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Game 3 Recap: Sheer pandemonium! Penguins take series lead in a wild 5-4 contest

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In a wild, wild game, the Islanders try to muddy the waters by scrumming it up, but the Penguins win the game with two goals from Jeff Carter and a late winner from Brandon Tanev

Pittsburgh Penguins v New York Islanders - Game Three Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Pregame

It’s a happy return for the Penguins, who get Evgeni Malkin back to the lineup for Game 3. Otherwise, same players and pairings.

On the other side, the Islanders are sticking with the same players and alignment and goalie as Game 2.

First period

For the second game in a row, the Pens strike in the very early stages! The buzzsaw line pins in the Islanders and work the puck back to the point. Kris Letang looks like he’s just trying to keep the puck in the zone and flicks it to the ent ton of traffic in front

It looks like it takes a deflection up front, for now the goal is credited to Letang and Semyon Varlamov appears to never really track this shot through all the mayhem and movement in front of him. It pops in the net and it’s 1-0 Pittsburgh.

The Pens earn the first power play 30 seconds later when Kyle Palmieri collides with Tristan Jarry in Jarry’s crease. Pittsburgh’s power play: still dreadful!

Solid road period for the Pens who do well for the most part. The Islanders get one really good shift when they get their second line to pin in Malkin and the Marcus Pettersson - John Marino pair, but it’s mostly no harm, no foul, with a ton of shot blocks and keeping them to the outside.

With 21 seconds left in the period, NYI gets their first power play, and it’s an avoidable retaliation call when Teddy Blueger slashes at an Islander way behind the play. Not great but the Pens escape the period.

Shots in the first end up at 12-10 for Pittsburgh.

Second period

Pittsburgh kills off the 1:39 remaining on Blueger’s penalty, but at 5v5 give up a breakaway for Anthony Beauvillier. Luckily, he misses the net with his shot attempt, or Jarry gets a piece of it to send it out.

Soon after, the Pens get rung up for too many men on the ice (reset the counters!) and the Islanders are back to their second power play of the game. NYI gets some zone time, but not much else

With 8:57 left in the second, the Islanders tie it. Scott Mayfield shows nice patience with the puck to watch Zach Aston-Reese go sliding by in a shot block attempt that takes him out of the lane and Mayfield whips the puck (gulp) high and to the glove of Jarry. 1-1 and it’s a new game.

The fans are feeling it and finally have something to cheer for but just 2:21 later Jeff Carter says “hold my beer”. (Maybe). Carter bursts up the right side after a bump feed from Frederick Gaudreau after Nick Leddy steps up on him. Bad idea puck get through and Carter has the open space to totally rip a shot far-side on Varlamov. Big time player doing a big time thing right there. 2-1 Pens back ahead.

Before the end of the period, Pittsburgh gets another goal to pad the lead. Some great work by the Malkin line hounding the puck. Eventually Geno gets it to Jason Zucker, who drives around Mayfield and then shoots against the grain to go top corner, high glove on Varly. Tremendous individual effort as the Pens again find a way to create room in a danger zone, and then convert. 3-1.

Shots in the second were 7-6 Isles. And it was trending towards New York and the game seemed to be going their way. That Jeff Carter goal totally changed the vibe of this game and awoke the Penguins, look at this nosedive after that yellow dot in the second period from NST with the xGF..

Third period

The third starts with fireworks, Marino loses his helmet and has to go to the bench as the Pens are getting pinned in their zone. They never recover their defensive structure and the puck eventually bounces around to Cal Clutterbuck to finish it in front 3-2.

Then all hell really breaks loose. NYI gets the puck to the net, Jarry covers it but Kyle Palmieri kicks at the goalie. All five players on both sides lose their minds and are all over each other. Eventually they all end up in the penalty box! And Pittsburgh gets and extra penalty out of the fracas.

The Isles feed off all the energy and momentum, win the faceoff on the power play, and the puck goes in the net. Anthony Beauvillier slides it bounces off Cody Ceci and in. 3-3 game.

The Islanders run Jarry again and get called for a penalty. The Pens score their first PPG of the playoffs when Malkin feeds Carter down low and he rips another shot, this time short-side on Varlamov to re-establish the Pens lead. Again. 4-3

The Pens get a 2v1, Gaudreau takes a shot on goal, and then Jared McCann takes an unnecessary shot putting Noah Dobson on goal. Can’t do that! NYI back to the power play. But the Pens kill it.

Matt Martin tries to muddy the waters jumping on Crosby and John Marino grabs him. They both go to the box and we’re back to 4v4. Nothing comes of it.

But the Islanders find another equalizer. It’s Mayfield shooting from the point again, Casey Cizikas is in Jarry’s face and the puck just hits off Clutterbuck and into the net for his second goal of the period and game. 4-4

The Pens find a way to respond again. A Letang point shot gets to Brandon Tanev who baseball bats that sumbitch out the air and in the net. 5-4 Pens back in the lead with 3:16 left to go.

NYI pulls the goalie with about 1:35 left. They don’t come close. Pens win!

Some thoughts

  • Another great start for the Pens, who get an early goal for the second game in a row. Improving the starts of games have been something Barry Trotz has been mentioning to the media, so you know he’s preaching it to his team...But the Pens have found a way. The importance of scoring the first goal, and scoring it early at that, can’t be under-stated against a great defensive team like NYI that will feed and build upon defensive efforts. Tough to do that going down early.
  • Speaking of that, Kris Letang is playing some spectacularly great hockey right now. Eating a ton of minutes, a big part of why the NYI top line has been mostly quiet. He’s skating and moving the puck with authority and confidence. His game can be frustrating when it’s not clicking right, but when it is...Man. It’s a tour de force right now for Letang out there. 3 points and a game-high 24:20 in this one.
  • As mentioned above, that Jeff Carter goal really had such a huge impact on the game. From the obvious, it made a 1-1 game with NYI growing and pushing into a 2-1 lead. Turned a 3-3 game that was unsettled back to the Pens’ favor. As Mike Sullivan said earlier, Carter adds a certain swagger to the team. The way he plays, the way he carries himself. It’s a sight to see with his ability to still rip the puck.
  • Getting Zucker going is a huge step for the Pens. By Goals/60 in the regular season, Zucker was actually one of the Pens’ better players, which might be surprising. It feels like he has more to give, but filling the net is a good start. A lot is made with the perceived fit with Malkin, and Zucker is in that role a bit because there’s no where else for him. But if that develops into a secondary option, with McCann-Carter as another wave of the attack the Penguins become so much more.
  • In all my years of watching hockey, I don’t think I’ve ever seen the refs put 10 players, all five from each side into the penalty box at the same time for two minute minors. No gloves were dropped. Mayhem. NHL playoff action!
  • The Islanders went down 3-1 and started gooning it up. Their frustrations are boiling over. For most of the three games in this series, the Pens have outskated, outshot and outscored them. Their only hope is to bring tempers to a fever pitch, take some Pittsburgh players to the box and feed off of it.
  • How fitting on a game so frantic and frenetic with all the pandemonium and it’s tied up 4-4 late, who is going to win it? Brandon Tanev, naturally. A fitting conclusion for the Pens.

Wow, be sure to remember to exhale. The Pens fight through a very intense battle, don’t give an inch, weather a bunch of punches, all the cliches you can think of. And they come out with a win in New York, an impressive accomplishment. Pittsburgh pushes up to a 2-1 series lead, but the work is clearly far, far, far from done.

Game 4 is a quick turnaround Saturday afternoon.