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Recap: Flat Penguins embarrassed on Long Island

The Penguins lay an egg in one of their worst performances of the season, a 5-1 loss to the New York Islanders

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


The Penguins are back from Christmas break with the same starting lines and lineup as their last game.

First period

Pittsburgh didn’t leave the habit of surrendering an early goal behind. Brian Dumoulin gets two cracks at the apple to get the puck out of the zone, but fails twice. Anders Lee drives in, uses Dumoulin as a screen and whips a shot in that might even have caught a piece of the defender’s stick as it sailed into the net. Either way, 1-0 Islanders just over a minute into the game.

The nightmare start continues, a few minutes later it looks like Jarry has a chance to cover the puck, but he swats it away and right to Casey Cizikas. Cizikas jams it into the net, a bit of a question on if the puck was in before the whistle blew, but clearly it was. The refs take a quick video check to confirm and do so, awarding the goal.

But Mike Sullivan hits his “not so fast my friend” button and challenges for off-side, which the Pens’ off ice video crew had plenty of time to confirm while the league was doing their check. And just as clear as the goal is that Mat Barzal was way off-side entering the zone prior to the puck. After a second video review, the refs change the call - no goal and the score stays 1-0 NYI.

Kris Letang smashes an opponent and takes a penalty, but the strong Penguin PK takes care of it.

The Islanders keep pushing and dominating the pace of play but Pittsburgh finds a way to stay in the game. The Pens get a lifeline when Alex Romanov interferes with Brock McGinn. The power play doesn’t work, but it at least stems the tide of all the Isles’ momentum.

With 4:47, it’s the third line that comes through to tie the game. Some board work by the forwards gets the puck back to P.O. Joseph near the left point. He slings a puck that went up then straight down and ricocheted just before McGinn could attempt to tip it. Worked probably even better this way, because it didn’t lose any momentum and the changing path after the bounce left Ilya Sorokin helpless. 1-1 game on a wacky bounce, but that’s the good thing about putting pucks to the net is sometimes unexpected good things happen.

Shots in the first were 15-11 NYI. The Pens weather a big storm early and find a way to equalize later on. Not perfect, but at least it didn’t get away from them early.

Second period

New York strikes with another early period goal, 50 seconds in this time. Teddy Blueger loses a defensive zone draw cleanly and the Pens never recover. Hudson Fasching gets open in the circle and gets the pass and fires high on a shot that eludes Jarry. Barzal might have tipped it over to the other side. Either way, score moves to 2-1 with NYI back in front.

After a while longer of toying with the Pens, the Islanders start to get some distance. After tiring the Pens out in their zone for a while, Noah Dobson shows why he’s one of the elite offensive-minded defenders in the game with freezing everyone with the big slapshot windup...Only to dish over for a wide open Josh Bailey to have a wide open cage. 3-1 game.

This led to some line changes, with the Pens only getting a measly two shots on goal in the first 14 minutes of the second period (the Islanders had 13).

If your first reaction to in game line changes was, “I bet this meant Bryan Rust got moved back to Crosby’s line”, give yourself an A for knowing your Sully. The rest of the blender spits out as follows:

Zucker-O’Connor-Kapanen (often skipped line)

The new lines provide no instant spark, and the Pens end up mostly standing in place and puck watching as Barzal definitely scores this goal. 4-1 game.

It’s been a long season already but at the risk of a blanket statement, the second period was one of the worst (if not THE singular worst) effort the Pens have had this year. Shots are 20-4 NYI in the second, and none of the Pittsburgh shots were any memorable or had much of a chance. The Islanders get three goals, could have been six if Jarry was as flat as everyone else. Almost offensively bad by Pittsburgh.

Third period

To start the third, Sullivan has gone back to the initial game lines and undone all the changes - a challenge issued at intermission perhaps?

