That’s not to make it sound like this is going to be any easier, though. The Islanders played well and they played hard last night, but the game winning goal came with a primary assist to the end boards and Marc-Andre Fleury’s [lack of] awareness. They also found themselves in a 2-0 hole only a few minutes into the game and, after finally getting on the board, they surrendered the Pens’ third goal almost immediately. There’s still improvement to be made defensively. The first four periods of this series were a dumpster fire in the Islanders’ defensive zone and that needs to change.
The Islanders played much better defensively in the final 40 minutes last night. Andrew MacDonald and Travis Hamonic both went down and hobbled around but never left the ice and were effective. By the end of the game, it seemed as though Hamonic was in Evgeni Malkin’s head. Hamonic had gone after Malkin earlier and with a couple minutes to go the two got tied up and fell to the ice after Hamonic laid a big hit on Malkin. Brian Strait stepping up and playing like a guy with something to prove and a mean streak was huge. Forget putting Matt Carkner into the lineup for toughness — he did play well — Strait brought a toughness and defensive shutdown mode we hadn’t quite seen from him before. But at the same time, the Pens lost their way and didn’t seen to have the killer instinct or energy that we had seen earlier.
The Pens will make adjustments and come back fighting. The team that showed up in the final 30 minutes of Game Two is not going to be the same one that comes to play over the next few games. They’ve been in the playoffs before, will make adjustments, and will come back fighting.
The key is going to be for the Islanders to keep playing like they did post-Okposo fight. All of a sudden the nerves were gone, they threw everything they could at, and around, the net chalking up 42 shots. You’re going to have a damn good chance to win every time you can do that, no matter who is in the other net. Even if the Pens storm back in this series — and I feel like that’s something you can almost take to the bank — the Islanders will have home ice advantage and an idea of what level they need to play on to knock down the top seed and put them on the ropes. Sunday, they’re going to have 16,000+ supporting them. Hopefully they can feed off that energy.
It has been 20 years since David Volek’s series winning goal against the Penguins in Game 7 of 1993. Yahoo caught up with Volek:
“I told Ray that on the bench, then two or three shifts after that, there was that breakdown for the Penguins on the blueline and we were a 2-on-1.”
“I just instinctively one-timed the pass and shot the puck. I don’t know how tired I was. I felt I’m just going to take the shot. It was a well-timed pass from Ray and it kind of surprised the goalie.”