The Penguins welcome back Jason Zucker after missing 18 games with an injury and Mark Jankowski is back after missing one day from the COVID protocol list. Tristan Jarry back in net to start, though he wouldn’t be able to finish..
Just 2:43 into the game, the Islanders Ross Johnston takes a penalty 195 feet away from his net when he slashes Jared McCann’s stick and it breaks. The Pens power play makes them pay, but it’s the second group. Really great play by John Marino to skate the puck all the way up the ice, enter the zone, really show some patience holding onto it. Marino then dishes for Anthony Angello, who has wisely posted up in front of the net. Angello chops a backhander that leaks through Semyon Varlamov and Pittsburgh has opened the scoring 4:24 into the contest.
LET'S GET IT STARTED IN HEREEEEEE pic.twitter.com/Z7EnxW1HFz— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) March 29, 2021
Late in the period Pittsburgh gets a second power play, but Kris Letang sends it to a 4v4 when he loses his cool after getting hit and goes after Casey Cizikas. No matter, the Pens score on the 4v4, a great pass again by Marino finds Jared McCann all alone in the middle of the ice. McCann is all alone due to a dreadful line change by the Islanders. It’s a really nice finish here to get this on target and quickly and beat Varlamov. 2-0 Pens.
Matheson ➡️ Marino ➡️ McCann ➡️ pic.twitter.com/7I9m4HeKsQ— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) March 29, 2021
Shots in the first are 9-5 Pens. The Islanders only get one shot on goal in the last 13 minutes, which makes the departure of Jarry very surprising..
When the Pens come out of the room for the start of the second, it’s Casey DeSmith leading them on the ice. Emergency backup Emil Larmi is dressed and soon is on the bench in his pads, with Jarry missing.
DeSmith is tested early as NYI gets a little push on, perhaps sensing they’re dealing with a cold goalie and wanting to exploit it. Fortunately, DeSmith is calm, focused and does great even coming in cold and with little notice. The Islanders had eight SOG in the first seven minutes of the second, more than they had in the entire first. Several very good looks at the net, too. DeSmith had to be great as soon as he got in. He was.
The Pens get another power play but for a second time this game Letang takes a penalty while on a 5v4 and, sigh, that’s not good.
New York gets on the board almost halfway into a frenetic period for them on a true power play when Jake Guentzel gets the gate for tripping. Mathew Barzal swings around in the offensive zone and Matt Martin is parked right in front of the net. Barzal fires the puck to the net, and believe it or not Martin makes a really nice play to tip a puck about 2-3 feet off the air into the net for only his second career PPG and to get the Islanders on the board. 2-1 Pens.
Barzal the feed. Martin the goal. pic.twitter.com/DjXookwrjI— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) March 30, 2021
The Isles push on but can’t score. Mike Matheson takes a penalty late to send NYI to a carryover power play into the third.
Shots in the second are 14-6 Islanders. They totally turned it on, and suddenly the Pens looked like they were playing down to perhaps their actual talent level available for this game. Luckily DeSmith coming in hot prevented this one from getting ugly and actually having Pittsburgh go back to regroup for the third.
DeSmith is back on the ice for the third and Jarry is still MIA.
The Pens kill the rest of the penalty to start the period but are still back on their heels. Cizikas hits a post.
The Pens do well to keep NYI mostly to the outside, DeSmith does his part along the way and Pittsburgh holds on until the final clock expires to sneak out with the victory.
- One of the great things for the Penguins would be if John Marino has a second half of the season resurgence. His passing and chance creation for this game was awesome. After putting up 20 assists as a rookie last year, Marino only had three helpers in 31 games coming into tonight, and nearly doubled up his season output of assists just in this game.
- Early in the season the Pens defensemen went down in waves to injury...Then almost as soon as they started all getting healthy, five or six forwards went out at the same time with injury. The only positive on the injury front so far for Pittsburgh has been their goalie situation avoiding anything. We don’t know if this was injury, illness or what just yet, but that’s the last thing the Pens need is a hit to their goalie depth or something to interrupt the extremely good turn that Jarry’s season has taken as of late.
- Some uncharacteristically sloppy play by both teams: Johnston’s o-zone penalty, bad change by the Islanders...The Pens give it back with Letang’s multiple avoidable penalties.
- Josh Yohe from The Athletic had this stat, so credit to him, but now the Pens are 15-4-2 in games where Brian Dumoulin plays and just 8-7-0 without him this season. After seeing too much of a sample this year and last season of the Pens being without Dumoulin, it certainly is clear the team is much, much better with No. 8 out there doing a million little things and helping put others in better spots.
- More on this later tomorrow, but the month of March for Jared McCann was off the charts good, even with missing a bit in the middle with an injury. He scored again tonight to record his fifth goal and 10th point of the month in his 10th game, with the underlying metrics being even better than that.
- This is a good time for a two day break in the schedule. It’s not a lengthy reprieve, but the Pens look like they can use it. After a great start in the first it looked like they suddenly lost a lot of their legs for the last two periods.
- This was the last Pens/Isles game of the regular season....But will it be the last overall matchup? The odds have to be very high for a first or second round playoff series between the two clubs. Pittsburgh going 6-2-0 on them (with NYI having a 2-4-2 record) has to at least feel comforting at this point, not that regular season records correlate to what happens in the playoffs, but in March it’s much better to be 6-2 instead of 2-6 head-to-head..
After this one, all eyes will be on Mike Sullivan for his post-game update on Jarry. “Still under evaluation” is going to be the response tonight, but Jarry’s status looms large. Luckily the schedule isn’t that rough right now, and even better is the fact that DeSmith is playing some very excellent hockey right now and should be able to hold the fort down if need be.