There’s an unhappy surprise in pre-game warmup, when Bryan Rust tries to skate but quickly leaves the ice and becomes a late scratch with an unknown ailment/injury. That means a new lineup for the Penguins, with Brian Boyle getting back into the lineup and the red hot Evan Rodrigues getting a well-deserved look on the right side of the top line with Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel.
Much like many recent games, it’s a very good start for Pittsburgh. They get 10 of the first 11 shots on goal, including reaaaally good looks for Marcus Pettersson, Zach Aston-Reese and Crosby. In flashbacks to May, Ilya Sorokin was standing on his head again in an opening 11 minutes that only saw two faceoffs and just a ton of continuous play.
Tristan Jarry is tested with a few tricky high shots late that require nice saves (hmm, wonder why this Islander team might be shooting there..) and the period ends with no scores and no power plays.
Shots in the first are 12-5. Pretty good start, just no results.
As is their habit, the Islanders just kinda hang around and slowly even out the shots on goal. Nothing overwhelming but they keep coming in slow, steady waves. Kasperi Kapanen gets a chance to score for the Pens, but can’t. Evan Rodrigues dances and darts all around the offensive zone and makes a great pass to Jake Guentzel, but an Islander breaks it up at the last moment.
Finally with 6:18 left in the second, the game has a first penalty. It’s Guentzel going off for tripping, giving NYI the night’s first power play. The Pens kill it off and turn the momentum by scoring the game’s first goal. Sidney Crosby hits Kapanen on the rush for a 2-on-1. Kapanen is really moving and doesn’t even look pass, just pulls back and blows a shot glove side past Sorokin. Finally, we have something. 1-0 Pittsburgh with 3:19 left in the second.
Shots in the second are 11-8 Pens. Somehow it was more boring than that reads, as not much really went down in the first 13 minutes of the period until the Pittsburgh penalty and subsequent goal. This was the type of game where somebody, anybody, needed to take a penalty to shake things up.
It’s another great start for the Penguins of a period, owning the puck early. Guentzel goes to the net hard yet again and takes a shove from Scott Mayfield. Mayfield gets rung up to give Pittsburgh their first power play of the game. They do little with it, much like NYI did earlier on theirs. They don’t give up a goal soon after, at least.
But Pittsburgh takes another penalty with 13:34 left when Brian Dumoulin high-sticks Cal Clutterbuck and gets a minor for it. This NYI power play is better for them, but Jarry is solid in his positioning and makes a few saves from outside shots with cross-ice movement needed.
Contact to Jarry by the Islanders unleashes a scrum with the NYI goons trying to get active and pile on after the whistle to get anything going for their team. Penalties cancel and we stay 5v5 with Kris Letang and Marcus Pettersson going to the box for Pittsburgh and Matt Martin and Cal Clutterbuck heading off for the Isles.
Jason Zucker gets a clean breakaway with seven minutes left, but Sorokin denies the backhand shot. With 2:30 left, Jarry makes perhaps the save of the game when his right leg juts out to deny Otto Koivula from in front. Then Crosby gets a breakaway and Sorokin stabs away a shot to the blocker side. The goalie duel escalates.
NYI pulls the goalie with under 2 minutes left, but the Pens’ 5v6 form holds this time. Jarry and the Pens see out the 1-0 win.
- It was really cathartic to see Kapanen just freakin’ let it rip for what ended up being the game’s only goal. Too often it’s in the Pens’ DNA to make the skill play, force the pass in this situation, even when it’s not there. And that was Jake Guentzel to his right, would have been understandable (though not great) if he did think “oh, I’m playin with Sid and Jake, need to feed them”. No, you don’t, especially with a shot like Kapanen. Great move.
- The Islanders just find a way to cling to life. The team they have now is like the cockroach that is left after the bomb has gone off, it’s a bare bones crew, but it doesn’t even matter. They just keep on moving ahead as best as they can. That’s a compliment, but it’s kinda gruesome and boring to watch. Maybe that’s why their fans do the chants and cheers and resort to entertaining themselves during hockey games, cuz it sure ain’t going to happen on the ice.
- The way Pittsburgh played in the first 5-10 minutes, it felt like it was a matter of time before they scored, and probably more than once. Sorokin was really great early. And then, it was like NYI found a way to lull the Pens to sleep for a while. Going back to the playoffs it seems like the refs never like to call penalties in NYI/PIT games, for whatever reason. And they were fairly straight up and clean games on both sides but, jeez. Not too many whistles, some action but not great chances and it was like the “just do something” meme.
- By virtue of his assist on the Kapanen goal, Guentzel now has at least one point in all eight Pens’ road games this season.
- Here’s a great stat, per the incomparable Bob Grove: Tristan Jarry has now won @NYI in three different venues - the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, Barclays Center, and now UBS Arena. Jarry is the only Pens’ goalie to win in all three places.
- Dumoulin usually starts on the d-zone draw on the PK for the Pens, but when he went to the box it was interesting to see that Chad Ruhwedel was on the ice with John Marino for two right shots. Ruhwedel did what he usually does — quietly performs his job — with a nice clear of the zone and eventually getting off the ice with no damage done.
- Both goalies were very good in this contest. Sorokin’s two breakaway saves in the third were clinical. Jarry was on top of his game in every way with his third shutout in the last five games, and the most impressive of them all too.
- Has to be doubly great for Jarry to exorcise some demons against his playoff nemesis. The goalie NYI saw tonight was nothing like the guy literally passing away goals to them in May. If there were any doubts about Jarry’s early season turnaround, a game like this to build even further upon his impressive stats has to set it all to rest. He looks for real and has been consistently solid, if not better, for most of this season.
Great job for the Pens, taking care of business against a depleted bunch. No sympathy in the NHL, considering Pittsburgh as iced lineups with even more salary on the shelf than the Islanders didn’t have available in this game. It sucks big time, but that’s life in the big city sometimes. The Penguins have a great chance to keep the good times rolling (if they work for it) when they head home tomorrow to play Montreal, another struggling team who are losing tonight in Buffalo.