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Game 3 Penguins/Islanders Recap: Another poor Pens effort puts on verge of elimination

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The Pens play bad and lose. It’s happened a lot!

New York Islanders v Pittsburgh Penguins - Game Three Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images

Lineups

After announcing a lineup without Jared McCann, the Penguins are able to get in a last second change and have McCann back for Game 3.

First period

The Pens have a decent first five minutes of the game, but for a team looking to take momentum and force the Islanders on their heels, they don’t really accomplish that.

Adam Pelech hooks Dominik Simon and it draws the first power play 9:25 in but the Pens accomplish nothing with it.

But the Pens do score soon after, with Marcus Pettersson sending a point shot that Garrett Wilson does a really nice job to reach out and put a deflection on it. Even a great goalie isn’t going to stop that. 1-0 Pittsburgh.

The lead lasts just 28 seconds. Ryan Pulock makes a great cross-ice pass to Jordan Eberle. Eberle is at a sharp angle but gets a quick shot that ramps off Matt Murray and into the net to tie the game at 1.

Just 1:02 later the Islanders would strike again. Sidney Crosby can’t keep control of the puck and Justin Schultz steps up to try and help. Bad decision, Tom Kuhnhackl gets the puck by Schultz and it’s a 2-on-1. Brock Nelson skates the puck down the wing, experiences no challenge from the defender and beats Murray far side.

The Pens get a rare breakdown in the NYI defense in the dying seconds of the first period. Jake Guentzel leads a 3-on-1 rush. He has Kris Letang behind him and Simon on his off-wing to the right. Guentzel delays, tries to pass to Simon but Nick Leddy makes a nice slide. The pass is in Simon’s feet and he can’t do anything with it. Tough one to not even get a look at the net.

Shots are 8 a piece in the first period.

Second period

Anthony Beauvillier almost makes it 3-1 after a pass from Mathew Barzal goes right by Jack Johnson.

The Pens get a second power play with Valtteri Filpulla going to the box, but again, get nothing going.

Bryan Rust takes a holding penalty. 1:03 into the penalty kill Johnson holds the stick of an Islander player to put the Pens in an extended 3v5 situation. Pittsburgh kills it off.

After that defensive stand, Barzal goes to the box for a third Pens’ power play but again it comes up empty in a tough turn of events.

And time just ticks away. Shots in the critical second are 16-9 NYI. Terrible stuff for the Pens who just can’t get out of their own way and aren’t able to compete. Awful period for this time of year.

Third period

The Crosby line can’t get out of their defensive zone when Johnson is paired with them. Oy.

9:33 left Johnson can’t disrupt the pass, falls back into coverage of...Well, something and Leo Komarov takes advantage of all the space he’s afforded to snap home an insurance goal to make it 3-1.

Anders Lee hits an empty netter to put the unnecessary nail in the coffin and make it 4-1.

Pens fall in the 0-3 abyss and slink away from a critical game.

Some thoughts

  • For being in Pittsburgh, Sullivan dodged matching Crosby against the Islanders checking line for starts of periods. He put out Malkin, which seems weird enough - why not go bottom line for bottom line?
  • Nothing worked in this one. The real key is early in the game. 0/3 on the power play. The bad decision by Guentzel on the 3-on-1 rush. These are items Pittsburgh aren’t hitting on. Flip it the other way, NYI’s making no mistakes when they get a 2-on-1 rush. That’s adding up big time.
  • And the first place to look is the first line. Crosby and Guentzel have been this team’s engine. Neither had a point today, neither has a point all series. They had Simon on their right wing, he didn’t do much. They also had Phil Kessel there at times for o-zone starts but that didn’t add up either. Right now, that’s Mike Sullivan’s biggest challenge in figuring out how to win one period, before they can think about winning a game. Gotta get the top line on track.
  • Everything else is pretty much just noise. Schultz made a terrible decision to pinch, for better or worse he has to know who his partner is. Tough to play scared but he’s not playing smart either.
  • Speaking of Jack Johnson: team high 12 5v5 scoring chances against in just 14:01 5v5 time (lowest among all defensemen). Team low 28.6 Corsi For%. On ice for two goals against. He’s easy to beat up for all this, but it still matters when Crosby and Malkin have to spend all shift in their own end because they don’t have support or any sort of outlet.
  • But Johnson isn’t the only problem of the team. They’re acting overall like this is an October or November game. This was a playoff game where they were down 0-2. The whole team just seems to have no energy, no jump, no desire. While Pens fans always look who to blame, a lot of credit has to go to the Islanders. They’re playing their system very well. Their layers of defense has been great. Their forecheck has totally confounded Pittsburgh. They’ve been opportunistic and accurate converting their offensive chances. NYI has been great. The Pens look bad all-around. If not for a great tip by their 12th forward they would have been shutout. All things considered, they didn’t deserve a better result.

In a vacuum, this game might be easy to excuse. Day games have never seemed to the Pens’ forte. But this can’t just be looked at in a vacuum, it’s Game 3 of a playoff series and it all ties together. After losing the first two games on the road in overtime and then in a third period, the Pens were bad from the get go and lost at home.

That can’t happen and now they’re staring down a sweep. Really, as cliche as it sounds they can’t worry about anything but one shift and one chance at a time. Right now though, unless their coaching stops playing sub-optimal lineups (finding a first line fix and benching Johnson are a start), and unless the players actually act like they care, they’re in big, big trouble. Well, they’re in it anyways.