PENGUINS 2 ISLANDERS 0 — Isles drop a close one despite absence of Crosby, Kunitz

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Screen shot 2013-02-16 at 10.19.52 PMIn the end, despite again outplaying the Penguins for large stretches of the game, the Islanders were run over in the third physically and on the scoreboard, and the Pens extended their winning streak to match the Islanders’ dynasty team’s 15 in a row. (Second to the 93-94 Penguins).   All this with the Penguins missing two players from their top line (Crosby-injury, Kunitz-cheating).

The Jarome Iginla era began in Pittsburgh after initial reports he may miss the game due to immigration issues.  He started on a line with James Neal and Evgeni Malkin and the Isles countered with a strange combo of Martin/Nielsen/McDonald. (Apparently just for that shift) But just when the Penguins appeared to get richer, Sidney Crosby took a Brooks Orpik slapshot to the face less than two minutes in, was bloodied and did not return through the first period.

That may have helped the Isles to the start they got off to.  They got the first 7 shots and Pittsburgh got their first of the game just prior to nine minutes in.  There weren’t very many threatening moments from either team really, and the Isles had to be happy with a solid road period against an emotional (and red-hot) Pittsburgh team that came in looking to extend a 14-game win streak.

The Isles finished the first on a power play drawn by Keith Aucoin on Derek Engelland’s hook with :40 left and ended up outshooting the Pens 12-5 heading into the second. The first set a nice physical tone for the game.

The second period power play got off to an ugly start with missed passes and disjointed breakouts and movement.  They looked better with the second unit out and generated a couple of chances in tight, but to no avail as Pittsburgh killed it.  This period was a pretty consistent exchange of power play chances between the teams.  We also learned that Isles killer Sidney Crosby would not return to the game.

Crosby off to hospital to repair damage after taking puck to the face in 1st period. Dental work likely. #TSN

— Darren Dreger (@DarrenDreger) March 30, 2013

Andrew MacDonald took a trip when he got his stick tangled in Malkin’s wickets, but Kunitz negated it by taking down Streit on a weak hooking call and the teams played some cautious 4-on-4 for 1:19. The Pens began to take over the possession battle mid-way through the period.  James Neal missed on a wide open shot to Nabokov’s right after a long shift of the Pens winning puck battles and getting to loose pucks first (Iginla/Neal/Sutter). Later, a turnover at the Pens blue line led to a good chance for them as Grabner and Visnovsky both went for a pass and Vis was trapped in deep.  Vis took a hooking penalty on Matt Cooke on the play.  Grabner could have been a bit more of a help on the play.

Toward the end of the period, Josh Bailey took a huge boarding from Chris Kunitz who received five minute major and ejection setting the Isles up well to get on the board.  They squandered the first part of the power play however with some of the same tentative shooting fans are getting accustomed to lately. To add to the Isles chances, they were given a 5-on-3 for 1:55 as Kyle Okposo was tripped by Brooks Orpik.

Josh Bailey did not return for the start of the third period.

The Isles began with an absolutely stagnant power play with a complete reluctance to shoot when space was given.  According to Arthur Staple, the Isles had 3:05 of 5 on 4 and 1:55 of 5 on 3 and only generated two (2!!) shots.  The team slowed considerably (possibly due to the clamp down by Pittsburgh), but many were not moving their feet much, particularly the top line.  They could have benefited from shorter shifts to take advantage of diminished Pens bench.

In Josh Bailey’s absence, Nielsen/Grabner/Okposo was reunited and almost paid dividends.  They were hemmed in by the Malkin line, but Nielsen and company kept them largely outside despite the possession time.  The end result was a Michael Grabner breakaway that Vokoun got with the blocker.

The Penguins broke the tie just after the Grabner chance at 8:10 when ultra-pest Matt Cooke slapped in a tremendous Nabokov rebound. On the next shift, Matt Martin seems to get in everyone’s head, and his body will probably feel that choice tomorrow as he was hammered twice; once by Cooke and once by Adams.  At that point, Pittsburgh really ground the Isles down physically.

Five minutes later, the Pens would seal it with a James Neal wrist shot through Nabby’s five hole as the Isles got caught on a Thomas Hickey pinch. Coach Capuano pulled the goalie very early (2:48) and took his timeout.  It didn’t work to get the Isles a goal, but it looked much better than most previous incarnations of the goalie pull that usually lead to an empty netter within thirty seconds. They did generate a couple of chances, but Tomas Vokoun slammed the door and preserved his shutout.

NOTICINGS:

  • Anders Lee’s Fighting Irish were eliminated today.  He has been a hot topic to join either the Isles or the Sound Tigers after his season was over.
  • Hits are often poorly counted arena to arena, but the Isles were outhit 30-12 on the day.
  • This was Pittsburgh’s third shutout in a row, and they have only given up three in their last five games.
  • That power play needs a big tweak.
  • Capuano said that Josh Bailey felt pretty good, so at this point, he may not miss any time.
  • Next up, a huge game against New Jersey