or slink away? We’re about to see what this year’s team is made out of.