There were three races this past weekend: the Kentucky Derby, the Pittsburgh Marathon, and this hell show on the Isle. It was bad when the Islanders went up 2-0 early. It got better when the Pens answered that by actually getting out of the first period with the lead. And then when the Islanders tied it up at 4 down the homestretch in the third, you knew the only chance the Pens had to pull this out is if they got the game to overtime.
And, shit, that hill in overtime was tough. But with the game on the line, Sidney Crosby did what he needed to do. It's like MJ bulling his way to the basket to draw a foul. Crosby got to the net and drew a penalty. It's already the most-talked-about holding call of the season, but the fact remains it was a textbook hold. Overtime or no overtime, playoffs or no playoffs, if the best player in the world gets position on you and you grab on to even the playing field, you're gonna get called.
The Pens cashed in on the ensuing PP, and just for a moment we all could enjoy the thrill of a overtime playoff winner. When that jubilation wore off, it was time to go back to justifiably worrying about what's going on with the Pens. The defense doesn't look anything like we've gotten used to seeing. The Pens' breakout plays are becoming predictable, and the Isles are preying on it. Speaking of which, the Isles' transition game is ridiculous.
There's Internet whispers of some Fleury bashing. Of course there is. The third-period goals came on a shorthanded breakaway and on a snipe from League MVP Candidate John Tavares. We're nowhere close to jumping on board the Fleury Hate Train. As we noted before the series, the Isles scored the 7th-most goals in the NHL during the regular season. They are going to score.
For now, getting out of Game 3 with the W is huge, huge, huge. Every game in this series so far has had a different feel to it. The Islanders claim they feel no pressure in this series, but they're gonna feel it Tuesday night. We're banking on the Pens righting some pieces of the ship to get this back to Pittsburgh with a chance to clinch.
via Ryan W.
To say the pace was breakneck at puck-drop would be a huge understatement. The Isles and their fans were bringing everything in the barn at the Pens. It felt like someone was gonna score, and it ending up being the Isles. 1-0.
They weren't done. They were fucking hitting everything in sight. Pens started to get to the Isles' level, but Matt Cooke went off for a slash. What followed was the first of two kills that helped save the Pens in this one.
Cooke came out of the box and did this:
The Isles still would not stop. Niskanen telegraphed a breakout pass up the boards that Grabner said bewaaahaha to. Grabner chased down the loose puck behind MAF and fed Cizikas.
Almost immediately after that goal, there was a commercial break, and by the next face-off, the Islanders' legs were GONE. They were gone. Unfortunately, the Pens answered that plot twist by taking another penalty, with Glass going off. Circle that kill, too. A goal on either of those Isles PPs in the first would've been a dagger.
As we said, the Isles' amazing pace to start the game was now fading fast. As you could expect, with that came a couple quick penalties. Streit went off for a hook, then Hamonic tripped up Iginla. The Pens had a 5-on-3 and made the most of it all. Letang/Iginla struck quick. 2-1.
19 seconds later, still with a 5-on-4, Malkin lasered a pass to Kunitz and sprung him behind the Isles' D. Kunitz sent it in. 2-2.
Considering how the game started, the Pens getting out of the first tied would've been great. Instead, Crosby did this:
There was an anxious feeling waiting for the second period to start. Had to wonder if the Isles were gonna come out like they did in the first. Applaud Bylsma in this regard. To start off the second, the Pens' D-men were being methodical and deliberate. There were moments where a D-man would just stand there, lulling the Islanders into a slower game. It's weird to say that the Pens needed to bring the Islanders down to the Pens' pace, but it's what had to happen. After that crazy first, the Pens may not have dictated the play in the second, but they dictated the speed of the play.
Carkner and Morrow have been battling all series, and it continued in this one. It's been amazing.
The Isles were gonna need some Pens' mistakes, and they got one when a Crosby pass was deflected, and Tavares headed off toward MAF. Douglas Murray was back, and Tavares should've blown past him. Instead, Murray got close enough to shove Tavares off the puck.