It doesn’t work. Marcus Pettersson can’t clear the puck and serves to pass it back to the point. NYI booms it in and takes three point blank chances on Jarry. Evgeni Malkin is no where near Anders Lee, who eventually and almost mercifully ends the sequence by slamming the puck in. 5-1 game as the grossness continues.

Sidney Crosby shows some life, he sticks up for a teammate after the whistle and throws a couple hits after that, earning a cross-checking penalty for only the third overall power play of the game. The Pens kill it off.

Jeff Carter trips a guy in the o-zone with 2:04 left and gets rung up on it. The Pens kill it off and then thankfully the clock is killed off as well to end this game.

Some thoughts

  • The Pens move up to 4-for-5 on coach’s challenges this year. Confidence level for off-sides remains through the roof, they don’t miss a thing there. One of the few good things in this game, and even that came as a result of the Islanders, you know, scoring a goal that didn’t have any significance with Barzal being a foot offside at the line.
  • The PK was perfect at 3/3 to continue their strong play with 22 straight kills, if you’re really searching for a silver lining. Not that the Islanders have been confused with being power play specialists, or anything, but it’s something.
  • NYI was a step faster and quicker from the get go. Looked like some heavy legs coming off the break for the visiting Penguins. Usually Pittsburgh’s problem against the Islanders is a hot goalie and not getting completely stifled, but in this game they didn’t even get close to enough pressure on Sorokin for the NHL’s leading goal saver above average to even frustrate them.
  • If you subscribe to a theory (I do) that over a long season, there are just a handful of games, maybe 5-10, that it’s not going to be a team night. They don’t have the juice, the other team looks better. Just a flush and forget type of game. It happens sometimes.
  • Very odd game too with the puck bouncing every which way, some broken plays and weird bounces. The first two goals of the game only had one total assist between them. All seven goals in the game only had six total assists. You rarely see that at the NHL level over so many goals and so few assisting be done on them.
  • The AT&T Sportsnet broadcast had odd man rushes at 1-0 NYI after one, and only one shot from the slot for Pittsburgh. Didn’t count any in the second period either. Nothing really going on. Pittsburgh’s number of times icing the puck however, that was through the roof.
  • The Isles’ Oliver Wahlstrom stepped into a tremendous open ice collision with Chad Ruhwedel in the first. It looked like both took a couple more shifts, but by the second period both players were out. Could mean Mark Friedman’s first NHL games of the season coming up with the Pens having a game tomorrow and then again on Friday if Ruhwedel is banged up.
  • Pretty much everyone was bad across the board, but the typical weak spots (Carter, Dumoulin) were, well, to be expected.
  • Sullivan hinted earlier today the third line wasn’t meeting expectations and that changes could be coming. I do wonder if the McGinn-Blueger-Carter line is the direction they will be headed (especially when Ryan Poehling is back from injury to center the fourth line). Sullivan has used that trio situationally on faceoffs here in there in key moments —in fact that line was on ice for the d-zone draw that led to the second goal against even before the line changes. It’s a grouping he’s had on his mind to rotate Blueger/Carter for their strong side on faceoffs and hope those three can be the main defensive/checking line.
  • Dropping down O’Connor and Kapanen to the forgotten line in the second period isn’t very surprising for Sullivan’s tendencies, but seeing Zucker get dropped away was an eyebrow raiser. Probably more temporary for “just wanted to try to shake the Malkin line up with completely new wingers to see if that would spark something” than anything else.
  • Luckiest guy on the team: Casey DeSmith. He had nothing to do with this stinker and is probably the only player that a finger can’t be pointed out for something (save perhaps Joseph, who even besides his goal had some decent moments). And fortunately for DeSmith (and surely much to Jarry’s chagrin), with Pittsburgh playing tomorrow they had no choice but to leave Jarry in for the full game and ride out the storm.

Well, this was bad. The good news for the Pens is they get back out there tomorrow, but they’re going to have to use tonight’s no show performance as a wake-up and actually put some effort out there next time out.