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Game 2 Recap: The Penguins jump out in front and hold on, tie series with Islanders

The Penguins win a very spirited Game 2 after jumping out to an early lead, and riding their defense and a much improved effort from Tristan Jarry to take a 2-1 win.

New York Islanders v Pittsburgh Penguins - Game Two Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images


The Penguins are able to use the same lineup as Game 1 for Game 2 tonight. That’s a positive, it means Brian Dumoulin is able to answer the bell and dress after eating a puck to the ankle last game.

On the other side, the Islanders are using the same lines and skaters as Game 1, but in a bit of a surprise, they’ve made a goalie change. It’s Semyon Varlamov in net returning from an injury that kept him out of Game 1.

First period

The Pens get another strong shot. They control almost all of the early shots and chances and the first line cashes in. Ryan Pulock makes an uncharacteristic error trying to move the puck, and his fanned attempt lands on the stick of Bryan Rust. Rust wheels to the right side and releases a shot from distance that somehow eludes Varlamov’s glove. 1-0 Pittsburgh just 3:22 in.

Pittsburgh keeps to work and is in control for most of the period. The Pens are the faster, hungrier team and it’s showing all over the ice. Kasperi Kapanen eats a check to make a play on the puck over for Jared McCann. McCann passes out from behind the net for Jeff Carter. Carter takes an extra second to stride to the right, opening up Varlamov’s five hole. Carter slides the puck in like the old pro he is. 2-0 Pens.

On the other end, Tristan Jarry has settled down a little. He was swimming in his net a bit, including here where Casey Cizikas got a second chance from point blank but Jarry used his leg to make a nice stop.

Shots in the first were 19-13 Pittsburgh. It was the type of high-energy, back and forth period and style they want to play.

Second period

The Islanders respond in the second, setting up better in the neutral zone and taking advantage of some turnovers. On one sequence, Matt Martin fired a shot that Ryan Pulock (of all players!) was in front for a tip and Jarry was square and made a big stop.

Pittsburgh earns the first power play of the game, but it barely gets setup. A bit later the Pens also get the second power play of the game. It gets derailed by NYI breakups as well.

All this shift of the momentum culminated with the Islanders getting on the board. Josh Bailey dekes around Carter and then takes a backhand shot that beats Jarry high to the (gulp) glove side. 2-1 Pens lead but NYI is on the board with 5:16 left in the period.

All hell breaks loose when Brandon Tanev gets tripped and crashes into the goalie and net and hostilities emerge after the whistle. All the gloves stay on so there’s just matching minor penalties for Zach Aston-Reese and Matt Martin to make for 4v4 play.

Shots in the second are 15-10 NYI. For as good as the first was for Pittsburgh, the second was as poor in terms of their play. Luckily for them, they get to the break still in the lead.

Third period

Early on, something the Pens don’t want to see - Brian Dumoulin goes crashing into the end wall hard. J.G Pageau might have given a little push, but in real speed it looked more just an unfortunate play at high speeds. Doesn’t make that feel any better though Dumoulin only misses a bit of time.

Both teams exchange some chances, the Pens get two great looks with 7 and 6 minutes left in the game from Jake Guentzel and Kasperi Kapanen but Varlamov keeps it out. This Kapanen shot gets whipped in and really just hits Varlamov, but he did well to move laterally and take up a lot of the net.

With 4 minutes left, the buzzsaw line pins the Mat Barzal/Jordan Eberle line in deep, Aston-Reese almost scores if not for another big stop.

With about 1:45 the Islanders pull their goalie. 15 seconds later, Rust closes his hand on the puck to try and get it out of the zone and gets called, sending NYI to their first power play of the game with 1:28 remaining in the contest.

New York goes to their timeout to draw up a strategy for the 6v4 edge that they will have. They win the first crucial faceoff but Jarry only has to make one save on Oliver Wahlstrom and the Islanders don’t create much more.

Series is tied at one game a piece!

Some thoughts

  • The coaching decision by Barry Trotz to play Varlamov after Ilya Sorokin stopped 39 shots and earned the win in Game 1. It’s a bit much to question Trotz’s logic and feel for the goalie position, of all things, but he’s left himself open for criticism when Varlamov wasn’t sharp on the Rust goal early on. Varlamov may have justified the decision by getting a lot better as the game went on, but a weak early goal is a big back-breaker that sets the game on a course the Islanders don’t want to go down.
  • Two games into the series and one huge advantage and trend developing is how these games are starting. The Pens are coming out the gates red hot, and gobbling NYI up early. But after the first period of Game 1, it was a 1-1 score, Pittsburgh took no advantage. They stepped up in all areas and took a 2-0 lead after 20 minutes tonight. Quick starts are everything in the playoffs.
  • Then, again, like Game 1, NYI responded well in the second. Those guys are pros too, they’re going to adjust and get better when they need to, this is going to be a difficult series. The Pens’ squandering two power play chances while up 2-0 (much like Game 1) is becoming another unfortunate developing trend. Execution on the power play to gain more breathing room is simply going to have to happen.
  • That power play is going to be a big talking point. It again let the Pens down when they needed it. These games are going to be like pulling teeth if Pittsburgh’s biggest edge doesn’t start converting.
  • Bob Grove noted pre-game on twitter that Rust entered tonight with just one goal in his last 15 playoff games. As you may have heard a time or two, the Pens don’t have a great playoff record over those last 10-15 games. It’s not as simple as “how Rust goes, the Pens go”, but thinking back to 2016 and 2017, the Pens may not win some close games without Rust’s contributions. They’ll need more this playoff.
  • The Pens had a 4v4 in the second period with the following players on the ice: Carter, Kapanen, Mike Matheson, Cody Ceci. Fancy that 12 months ago. It’s wild how much and quickly things can change in the NHL. (Which is also why it’s silly to put too much emphasis on a playoff record dating back to 2018 or 2019).
  • Before the Dumoulin injury, Marcus Pettersson played only 6:35 in the first two periods, including just 1:55 in the second. They had to go back to him a little more in the third, but it’s clear the coaches don’t have a lot of trust in Pettersson’s game right now with their very minimal usage of him.
  • Big shoutout to Dumoulin for being able to shake that impact off quickly though. He was back on the ice, and a key player in the final minute when in a 4v6 situation. Just a total pillar of strength back there for the Pens.
  • Great game for the buzzsaw. They saw a lot of Barzal and Eberle. Those two key, and most skilled NYI forwards were pretty quiet. Tanev was his typical ball of energy and maniacal forechecking. Aston-Reese might have been the best of the line, he had 2 shots on goal and 5 total shot attempts, it feels like he’s getting close to scoring a big goal in these playoffs.
  • A ton of post-whistle scraps, facewashes, sticks up high and general other hostilities. Playoffs are back and the Pens haven’t been backing down an inch.
  • And how about Jarry? He had a lot riding on this one after a shaky Game 1. He stopped 37/38 and really settled into this game as it went along. This looked a lot more like February/March Jarry when he was at the very top of his game. The Pens needed their goalie to be at his best in the second and third periods, and he totally was. That’s the main reason they won and the series is now tied.

Now the series shifts to New York. Overall, the Islanders are probably satisfied deep down splitting the first two games on the road, but the Pens have a lot to take out of this one too. They played a strong game, probably have carried the play more often than not in the first two games and have been in the lead for much of the two games.