Bizarre play later when Carkner decided to put a stick into Cooke's face from the bench. Both went off, with the Isles getting a bench minor for interference. That was a new one.
The Isles got into Malkin's face for the first time in the series, and it was Hamonic. Both probably should've went off, but the refs said play on.
Malkin answered that thrashing by setting up Murray to make it 4-2.
The Islanders were rattled, and then Matt Martin melted down and took a penalty. The Pens' power play was dominant, but to their credit, the Isles blocked a ton of shots and survived it. Huge moment in the game.
The Murray goal was still resonating with the Isles when they decided to take yet another penalty early in the third. There were two things the Pens needed to do:
1. Not give up a shorthanded goal.
2. Not give up a shorthanded goal.
The power play started off poorly, and then it got worse. Kris Letang passed up a perfect shot, and things got even worse. Brenden Morrow threw a puck to the point, and Mark Eaton got caught in the dreaded no-man's land:
Okposo was taking off, and the Pens' only chance was Franz Nielsen fucking up with the lead pass. As it turned out, he did fuck up, but Okposo made a great play to grab the puck, stay onside, and go in to beat MAF. 4-3.
That one play changed everything. The Isles fans, who had been sitting on their hands since that Dupuis goal in the first period, came alive. You could feel the next goal coming. There was a sigh of relief when the Pens survived an Iginla penalty, but that sigh didn't last long.
It was John Tavares's turn now.
It all started with a Chris Kunitz dump-in hitting a linesman. Everything got broken down, and Tavares cruised through the neutral zone, with Bailey hitting him a great pass. Mark Eaton gave Tavares too much space, and he buried it.
Tough shift for Eaton. He had gotten smoked right before that Tavares goal, too. In fact, it was probably the worst game Eaton has played this season. Just didn't come at a good time.
The Pens had gone from calmly going about their business in taking home a 4-2 win to finding themselves hanging on for dear life with their only salvation being somehow getting to overtime.
No matter how many times you live through it, there is nothing more gut-wrenching than OT in the playoffs. It's hockey at it is finest. The good players rise, and the joke players fade away. As soon as that puck drops in an overtime, it gets down to the bare bones of who you trust on the ice and who you don't.
And you trust in Paul Martin in OT. He was faced with a one-on-one vs. Tavares and came out victorious.
Then Crosby went to work. He got a matchup against Brian Strait, which was bad news for anyone not cheering for the black-and-gold. Crosby used the mismatch to his advantage, got body position, and the ball was now in Strait's court. He decided to grab on to Crosby. That's a no-no.
Whether you like it or not, Crosby will get that call every day of the week. We'd even go far enough to say the penaly was called because he is Sidney Crosby. If some turd gets held up like that, the refs give everyone a play-on. But when the best player on the ice is denied a scoring chance due to that blatant of a hold, it's gonna get called.
Interesting wrinkle to everything: fans were throwing stuff on the ice after the call. Coupled with Bylsma using his timeout, it gave the Pens ample time to draw up some plays.
The Pens jumped on the chance to end it. Another underrated play by Paul Martin in getting the puck to Crosby. It's probably all slo-mo to Crosby, but he waited for Chris Kunitz to get to the exact spot he wanted him in, and then fed him.
— Biggest playoffs of Kris Letang's career. He has to be better. He has not been good.
— Martin had some huge shot block somewhere in the third period. MVP shit.
— The most responsible D-man with the puck so far this series? Douglas Murray. Think about that one. He was ringing everything off the crossbar. Pretty sure he had at least two.
— Taking penalties is bad, but the Pens took at least three offensive-zone penalties if we recall correctly. That's not gonna fly.
— Something else that isn't gonna fly? The Pens getting outshot 36-25. Obviously the Pens can win with those numbers, but they pride themselves in those numbers being switched.
— Despres. Woof.
— Pics: USA Today, Getty