Christian Arnold, Islanders Point Blank:UNIONDALE, NY – Coming back from a two-goal deficit, no problem. Holding onto a two-goal lead, not as simple for the Islanders.
Thursday night the Isles jumped to an early lead, but like so many before, it disappeared just as quickly. The Islanders showed fight in the end, but the visiting Pittsburgh Penguins held off the home team and won 6-4.
“They played a good and they did a lot of the little things,” John Tavares said. “And they executed better than us.”
Things looked like they were going to go well for the Islanders to start the game. Micahael Grabner found the back of the net at 1:39 after a bouncing puck made its’ way to his stick, and he fired it past Penguins goaltender Jeff Zatkoff.
Then Paul Martin made a costly turnover in the neutral zone and Grabner took the puck the other way, with Brock Nelson on his wing. Grabner sent the puck to Nelson, who made it 2-0 with his ninth goal of the year.
However, just as quickly as the Isles took the lead Pittsburgh evened it up.
In span of 1:52 Chris Kunitz and Sidney Crosby tied the game at two. Kunitz scored at the top of the slot off a feed from the Penguins’ captain and Crosby himself scored off a pass from Kunitz, who was behind the net.
Olli Maata made it 3-2 a little over five minutes into the second period and Kris Letang scored while the Penguins were on the power play to make it 4-2.
The Islanders cut the lead to one after Josh Bailey scored his first goal since October 25, but Evgeni Malkin put Pittsburgh back in front by two roughly three minutes later in the contest’s final period.
Kyle Okposo brought the Islanders back within one midway through the third. The goal was initially waved off, but changed after a review by the officials.
The Islanders had several chances late in the game to tie it up, including a 50 second five-on-three opportunity, but they could not convert and Brandon Sutter scored an empty net goal with three seconds left in the game to seal the win.
“We gotta learn to play with the lead,” Calvin de haan said. “We’ve had leads and blown them. It starts from goaltending out. Including D, forwards, everybody. It’s frustrating sometimes, cause anyone can beat anyone.”
And for parts of the game the Islanders played like they could beat anyone. The Islanders played well early nand after Okposo had cut the Penguins lead to one in the third the Isles gave their opponent a run for their money. Frans Nielsen nearly tied the game while the Islanders were on the power play, but Zatkoff robbed him.
However what frustrated Islander Head Coach Jack Capuano was not the missed scoring chances, but the blunders that put the team in another come back situation.
“The frustration part for me was…you gotta move. You can’t watch,” he said. “This is a team that’s gunna skate. It’s a function of you managing the puck properly. Let the puck do the work and play in the offensive zone. And that’s the way this team plays. If we’re going to have any success that’s the way we need to play.”