RECAP: GAME FOUR. THE HILLS TO DIE ON. PENS LOSE.

 
After last year's debacle, the Pens organization made a concerted effort all season to have Marc-Andre Fleury well-rested and ready to go for the pressure-cooker of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. And he's doing it again.
 
Since the 2009 Cup win, Fleury has been complete and utter ass in the playoffs. Given his status of being a number-one overall draft pick, he has the greatest of expectations weighing down on his shoulders. It doesn't seem to be too much of a problem in the regular season, but when it comes to the playoffs, he isn't even playing like an average goaltender, let alone above-average. That's the problem. Yeah, he's nice and smiles and is friendly but the buddy-buddy feel the Pens' organization tries to foster makes it impossible for a lot of people to face the facts that Fleury is playing like dogfuck.
 
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And fuck this game, too. All that was missing was Billy Joel driving his car onto the ice.
 
The series is now coming back to Pittsburgh tied up at 2-2. Read that again. This series is tied at 2 games apiece, and Game 5 is being played on home ice. The Pens are extremely lucky to be in this position, and it means it's not too late to right the ship.
 
The course correction begins with putting Tomas Vokoun in net for Game 5. Vokoun was brought in as insurance for if and when MAF had another playoff implosion. You'd have to be blind not to see the implosion is happening again. The players have lost confidence in MAF, a lot of fans have lost confidence in MAF, and MAF himself is in a dark, dark place right now.
This isn't the time for inspiring "Fleury, Fleury" chants when the lights go down before Game 5.
The Penguins need whichever goalie plays in Game 5 to stop an average shot.
 
Okay, now we can get to the rest of the team. In Game 4, the Pens were betrayed by some of their biggest stars. Evgeni Malkin played a great 30 minutes then proceeded to play some of the worst hockey of his career. His turnover leading to the Islanders' game-winning goal could follow him around for quite some time if the Pens don't somehow escape this series.
 
And Kris Letang. Dear God. On the same day he was nominated as a finalist for the Norris Trophy he attacked a linesman at one point. We'd usually write something like that in exaggeration, but he actually. cross-checked. a. linesman.
 
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Like, it's hard to believe this actually happened. He looked at the linesman for a solid second and decided it was time to crosscheck the guy in the kidney. But, shit, guess we all have to take the good with the bad with Letang.
 
On the bright side, the Pens were able to hang with the Islanders stride for stride in this one. If the Isles had anything resembling a netminder, this series is probably over by now. John Tavares and Kyle Okposo have been spectacular.
 
The wounds from last season have been reopened. Last year, we took the tact of being rah-rah about the Pens coming back from a 3-0 series deficit and resigning ourselves to the fact that it was just a fluke series. This season, we're taking a completely opposite angle and throwing shit everywhere, not caring who it hits. There's a middle ground somewhere.
 
It's all a total nightmare again.
 
Recap:
 


FIRST PERIOD

It was gonna be interesting to see how this game was gonna be officiated. We all got the answer in this first period, where the Pens ended up taking three penalties and killing off all the time in the first.

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The first penalty was a Malkin trip drawn by Tavares. On the radio side, Bourque casually mentioned all the "diver" signs littered throughout Nassau. 

The Isles spent the bulk of that PP in the Pens' zone, and MAF had to be good early. He was, and the penalty was killed.

Ever since that Okposo fight, the Isles have been giving it to Niskanen at every opportunity. That continued in this one. Just getting spanked around like a stepchild.

Then the second penalty came. Ullstrom crosschecked Orpik, and Orpik retaliated after the play. Orpik went off. That Isles PP wasn't as dangerous as the first one, and the Pens killed that, too.

All those PKs threw the Pens out of any flow they could get into.

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Then came the oh-shit moment when Crosby took a puck to the throat. The Isles fans were being playoff fans and cheered when Crosby went down and even broke out into "Princess Crosby" chants. That's actually a new one.

Next thing you know, Brian Strait was floating one in past MAF from Rick's house in Toronto. 1-0.

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45 seconds later, Murray laid out Tavares, and the Pens headed the other way. Iginla to Malkin. Malkin surveyed the scene and waited for Nabokov to come out just enough. He then threw it over to Neal, who banged home a one-timer. 1-1.

Malkin was flying and almost set up Iginla for a chance right after, but Iginla couldn't put it home.

Cooke took an interference penalty late, so the Pens were gonna have to deal with that shit.

