Well, that could have gone better. Remember in the preview when I said that it is very hard to sweep a season series from a division rival in hockey? Well that turned out to be true as the Islanders dropped the Penguins 5-3 at the CONSOL and earned their first victory over the Penguins in five tries this year and snapped the Penguins 10 game home winning streak. Also stopped tonight was the Penguins 13 game home winning streak against the Islanders.
For as much as I glow about Marc Andre Fleury (and I do that a lot) he was pretty bad tonight. It has been few and far between for bad games from MAF but he just wasn’t on point tonight. There were a few goals that you could consider soft and when your team only buries a couple of chances you need to make those saves to give it to your team. It happens. Fleury has been so good this year that he is bound to have a bad game and unfortunately that happened tonight.
Let’s give some credit where credit is due, the Islanders made the plays and withstood a shooting gallery that the Penguins put on tonight. The Penguins pelted a pair of Islanders goaltender with 54 shots and there wasn’t much more they could do in terms of putting shots on net. It isn’t like these were mindless shots on net either, the Penguins really came full force and the tandem of Evgeni Nabokov (who left after the second period due to an injury) and Al Montoya made some big time saves. Montoya withstood a pretty fierce Penguins comeback late in the game and robbed both Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal.
The Penguins actually showed good fight in the game. They found themselves down 2-0 after one period of play but were able to fight back and tie the game in the second period. In the first 4:10 of the second period they netted a pair of goals and I have a good feeling that if they got that next goal it might have been a rout. Instead the Islanders came back and scored three goals to answer the pair of Penguins goals and took a 5-2 lead through two periods and while the Penguins were applying the pressure it was too steep of a mountain to overcome.
James Neal had a pretty solid game. He scored a pair of goals, both on one-timers, and was pretty active in front of the net. He now has 37 on the season and there is a pretty good bet that he will get to 40. Neal also threw 12 shots on goal and had two other missed shots. That is a lot of rubber. It is really good to see him aggressive like that.
The defense was not very good tonight and this time MAF wasn’t there to bail them out. Like I said I think this is more of a bad game thing as I don’t really think the Penguins played a good overall game. The defense has been much improved the second half of the season so I will give them a pass. They have been a little up and down the past week or so but I think that will work itself out.
It seems like once a year the Islanders really have the Penguins number and beat them down. While the Penguins did a nice job of applying pressure in the offensive zone the Islanders were able to withstand it and take advantages of the chances they were getting. There were some bad bounces that aided the Islanders but that wasn’t why the Penguins lost, you can just kinda said it was “one of those” games. The Penguins will get their chance on Thursday when they match up again.