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Game 4 Recap: Penguins fall flat as Islanders win and tie the series

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The Penguins didn’t have a great performance and didn’t get much luck or bounces either. The Islanders strike and play a picture perfect game. PIT/NYI now tied at two games a piece

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

Pregame

The Penguins bring the same lineup from Game 3 over for Game 4.

The Islanders only make one change, but it’s the biggest single switch a team can make: Game 1 starter (and winner) Ilya Sorokin is in net today for NYI.

First period

After a few early hot starts, Pittsburgh cools. Kasperi Kapanen gets a nice chance a minute in but Sorokin matches him with a save. The Pens don’t get another shot on goal for the next seven minutes.

Evgeni Malkin and Cal Clutterbuck get tangled up and go to the penalty box 4:07 into the game. It would be the first of two trips for Malkin in the period, who also handed the Islanders the first power play of the game after high-sticking Kyle Palmieri.

Beyond that, nothing else much to report. The ice looks terrible with the puck bouncing around hindering both teams. The Islanders ice the puck an approximate 475 times (give or take a few). Just a clogged up game without many chances and both teams trading off a puck like they’re tossing a ping pong ball back and forth.

Mat Barzal gets what has been a rare nice chance after getting sprung by a pass off the boards. Look at how much Tristan Jarry is shading to his left. He either lost his angle a bit or was determined to not give Barzal anything high and to the glove. So Barzal shoots for the far-side. He doesn’t hit his target, ringing the puck off the outside of the post.

Shots in the first end up 8-8. 5v5 shots are 7-4 Pens, who got more shot attempts at even as well (17-9). The Islanders did better in the short stretch of 4v4 time, carrying a 3-0 edge in shots.

Second period

8:07 into the second, the Islanders finally score the game’s first goal. Brock Nelson makes a nice play on the puck out for Josh Bailey who snaps it on net. Kris Letang and Anthony Beauvillier were jousting in the crease, knocking Jarry around and making him unable to square up to the shot and the puck goes in. 1-0 NYI.

The Islanders make it 2-0 with 5:09 left. Jarry kicks out a big rebound to Ryan Pulock. Pulock hammers it back in, and the Penguins get some bad luck when the puck ricochets off Cody Ceci’s skate and to the back of the net.

The Penguins don’t right the ship in this period, just slogging through a tough one. Malkin and Kris Letang both take an Islander down at about the same time. No scoring chance was denied or created, but NYI is given a power play late. Pittsburgh kills it off anyways.

Shots are actually 11-9 Pittsburgh in the second, but more importantly both of the goals belong to the Islanders. NYI bounced back big time from the first with a 6-2 edge in high danger scoring chances in the second period.

Third period

The Penguins finally get their first power play of the game when Sidney Crosby gets taken down. However just 29 seconds into the power play, Jason Zucker goes to the box for tripping an Islander behind the net, so that didn’t.

At the 4v4 portion, Letang interferes with an Islander and NYI gets a rare 4v3 power play for 49 seconds. They make it 3-0 when Oliver Wahlstrom shoots and the rebound gets steered into the net by Teddy Blueger. Unfortunately for him, it’s the Pittsburgh net. 13:56 left.

The Islanders remain on a 5v4 power play and the Pens’ defensive structure breaks down and they leave Jordan Eberle all alone on the far side. He picks the top corner on Jarry’s glove side to make it 4-0.

Late in the game Jake Guentzel cross-checks a guy in the head. The ref frown on Penguins who do that. But it’s the Pens who score and at least ruin Sorokin’s shutout. Brian Dumoulin shoots the puck and Zach Aston-Reese taps in a trickler to make the game 4-1 with 2:35 left.

Bryan Rust then hits a post in a far too-late surge from the Pens and the time expires.

Some thoughts

  • About a picture perfect game for the Islanders: they started out the game on a strong foot, for the first time process-wise all series. They scored first. They just kept icing the puck, mucking it up, not giving up much and clogged up the zone once they got up by two goals.
  • After winning the majority of the faceoffs first three games, the Islanders won 25/35 faceoffs in the first two periods. The Pens couldn’t take advantage of a ton of o-zone starts from all those icings when NYI just wins the faceoff.
  • The goalie change seemed to work. Sorokin was pretty good in Game 1, and solid in this one too. It didn’t really feel like Pittsburgh was asked to ask much of him, however.
  • It was a very warm, and actually hot day today and the ice conditions didn’t look good. Both teams have to deal with it, but the Pens are a team that will want and benefit from nicer ice surfaces with their team speed and playing the puck.
  • Quite the turning point there in the third when the Pens had a rare good thing on the day happen to them and they earned a power play. 2:20 later, two goals would be scored. NYI would score them both after two Pittsburgh penalties. Just kinda how the day went. Zucker tripping the guy 200 feet from his net isn’t why the Pens lost, but it’s a pretty good microcosm of the day. Two goals bouncing in off Pens’ players also was a fitting explainer for the way the cookie crumbled today.
  • Coming into today for the series, Pittsburgh could feel pretty good about carrying the play for the majority of time between whistles, generating a ton of chances, scoring some goals. Today, nothing but frustration and troubles. The good thing about an NHL playoff series is one game is just one game. A 2-1 last second win counts just as much as a 12-0 beatdown. The Islanders needed to win today, their backs were getting close to the wall. They played like the more desperate team, because frankly they were. Flush it and onto the next.
  • And so it will be. It’s a missed opportunity for the Penguins to let the Islanders tie the series, but most people knew this series was probably going six, if not seven games. NYI isn’t a perfect team, but when they compete and perform like they did today, they’re really tough to beat.

Now tied 2-2, the series moves back to Pittsburgh for a critical Game 5 on Monday night.