SECOND PERIOD

Pens killed off the rest of that Cooke penalty, and it was time to dig in for the second period.

Isles were still getting away with shit. Hamonic had the most annoying period of the series. He double-handed Kunitz after everything was settled between the two, and there was no call.

Soon after, Strait got the stick up into Malkin, and the Pens got their first PP. Malkin and Hamonic were chirping at the ensuing face-off. And that power play was amazing shit. Have to take your hat off to Nabokov, who stood on his head to keep the Pens off the board. As the power play was ending, the Pens were winded, and there were fears of it coming back to bite them, but Nabokov froze a puck.

Any momentum the Pens gained from the good powerplay got negated thanks to a questionable call on Matt Cooke. Cooke apparently killed Nabokov, and the Isles got a PP. Kris Letang channelled Bobby Orr and went deep into the Isles' zone on the PK.

ON

THE

PK.

Trying hard not make it seem like we are picking on the Letang, but this is terrible. People will put it on Craig Adams for not getting it deep, but he probably hesitated when he saw Kris Letang running around like an ostrich. That bought the Isles enough time to stuff the dump-in.

Puck went back into the Pens' zone, and the Isles scored. 2-1.

After some shit and a horrible line change by the Isles, Malkin and Neal had a 2-on-1. Malkin slowed everything down and rifled through the book on Nabokov that he has in his head, then sniped it.

2-2.

Not long after that, Cooke comes in and rails Carkner.

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Pens get possession, and it goes out to Sutter, who takes his time and picks his spot.

 3-2.

If that wasn't good enough, the Pens were still buzzing after the goal and drew a penalty on Andrew MacDonald.

The Penguins needed to bury the Islander. This was their chance.

And they blew it.

TURNING POINT

This was the biggest moment of the game. If the Pens score on this power play, they put their skates on the Isles' throats. Who are we kidding? The Isles would've come back and tied it anyway, broken spirit and all. KILLED.

The Isles owned the last five minutes of the second and cashed in. Inexcusable goal given up by MAF late in the second tied it up at 3-3.

Orpik's reaction speaks for everyone:

He is the leader of the defense and the longest-tenured Penguin. If he's reacting like this, just imagine what else is going on.

Could've been 4-3 after a Paul Martin turnover, but Letang stood tall and got the puck out of harm's way.

THIRD PERIOD

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Interesting move by the Isles coaching staff. Hamonic had been tasked with shutting down Malkin this series, and now it was Crosby's turn. He was doing that thing where he smothered Crosby and didn't let him do shit.

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Early in the third, Nabokov let in a MAFer. The Pens went up 4-3.

Dupes has had a great series.

All the stars were getting back into alignment.

But the Isles started to chip away. Malkin was still flying when he got knocked off a puck. He got up and grabbed whoever he could find. Too bad it was Colin McDonald. McDonald went off for diving for some reason. It would've been funnier if a Pens meltdown wasn't on the horizon.

Tavares was trying to buy calls every chance he could get, and then it started to happen:

The Meltdown

The Isles were coming, but the Pens looked ready for the onslaught that the entire world knew was coming. Jarome Iginla got caught out of position. The play started out harmless with the puck being tossed to the center of the ice. Iginla got a stick on it. 

But of course the puck went directly to Streit's blade. Iginla was getting picked on his way out to the point, but whatever.

Jesus. 4-4.

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And then came the turnover that may haunt Malkin forever. We've defended Malkin harder then we do members of our families. But Malkin completely wilted here He turned the puck over to Brad Boyes. Boyes to Tavares. Fuck.

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It was a crushing blow for Malkin fanboys.

5-4. Just like that.

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There were 9 minutes left, and it was the Isles' turn to protect a lead. Didn't know you were allowed to do that in this series, but the Isles broke the mold. The Pens had one more decent shot, and Nabokov closed the book.

It got to the waning minutes, and there was still hope that the Pens could pull MAF, get a tying goal, then score again in the third or OT before the Islanders entered the Pens' zone again. All that hope was shit on when MAF gave up probably the softest goal we've ever seen.

Niskanen:

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6-4.

The meltdown continued to the horn, where some fan grabbed Malkin through a camera hole and Letang cross-checked a linesman.

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GAME OVER. 

 

MISC

— Crosby 4 for 18 on faceoffs. Have to wonder if getting hit in the face by the puck in the first caused this. h/t to 

— 

–Jokinen buried on the bench.

— Mark Eaton has collasped.

— Islander fans are completely insane.

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