For two periods the Penguins dominated play. They gave the Islands little to no looks and limited them to only nine shots while collecting 21 themselves. Evgeni Malkin was outstanding, Jordan Staal was outstanding, James Neal was outstanding. I mean if you are telling me these things before the game I think the Penguins have a multiple goal lead. Problem was that the Penguins were down 1-0 after two periods of play on a first period Frans Nielsen goal with 1:01 left in the period.
Things could have obviously gone bad for the Penguins in the third period. They did not win a single game last season when they trailed after two periods of play. Good thing that was last year. After the Penguins went down 2-0 only 45 seconds into the third period on a Matt Martin goal off a rebound they started to buzz and finally cashed in.
If there was one thing that probably had to happen after that goal a minute in to the period it was a quick answer. Quick answer they got. Chris Kunitz cleaned up a shot from Pascal Dupuis to cut the lead in half only 44 seconds after the Martin goal. Things looked good. Kyle Okposo then ran MAF and put a forearm in his grill about a minute later to give the Penguins power play a chance. They cashed in.
Remember the goal that Tyler Kennedy scored in game four against the Red Wings when the Pens went tick-tack-toe? Well this goal from James Neal was about as sick as that goal. Just unreal goal. Evgeni Malkin fed the puck to Chris Kunitz in the slot and Kunitz one-timed the puck to James Neal who took about half a second to put the puck in the back of the net. Tie game. Huge goal.
The Penguins didn’t play great hockey in the third period as they gave the Islanders a ton of chances and nobody played better for the Penguins in the third than Marc Andre Fleury. He made some jaw dropping saves late to send the game to overtime.
Overtime was good back and forth hockey and the Penguins got a break when they got a power play for 35 seconds to close. Bad news was that the Pengiuns didn’t even get a shot on the power play. They passed the puck around the perimeter and never even got a shot attempt off. The game went to a shootout where it got weird.
Evgeni Nabokov played the entire game for the Islanders but was replaced by Rick DiPietro in the shootout. Keep in mind that this is the same DiPietro that is hurt every season and hasn’t even played in a game yet this year. You might have thought that Nabokov was hurt or something was wrong but there wasn’t anything wrong. It turns out that he was “fatigued” and that is why DiPietro was in. Just unreal. I would be embarrassed if I was Nabokov. Actually as I was finishing up I see that Nabokov said that he had some lower body things he was dealing with since the first period. I guess that makes it better but if you can play two periods of hockey on it why can’t you do the shootout? I guess I just don’t understand. If you can’t go then you can’t go but it was really strange.
MAF was his usual studly self stopping all three shots and Evgeni Malkin worked DiPietro for a goal as the second shooter and the Penguins now have five wins in a row and sit 8-2-2 on the season.
Evgeni Malkin might have played his best game of the young season tonight. He was all over the ice. If you were worried about his injury then I think you should feel pretty good after tonight unless he has some problems tomorrow. He skated in 25 shifts and played over 26 minutes tonight. The only player on the team that played more minutes tonight was Kris Letang. Malkin was playing keep away tonight like he does when he is on his game and when he is going coast-to-coast with the puck and creating scoring chances you know he is feeling good.
James Neal with another goal. Ho hum. Neal actually attempted 13 shots tonight, six were on net, four were missed and three were blocked. Really nice to see him getting more of those on net after he missed a ton of shots last year. Like I said before the goal he scored was sick. Even though he was just the finishing player on that and it was a lot of good work from Malkin and Kunitz he still pulled the trigger and got rid of it before Nabokov even knew what was happening. Neal also rang one off the pipe earlier in the game. Wicked release tonight, and all season for that matter.
Jordan Staal with a really solid game all around too. He had a goal taken away because of a Matt Cooke interference call which was boarder line but other than that he was really solid on the PK and was really strong on the puck in the first couple of periods. To be honest the goal he scored that was called off could have went either way. I can see why they called the penalty as Cooke did make contact with Nabokov but it was outside the paint. He didn’t really avoid the contact but he and Nabokov were moving to that spot at the same time. If the goal counted it would have been cool but I am not too worked up over it being waved off.
The Penguins are still turning the puck over way too much. The start of the game was much different tonight as they were taking care of the puck and really living in the offensive zone but in the third period they got really sloppy. The Islanders registered 10 shots in the third and most of those were really quality scoring chances and some of them were coming off egregious turnovers in the neutral zone and defensive zone. Thank God Fleury has been on his game because this game could have been over in regulation in favor of the Islanders if MAF wasn’t so sharp.
This doesn’t get talked about enough but Pacal Dupuis has been outstanding. He might turn out to be one of the most important, least talked about, resigning efforts that Ray Shero has got done over this past season. Much like Staal he does a lot of great PK work and is a real grinder but he gives you 110% every play and has some skill to go with that 110% effort. I am sure I could go into more detail about this but just watch the dude play and appreciate what he brings to this team.
Did John Tavares even play tonight? No idea.
Pens play again on Saturday before getting four days off. They are against the Leafs on Saturday. Should be interesting.