This game was a bigger mess than your grandma's underwear after she read 50 Shades of Grey.
The Islanders have given the Penguins more problems over the past year than any other team in their division. This game was a carbon copy of how games go when the Pens visit the Isle: The Islanders jump out, the Pens come storming back, then they go back and forth, and one team finally pulls ahead.
It’s taken over half the season, but the Islanders at least showed some glimpses of how they played in the playoffs last year. It seems like they’re finally coming around, and they won’t fade down the stretch. Brock Nelson is the next big thing. If they get a goaltender sometime in the next 10 years maybe they will be consistently good.
The main event in this game was Crosby vs Tavares, and of course Crosby won it. But it wasn't one single goal or pass; it was his leadership moment early in the first period. With the Pens under siege, Crosby basically told everyone to chill the fuck out right before a faceoff in the Pens’ zone.
Right after this, that line scored twice to tie the game, and the rest of the bench got the message.
Really cool to see something like that. Who knows, though; Crosby may have gathered everyone together to make fun of Chuck Kobasew.
Pens in Dallas Saturday night.
The Isles were jammed up and scored to make it 1-0 real damn quick. Pyatt wasn’t on the boards to accept a Letang clearing attempt. The Isles picked it off, and Grabner smacked home the loose puck. Then they almost scored again right after that.
The Isles were running on all cylinders. Turnover in the neutral zone. Two Penguins collided. The Isles had a 2-on-1. Brock Nelson sniped Zatkoff. 2-0.
It was the playoffs again. And you knew it was the playoffs when the Pens came roaring back to tie it in less than 2 minutes.
After Crosby had his meeting. Chris Kunitz found a soft spot in the zone. Crosby fed him on the tape, and Kunitz laced it past Poulin. 2-1.
Next shift, the top line worked the puck on the boards. It went to Kunitz behind the net, who had all the time in the world. Crosby was still able to get his stick down and redirect the pass past Poulin to tie it 2-2.
The play slowed down for the rest of the period.
Zatkoff settled down. The Islanders looked spent.
Olli Maatta was a huge deal early in the second. First, he took a penalty that the Pens were able to kill. Then he put on the ritz when he got out of the box. He entered the Isles’ zone late and took a feed. He cruised in, went to the backhand, and beat Poulin. 3-2.
One of the prettier goals a Penguins defenseman has scored this season. Come to think of it, Maatta has had a couple beauties.
Things really settled down for most of the second period.
Matt Martin hooked Paul Martin, and the Pens started up the Harlem Powerplay™.
AND HOLY SHIT WAS IT INSANE
For around 1:20, the Penguins put on a show. Insane passing. Letang buried a one-timer. The Isles looked relieved they didn’t have to kill the penalty anymore. 4-2.
Just a sickening display of skill. It was 1997 Red Wing-like.
One hidden stat about the Islanders. They come back a lot. They have seven third-period comebacks this season. They almost got their eighth.
The Pens were tired, and the Islanders were just getting their legs back after outplaying themselves in the first. They struck early in the third.
Matt Martin got the Isles’ blood flowing by fighting Tanner Glass:
Pretty weird fight; it started while the Isles had possession in the Pens’ zone. But it sparked something.
Paul Martin and Brooks Orpik got crossed up.
Josh Bailey got a breakaway…
He scored. 4-3. Creed-esque celebration ruined it, though.
The third period felt endless, and the Isles were coming every shift. But they made one mistake that killed their momentum. James Neal picked a pass off, and he found Malkin. 5-3.
Crazy stat from Phil Bourque: This goal was scored as Malkin from Neal. It broke an 18-goal streak where a Pens' D-man had factored in on a goal. Holy shit.
At first glance, it looked he was doing the Diamond Dallas Page.
Great Penguins fan presence on the Isle, by the way.
And a huge goal.
But it wasn't over.
About five minutes after Malkin's goal, we were still only midway through the period. The Islanders got a seemingly innocent shot on net. Zatkoff couldn't control the rebound. The puck made its way to the back of the net as everyone crowded in front.
The refs came flying in, arms out indicating no goal. But there was no question it was in. The refs all got together, called Toronto, and confirmed the goal. It was never clear if the ref blew his whistle or just didn't make the goal call. It was the right call; it just didn't make a ton of sense. 5-4.
The Tavares show
John Tavares took over the game from there. First, he drew a penalty on Scuderi, but for some reason they put Letang in the box. He then came flying into the zone on the power play and got tripped by Tanner Glass. It was a so-so call, but Tavares is going to get that
goal call all day.
5-on-3 for awhile.
But this is where Jeff Zatkoff won the game. He made a few key saves and then made a brilliant pad save on Frans Nielsen right on his doorstep.
After failing to score on the powerplays, the Isles quit a little bit. All of a sudden. their time was up. They pulled Poulin, but it wasn't going to happen. They turned it over. Sutter cashed in. 6-4.
So many great pics in New York.
– Bottom Six Watch: 1 point. Brandon Sutter's empty-net goal. Doesn't count.
– Kris Letang has turned in two straight strong performances. These performances have been tied to sub-23 minutes of ice time. Not a coincidence.
– Craig Adams was hurt for a while.
– Feels like this game broke a points streak for Jokinen.
– Pics: AP/Getty