The Penguins get Tristan Jarry back in the net for the first time in almost a month, and also flip their lower line left wings — because, hey what does it really matter at this point?
Let’s play some hockey pic.twitter.com/yUnHctpfnL— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) February 20, 2023
The Penguins get off to a good start, which considering they did on Friday against this team also makes it feel a little hollow, but what can ya do? Chad Ruhwedel of all people gets the game’s first really good scoring chance from in front, but Ilya Sorokin keeps the puck out. But in a bit later, Sidney Crosby’s pass flutters over to Jumpin’ Jake Guentzel who has an easy tap-in 6:12 into the night to put Pittsburgh out in front 1-0.
How about that top line?— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) February 21, 2023
Over the last four games (counting tonight), the top line of Guentzel-Crosby-Rakell have tallied 17 points. pic.twitter.com/zQmkTFx8qN
With the first line on the board, it’s like the second line took it as a personal challenge to step it up and try to get theirs as well. Bryan Rust had a nice backhand shot, but Sorokin denied it. Then Sorokin did even better to rob Evgeni Malkin on a 2-on-1 following a really slick pass from Jason Zucker.
Guentzel takes a stick to the chops and Pittsburgh gets the first power play as a result. Nothing good comes of it, but on the plus side - nothing bad, either!
Back at even, it’s all Pens all the time in the first. They’re toying with the defenders and in control of the puck. Only the familiar foe in Sorokin displaying his brilliance is keeping NYI in this game (feels like acutely like deja vu considering this happened 72 hours ago).
Shots end up 19-7 Pens. Only bad part is the lead is just one, despite an awful lot of domination out there.
The Islanders recover from the first period and start out better (wasn’t a high bar to clear, considering they showed early) but Hudson Fasching took an offensive zone tripping penalty to give Pittsburgh back some momentum. On the power play, Malkin feeds Jeff Carter in front but he can’t quite get enough mustard on the shot and Alexander Romanov is able to scramble and pull the slowly moving puck away from the goal.
It turns out to hurt, the Isles take back over and get a 2-on-1. It’s the absolute right guy for them in the form of Brock Nelson, who looks off the pass and fires a shot past Jarry and into the net. 1-1 game.
Brock Nelson ties the game at 1! pic.twitter.com/sOyXpDFpiN— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) February 21, 2023
Drew O’Connor gets a breakaway, but he can’t solve Sorokin.
A little later, Malkin gets tripped and the Pens are off to a third power play. Crosby can’t handle a quick bounce from near the front, NYI takes it the other way but Jarry keeps out a Kyle Palmieri chance and on we go. The second group is out and Jeff Petry’s hard slapshot glances iron. Zucker is there for two chances on the rebound and is able to get the puck past Sorokin and over the line. 2-1 Pens with 7:32 remaining in the period.
Excuse me Jason Zucker, you dropped this pic.twitter.com/IS3HRw7vWW— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) February 21, 2023
On the very next shift Jarry has to stop Zach Parise on a clean breakaway. He does.
After a 3-0 edge in power plays, shockingly the refs find a way to get NYI to the power play and Brock McGinn gets caught on not much of a hooking call to send the Islanders to their first PP of the night.
Sorokin made an incredible diving stick save on Kris Letang. I mean look at this sorcery.
Ilya Sorokin throwing his hat in the ring for save of the year! pic.twitter.com/VljIq9dPoB— NHL (@NHL) February 21, 2023
And then all heck breaks loose (Well, as much as it does in 2023 anyways) with Matt Martin trying to get at Zucker, Ross Johnston trying to attack anyone in a Penguin jersey. Malkin and Letang also get tangled up and exchange punches through the mayhem of the poor refs trying to pull apart about six different angry players.
As a result, four Islanders and four Penguins end up in their respective penalty boxes as well as Johnston and Zucker getting sent to the locker-rooms.
The Islanders earn another power play when McGinn takes another o-zone penalty. NYI gets a few good looks in the closing seconds of the period but the Pens hold on and nurse their one goal lead into intermission.
It’s another hugely high event period, shots in the second alone are 18-16 for PIT and 37-23 overall. But, yet again thanks to the hard work of Sorokin, the Islanders are able to stay within striking distance.
New York has a carryover power play to start the period, but it’s the Pens who get the best chance. Rust springs Teddy Blueger for a breakaway but Sorokin isn’t having it.
More shenanigans with Guentzel and Scott Mayfield getting tied up and not skating away from each other so they both are off to box. It’s Mayfield who gets an extra two minutes which puts the Pens back on the power play.
Not a good one for the Pens, Bo Horvat welcomes Jarry back with a wrister that smacks the goalie in the neck but the goalie pays the price to keep the puck out of the net.
The Islanders’ ability to hang around pays off. P.O. Joseph fails to clear the zone and Horvat gets another crack at it. His bad angle shot finds space in between Jarry and the post and slips in. 2-2 game with 11:26 remaining in regulation.
Disaster then strikes with a Jarry giveaway hearkening back memories to 2021 playoffs. Blueger can’t stop Anders Lee from tucking it in. 3-2 lead for NYI with 9:44 left.
Letang heads off to the box for a penalty on the next shift to make the mountain the Pens are looking at even steeper. Pittsburgh kills it off but are down to seven minutes left.
Pittsburgh goes into desperation mode and pulls Jarry with two minutes. They get an electric push with the 6v5 but a scrum in front of the net and lots of puck movement doesn’t beat Sorokin. NYI ends it with a long-range empty netter. 4-2 final.
- With the regular penalty killer McGinn in the box in the second period, O’Connor picked up a PK’ing shift in his place. Nice spot to work in a younger guy. However, Mike Sullivan can’t be blamed if he didn’t like what he saw — O’Connor failed to get the puck deep when he wasn’t pressured and the puck went the other way for a few chances against. Might be a learning lesson, might also be a reminder why it is so difficult for young players to earn trust when they fail to make the right play.
- It will nice not to see Sorokin again for a bit. Then again, the final Pens/Isles game is right around the corner in 16 days so that is already something to not look forward to.
- Jarry looked great in his return — until the puck cracked him in the neck. A red welt was immediately visible and after that, quite understandably, he lost a lot of his sharpness and gave up two goals soon after. Both of those goals were situations he wasn’t getting in (the giveaway) or letting in (the Horvat shot) earlier in the game.
- Up 2-1, Sorokin robbed Letang, then shutdown Blueger on a breakaway. Failing to convert golden chances like that left the Islanders too close to hang around and do what they do- find a way to get back in. The frustration is evident, but beyond executing better there’s not much else to do.
- According to Moneypuck on Friday and tonight the Pens generated 5 expected goals in each game. They scored a total of six on Sorokin. And though those numbers compile slowly, Sorokin single-handedly taking four goals off the board could be considered a low-end, conservative estimate. Amazing performance by him. All you can do is shake your head and laugh at this point.
Another exasperatingly ridiculous loss for Pittsburgh. They now fall two points behind NYI in the Wild Card chase, but the Pens have four extra games in hand. At this rate they may need them, and not seeing Sorokin to make up the gap.