The Penguins stick with the same winning lineup and lines as last night, except it’s Casey DeSmith in net for the first time since the sixth grade picnic (February 11th).
A pretty bland start for both of these teams second games starting about about 18-19 hours after the last game ended. The Pens only record two shots on goal, both late in the period, and look especially sluggish.
Marcus Pettersson takes a hooking penalty late in the opening frame and the Islanders power play again cashes in. This time it’s Oliver Wahlstrom taking a pass in the wheelhouse and blasting it over the shoulder of DeSmith to make it 1-0 NYI late.
Wahlstrom doing a little shopping in the TOY DEPARTMENT! pic.twitter.com/oYmasiXqUO— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) February 28, 2021
But the Penguins can also thank DeSmith that it’s only a 1-0 game after one and they’re still in this game, because they really don’t deserve to be. Pittsburgh has almost literally done nothing with shots at 9-2 New York and 5v5 scoring chances listed at 7-3 which feels about 3 too high for the Pens.
Coach Mike Sullivan goes to the changes early, most notably putting Bryan Rust back with Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel on the first line.
About 2:30 in, Evgeni Malkin takes a slashing penalty when he breaks his stick to send the Islanders to their second, and the game’s second power play. The Pens kill it off.
Brandon Tanev is bumped up to play with Malkin and Jared McCann. Kasperi Kapanen has shuffled down to play with Teddy Blueger and Zach Aston-Reese. The fourth line is barely playing at all.
Guentzel then takes a penalty and the Sullivan switches continue with the unusual step of playing Crosby+Rust as PK’ers. It doesn’t work out as the Islanders’ passing picks the Pens apart and J.G. Pageau scores from the slot to make it 2-0.
PAGEAU PAGEAU PAGEAU PAGEAU— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) February 28, 2021
PAGEAUUUUUUUUUU, PAGEAU pic.twitter.com/oQAzMY5z0j
The Pens finally get their first power play and disaster almost strikes when Malkin loses a bouncing puck, springing Casey Cizikas on a breakaway. Luckily he also fumbles the puck and doesn’t get much a shot on his fellow Casey.
Period ends, shots 16-8 NYI in the second and 25-10 overall. About sums it up!
The Pens are playing better, but score effects and the Islanders have called off the forecheck and are content to sit back and ease this baby home. Pittsburgh gets a second power play chance and some actual really good zone time, but again there’s too much perimeter passing and a lack of movement and not much happens.
McCann then goes to the box for goalie interference, which, hey, at least someone is driving to the net. The Pittsburgh penalty kill does the job.
With a little over 4 minutes left, Rust takes a pretty weak interference penalty which kills off two more minutes.
The Pens pull their goalie and get some 6v5 time, but still don’t come any closer to scoring. Game mercifully ends.
- Just no juice from the Pens tonight. Quick turnaround from last night, but it was quick for the Islanders too. Almost like Pittsburgh was content enough with the win last night and just riding this one out.
- DeSmith was a nice bright spot though, probably the only one in this game. It was only his second game since February 1st but he was pretty sharp and played well. Can’t say that about anyone else on the team.
- Once again, Sullivan’s first reaction in a pinch is to demote Kapanen outside of a Crosby/Malkin line. Odd to see. Tanev has been good lately, so it’s understandable why he gets a look to give a spark, and Guentzel-Crosby-Rust is a tried and true trio, but it’s a bit telling that Kapanen is always the first one to give.
- The Pens just started a stretch where they played 14 games in 23 days. Back-to-back today. Their 4th line all played 5-6 ES minutes today, in a situation where they really needed some energy and could have used a boost. That’s becoming a bigger storyline that the team doesn’t have four quality and reliable lines. This is probably going to become an even bigger deal as we keep getting deeper into the season and the top players continue to get tested night after night.
- 2 goals, both on the power play for the Islanders. The Pens power play? 0 for 2.
- But, big picture, the Pens are 4-2 against the Islanders in six games this season. That’s a favorable position to be in so far.
- And, it’s been 10 straight games that they’ve had to play the Caps or Islanders. It’s been a slog for us all and the end of a long road trip. A little bit of variety and seeing new teams is going to be a welcome development.
The Pens go back home and see some new faces, in the Flyers starting on Tuesday.