Keith Quinn , Islanders Point Blank:
This was the first meeting of the Penguins and Islanders since the exciting first round playoff series last year and two players from those squads made their debuts; Kris Letang for the Pens and Radek Martinek for the Isles. The Isles looked to pick up where they left off in that series. Both good and bad.
Early, and at even strength, the Isles were getting the better of the play and were outshooting the Pens early. But then, the penalties started coming…and coming, and coming. Due to the injuries on the Isles blue line (Strait, Visnovsky), Thomas Hickey (PK1), Matt Donovan (PK2) and Matt Carkner (PK 2) saw time on the penalty killing units and didn’t look too bad against the Pens fearsome power play.
The Isles got on the board first during a power play of their own. Matt Niskanen was called for hooking Casey Cizikas and PP1 went to work. Kyle Okposo fed John Tavares who made a shot/pass toward Frans Nielsen who tipped it on net. Matt Moulson was in his area absorbing punishment and collecting garbage for his 6th of the year.
After that, the penalties shifted the momentum and shots in the Pens favor. The next three (deserved) penalties were called against Islanders; Bailey (11:22), Carkner (16:16), and MacDonald’s 2nd (19:28).
The Pens tied the score at the end of Bailey’s penalty when Brandon Sutter took a high shot on Evgeny Nabokov that even Shaq couldn’t rebound. Jussi Jokinen did locate it though and put it home. It could have been worse giving the Pens four power plays in the first period, so the Isles were lucky the score was where it was.
The second started out with the balance of MacDonald’s penalty and Nabokov had a couple of big saves. One was from a prime scoring area from Crosby. The Penguins maintained a ton of momentum in this period though and outshot the Isles 20-10, and this time, the period was played mostly at even strength.
The Penguins pulled ahead when Matt Donovan shanked a point shot in the offensive zone which was immediately scooped up and breezed down ice. He fired a wrister past Nabokov as Matt Carkner (rightfully) played the pass as long as possible and couldn’t recover to get any resistance against the Crosby shot.
The Isles had a couple of chances to get the equalizer> The notable opportunities were for Bailey (never got a shot off from a beautiful Hamonic feed) and Nielsen (shot into rookie Jeff Zatkoff’s crest). Toward the end of the period, Matt Moulson further jeopardized his Lady Byng candidacy with his 3rd minor of the season (surpassing last year’s total in 47 games). One thing that could be said through two periods; the penalty kill looked pretty decent. If that continues, perhaps there will be some changes to ice time in the future and Amac and Hamonic can get a little bit of a breather.
The third period started out slowly with the Isles only getting one shot in the first nine minutes (as compared to the Pens 5) and keeping the Isles to low-risk areas. The scariest was a Crosby breakaway when he inexplicably got behind MacDonald and Hamonic and walked in uncontested. Nabokov came up huge to keep the Isles in it. Jack Capuano began to experiment a bit with the line combinations and we saw some Bailey/Tavares/Clutterbuck and Nielsen/Moulson/Okposo.
That juggling appeared to pay off when Frans “best suited to third line” Nielsen notched his team leading (tie) 6th goal of the season. Radek “just play the kids” Martinek started the play crossing the pass to Thomas “weakest softest player in the league” Hickey who slap passed the puck to Nielsen for a long distance tip-in.
Unfortunately, predicatably, unconscionably and ridiculously at this point, Capuano followed the goal with the deployment of the fourth line, and the Penguins took advantage. Matt Carkner conceded the ice deep into the circles and Matt Donovan didn’t tie up his man and Derek Engelland (a bad defenseman playing wing) put Joe Vitale’s pass behind Nabokov. It’s run it’s course now. You’d think they had a hat trick after a goal or something.
Just 53 seconds later, Martinek would help out again as he kept the puck in at the point and found Pierre-Marc “I don’t care what your lying stats say” Bouchard for his first of the year to knot the scoring at three again on a semi-breakaway through Zatkoff’s five hole. And again, the fourth line followed…
Josh “they ruined his development” Bailey put the Isles ahead with 1:40 left on a bit of a cluster play. Kris Letang had a shot blocked and the Isles came the other way. Okposo found Bailey alone below the circles, but Zatkoff made a great toe save. Nielsen jumped on the rebound and re-fed Bailey who made a diving tip under duress past the Pens goaltender.
The Isles found a way to close out the last minute plus, and looked confident doing so.
- Kyle Okposo took out Thomas Hickey on a nice scoring chance in the first period. It was basically a jumping head-shot that if committed against an opponent may have warranted a suspension. Hickey probably has a broken nose (it’s cooked) and attempted to set the record for most helmet types used in a single game (regular with visor, full cage, full glass).
- In the pregame show, Radek Martinek said through a beaming smile “…I’m happy I can play for my favorite team in the best league in the world.” His best years are behind him, but it’s really nice to hear a guy who suffered through some very lean years love this team. It’s rare and charming.
- It looked like Dan Bylsma was matching up Sidney Crosby’s line against JT’s line quite a bit tonight. I was surprised that Capuano didn’t mix the lines a little sooner in the game.
- Really, seriously, I’m done with the fourth line after goals for.
- The PK was pretty stellar tonight despite some new personnel.
- Nabokov had a very solid game despite some initial rebound control problems.
- The Isles got killed in the faceoff circle 48-27 and in shots 42-25. They need to get better with those because winning games like this are an anomaly. It’s a good win, but that doesn’t happen too often.
- Here are your fancystats if you’re so inclined.
- The Isles must have broken 6 or 7 sticks tonight.