The Pittsburgh Penguins got the typical annoying, frustrating Islanders experience on Tuesday night.
The game started off well enough, with Jake Guentzel exorcising some demons from playoffs past and scoring a goal right on the doorstep on Ilya Sorokin. Everyone was probably wondering with all the similar chances from the past why it didn’t happen earlier, but hey, a goal is a goal.
Jake Guentzel’s 18 even-strength goals on the road are tied for second in the NHL. pic.twitter.com/QHywV61GdX— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) April 13, 2022
It must have been turn back the clock night, because the puck was following around Zach Parise like it was old times. Even before his two first period goals, he had another few really good chances. Parise’s first goal of the night came on a cross-ice pass and a very generously passive play by Mark Friedman fading out of picture and allowing Parise to blast a shot from distance past Casey DeSmith.
Parise scored again so fast we didn't get a chance to get the first goal up.— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) April 13, 2022
Goal number one! pic.twitter.com/wbKWhsY8px
Parise would notch his second of the evening and make it a 2-1 game while the Islanders were short-handed. Just an absolutely dreadful effort from every player in white and DeSmith didn’t exactly help his own cause by allowing the centering pass to literally go right through him and over to Parise for the easy tap in a wide open net. Yuck.
Perfect play by Pageau and Parise. pic.twitter.com/aUfJyiBkAK— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) April 13, 2022
The Pens couldn’t get out of a dreadful first without absorbing a little more damage. After a period full of struggling to get out of the zone and making poor exit attempts, good old reliable Teddy Blueger (not Teddy!), but yes, Teddy Blueger even makes a terrible weak attempt to go up the middle of the ice. Josh Bailey makes him pay, stepping in front and hammering a quick slap shot. 3-1 game.
With the wheels coming off, Pittsburgh at least managed to regroup and come out better in the second period (even though it would have been difficult to be much worse). The Pens outshot NYI 19-7 in the middle frame and scored two goals to claw back into the game.
Brian Boyle got the party started by turning a puck over in the neutral zone and Kasperi Kapanen made a nice centering pass that caught Sorokin uncharacteristically out of net and Danton Heinen had an easy finish to bring the Pens within one goal at 3-2.
MORE OF THIS, PLEASE!— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) April 13, 2022
Danton Heinen now has points (3G-3A) in six of nine career games vs. the Islanders. pic.twitter.com/2J6M7ObaXT
After a dominant shift that caught the NYI third pair on the ice for two and a half minutes, Guentzel would score his second goal of the game by going around the net and finding space and snapping a shot far-side on Sorokin to tie the game.
Early in the third, Bailey was gifted his second goal of the game when Brian Dumoulin couldn’t hand a hard puck wrapped around the top of the boards and it popped right out for Bailey to easily deke around DeSmith and tuck in another lead for New York, at 4-3 this time.
forehand. backhand. goal. pic.twitter.com/L45UbuJZRt— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) April 13, 2022
Pittsburgh’s resiliency would continue, after a rather generous power play call, the Pens scored their first power play goal in six games at a very timely moment. Jake Guentzel was aligned deeper than usual and ripped a shot. With Rickard Rakell and Jeff Carter in front, it clipped off Carter and into the net to tie the score at 4 a piece.
POWERFUL ON THE POWER PLAY!— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) April 13, 2022
Jeff Carter has 49 points (23G-26A) in 53 career games vs. the Islanders, which is his highest point total against any one team. pic.twitter.com/BoK6MXxH62
That would prove to be the last goal in regulation, despite the best efforts of Crosby and Guentzel creating a few close calls in the late moments.
The Islanders would take the rare OT penalty, giving Pittsburgh a power play with 2:33 left. Casey Cizikas nearly scored NYI’s second SH goal but luckily the puck went wide of the net as it was going off its mooring. Guentzel was denied another hat trick attempt in front by a save from Sorokin which sent the game to the shootout.
Kyle Palmieri would score in the shootout and the Pens went 0/3 to fall short on the night.
- The Pens were short-handed in this game, and not just because Evgeni Malkin was serving the first of his four game suspension. Bryan Rust only took two shifts and left the game, never to return. Midway through the second, Evan Rodrigues also took his leave and was out for the duration. Pittsburgh isn’t really Pittsburgh without players like Malkin and Rust and that hurt big time to have to shuffle the deck.
- One byproduct of not having Rust meant the return of Crosby+Rakell. It paid almost instant dividends with both assisting on Guentzel’s first goal of the game early on. Surely not the way that the Pens wanted to get to that line combination, but at least the silver lining is it’s really working. Rakell also had the primary assist on Guentzel’s second goal.
- Couldn’t fault Mike Sullivan if he was at his wits end about his 6D. Marcus Pettersson has had his struggles and was benched tonight. In came Mark Friedman and his play wasn’t that much better.
- DeSmith got a rare second start in a row, and though he battled, it wasn’t a smooth go like it was last time out against Nashville. He looked more like a few games ago in Minnesota when he was also fighting the puck, failing to control rebounds and extending plays. DeSmith wasn’t out and out bad, but it was an adventure and never felt settled in. Kinda saw why he is a backup and why playing two games in a row might not always be wise.
- This was a weird game in that both teams had significant trouble at getting clean exits from their zones, leading to long stretches of one team dominating and pinning the opposition in deep and working cycles, forcing icings...Only a few minutes later for the situation to reverse at the other end of the ice. Typically one team might gain the edge or stand out, but this game turned about six or seven times with momentum and play shifts drastically going from steady to in trouble for both sides.
- After getting so many chances in past playoffs and getting ridiculously bad luck and/or great goaltending, it was cathartic to see Guentzel break out offensively against Sorokin and the Isles.
- Then again, Sorokin did make 43 saves on the night, including several big ones late, so it wasn’t an easy night in the office for Pittsburgh either.
- At one point Brian Boyle and Zdeno Chara got in a foot-race down the ice to determine an icing. Chara, at 45 years young and coming off a recent knee injury made Boyle — dare we say — look fast. (Chara still got the whistle on the hybrid icing...but 20 more feet and Boyle woulda had him!)
- Shootouts are what they are, but Rakell is good at them! Mike Sullivan should use him there in the top three every time. May or may not have been the difference, but it couldn’t have hurt. All of Guentzel, Crosby and Letang struggled on the bad ice and barely made Sorokin work for it.
The best thing about this game is it is over. Unfortunately, the Islanders are coming to town on Thursday to make this happen all over again.