It was becoming expected with how the week went, but still was disappointing to see no Evgeni Malkin on the ice for the Penguins.
Game 1 lineup is ready to go pic.twitter.com/tv5auS3SqY— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) May 16, 2021
On the other side, there’s a surprise key player missing as well. Goalie Semyon Varlamov doesn’t dress after all, and instead it’s backup Ilya Sorokin making the start for the Islanders in Game 1.
The Penguins start fairly strong, getting the first handful of shots on goal and are playing well. But they give up the game’s first goal anyways 7:58 in. Kyle Palmieri works his way into the offensive zone and shoots fairly deep and it just beats Tristan Jarry over his shoulder. Good shot, but one the goalie saw all the way and one he really shouldn’t let beat him in the playoffs as the Islanders take a 1-0 lead.
Their lead doesn’t last long. Evan Rodrigues takes a shot, it gets blocked but the play breaks into a scramble and the puck comes to Frederick Gaudreau. Gaudreau’s first shot is also blocked, which makes the play break down a bit more. Gaudreau uses that to skate into space and shoots high over Sorokin’s shoulder. 1-1 game.
FREDDY HOCKEY!— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) May 16, 2021
You love to see it! pic.twitter.com/Wq9vxe0eKN
The Pens get the first power play of the game late in the first after a really nasty and dangerous move by Sorokin to trip Jake Guentzel. Fortunately Guentzel was not injured on this play.
The Pens don’t score but get a ton of zone time on their power play. Shots are 18-13 Pittsburgh after one period. Definitely the type of game they want to play as they were able to control the puck a lot and direct a lot of it on net. Sorokin has started 14 of the last 30 games, he’s not really a pure backup, he’s a good goalie too. Kris Letang and Sidney Crosby worked their shot/pass for a deflection on the doorstep play twice this period. This one came very close to scoring.
Early in the period the Penguins continue their strong play. It pays off with a goal, the first line picks off a pass, Guentzel gets the puck back to the point for Brian Dumoulin. Dumoulin shoots and Sidney Crosby does Sidney Crosby things, making a one-handed tip of the puck and this time Sorokin can’t stop it. 2-1 Pens.
HOW ABOUT THAT DEFLECTION FROM SIDNEY CROSBY? pic.twitter.com/oyRr2ajjG5— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) May 16, 2021
Later, Adam Pelech takes a penalty giving the Pens’ a great chance to extend the lead but they can’t convert on their second power play.
The Islanders get their first power play, and for four minutes, when Jeff Carter’s stick gets high on Brock Nelson. Pittsburgh does well to shut down and kill that off.
Pittsburgh gets a third power play for the game when Carter is taken down, but again fail to score.
Shots in the second are 8-8. Overall it’s 26-21 Pittsburgh in the shot category after 40 minutes. 2-1 on the area that really matters.
The Pens don’t get the puck deep and the Islanders catch them a bit in a line change, and again Jarry gives up a goal he saw all the way and just beats him high and to the glove side. Jean-Gabriel Pageau ties the game with this shot from distance that just gets in. 2-2 with 16:27 left in the third.
PAGEAU, PAGEAU, PAGEAU, PAGEAU— x - New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) May 16, 2021
PAGEAUUUUUUUU, PAGEAU!! pic.twitter.com/oYJfYqOypR
Unlike the first two periods, New York is in control here. They have confidence and they have the Pens on their heels as play continues.
With 4:10 left in the game, the Islanders get their first lead of the game. Brock Nelson uses Kris Letang as a bit of a screen, but it’s still the third goal from distance to the glove side on Jarry, who doesn’t look very comfortable out there. 3-2 NYI pushes out front.
With their backs to the wall and time a huge factor, the Pens waste no time in tying the game. Kasperi Kapanen gets a drop pass from Carter and whips the puck post and in on Sorokin and Pittsburgh is back in it. 3-3 with 3:39 left.
HAPPY KAPPY = HAPPY PENGUINS FANS pic.twitter.com/8UUBcbolAm— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) May 16, 2021
Shots in the third are 13-6 NYI as they tip the ice and roar back. But the score is even so we get..
Mat Barzal gets a 1v1 rush with Mike Matheson, which is not what the Pens want to see but luckily the puck stays out of the net.
Game goes back and forth, but Kyle Palmieri makes the most of a bouncing puck and fires it over Jarry’s shoulder again. 4-3 NYI takes Game 1.
OT WINNER— x - New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) May 16, 2021
OT WINNER pic.twitter.com/HpBCCgbSci
- In addition to the Crosby goal, the Penguins were running the high-to-low deflections all game long. (Rodrigues had another great chance here that required a great save, as did Crosby in other times). Not going to be so bold as to say that’s a system defect for NYI, but they collapse and are allowing the Pens’ defensemen to fire away. The key step will be to see how or if they opt to adjust for next game, perhaps to pressure or play higher on the Pens’ defense.
- The cat and mouse, game-within-a-game between Sullivan and Trotz is always fun to pick apart. Trotz made the first move by opening the game with his fourth line and top defense pair, knowing the Pens would play the Crosby line. By the third period, Trotz had moved onto use the Jean-Gabriel Pageau forward line to start the period.
- Sullivan was also able to move Crosby around a bit, giving him a lot of o-zone starts out of sequence a bit. He also got Sid out against Andy Greene for the goal Crosby scored. That’s a matchup Pittsburgh will love to take anytime they can get it.
- The Marcus Pettersson / John Marino pair were on the ice for the first goal against, and their ice time got slashed big time afterwards was the other main coaching strategy to note for the Pens. Through regulation Dumoulin and Letang had a little north of 20 ES minutes, Mike Matheson and Cody Ceci were at 18 ES minutes....Marino and Pettersson had 11. This was really the first time in a while that the Pens have used a third pair as a legit third pair with low TOI and highly sheltered minutes. Being on ice for the OT GWG against won’t lead a great final moment either.
- Letang had 26:36 through regulation with the special teams time, by far the most of anyone in the game. It’s that time of year for him, especially if the Pens aren’t going to play John Marino very much..
- Jarry had a tough game. He did make several very good stops. Most of the goals he gave up left a lot to be desired. Especially after being injured late in the regular season, he just didn’t look very sharp. Certainly not up to playoff caliber. Hopefully he can adjust and gets into a better form, the team needs him to be better at this time of year.
- A key battle is going to be the Pens’ power play against the NYI PK. Both are among the best units in the league. Today it was a resounding win for the Islanders, going 3/3. It’s tough with no Malkin, but they have performed without Malkin for most of the past two months. Strike on the power play and it’s 3-1 going into the third period instead of 2-1. Might have made all the difference!
- Overall, the strange thing is after a loss that Pens didn’t play poorly. They were off for eight days and starting at an unusual time at 12:30 but controlled the first 40 minutes. Crosby stood out as the best player on the ice. The team generally got the better of the play for longer periods of times. They just couldn’t get out any further than being up 2-1 early in the game. If they had, this could have been different. The situational importance steps up this time of year, the Pens didn’t rise to the occasion like they needed to.
- Interesting stat from the NBC broadcast: under Trotz, when the Islanders win Game 1 of series, they’re 4-0. When they lose Game 1, they’re 0-2. Might mean a little, might mean a lot, but it is telling how the first game can set a tone for what is still to come.
The Pens get to regroup and see what is what on Tuesday night for Game 2.