For most of this game it was like the kind of games I play when I get together with my brother and some of his friends at home. That is we put on our skates and go to the local elementary school where they have a couple basketball courts that are fenced in that are perfect for 4-on-4 hockey. Actually this game tonight might have had a bit (read: a lot) more talent but the flow was about the same. Up and down hockey with a ton of scoring chances and a ton of turnovers and whomever got the last decent opportunity was going to win. Actually maybe that is taking it a little over the line but the Penguins got the final tough forecheck with the end result being a Sidney Crosby goal with 1:16 left.
It wasn't pretty and it's not the type of game that you want to see the Penguins playing every night but the end result was two points and not giving up a point to the Islanders in the process. That might not seem like a big deal now but not giving up that point could come into play later in the season in tiebreakers. Most think that the "important" games happen down the stretch when you win in regulation but these wins mean just as much as those games in the final month. Really.
Anyways, it really looked like the Penguins were going to run away with this game early. The Islanders gave the Penguins three power plays in the first eight minutes of the game and all the Penguins did was dismantle the Islanders power play to the tune of a 2-0 lead with a pair of goals from Chris Kunitz. It was a great start to the game and the Penguins almost added to the lead with Kunitz scoring again but it was waved off thanks to a pretty questionable call on Evgeni Malkin for a high stick with just over a minute left in the period.
The waived off goal could have really done the Islanders in and probably forced a goaltender change but instead the Islanders were down only two and got a goal in the first two minutes of the second period. Now, the call from the official wasn't the reason it was a one goal game instead of a three goal game but it did give the Islanders some jump and they made it a game.
It seems like it happens every single time the Penguins play the Islanders. No idea what it is but you never really feel all that good with a lead against them because they don't quit. For as bad as they have been in the recent past they aren't scared of being down and now have some firepower to get back into the game. The Penguins took another two goal lead when Malkin [finally] got on the board but the Islanders got right back.
Thanks to some sloppy play and some fire wagon hockey the Islanders tied the game with a pair of goals about 1:30 apart in the middle of the second and all of a sudden it was anyones game.
I am not going to sit here and say that Jeff Zatkoff was outstanding but with the way the game was going and the amount of shots he was seeing (35 total) he did a pretty nice job of never letting that one Islanders go-ahead goal in. He wasn't great on the second goal and makes me a little nervous but he has been getting better every time out there. Really good to see and while I still don't think he is an ideal backup option this year he is getting points for the Penguins and giving Marc-Andre Fleury a chance to get a break which is something he desperately needs in these back-to-back situations.
On the game winning goal, I have no idea how you leave Crosby wide open. The play was started by a really nice forecheck that freed the puck up to Pascal Dupuis on the goal line who found Crobsy for the one-timer far post. Crosby also set up the first power play goal on a sick one-touch pass to Kunitz. This guy is just the best in the league and the past couple games is just a small reason why.
The goal was Crosby's 250th in his career. That's pretty cool.
Malkin might be better than Crosby right now. He is getting a ton of flack for not scoring goals but he is all over the ice and creating chances by the boatload. It is so much fun to watch him and Crosby play at this level on the same time and while it hasn't turned into a bunch of lopsided victories that doesn't mean they are playing bad hockey. That couldn't be further from the truth.
The underrated portion from the game tonight was the penalty kill. They killed off all six of the Islanders power plays including a power play chance in the final minute just six seconds after the Crosby goal gave the Penguins the lead. With the goaltender pulled the Islanders had a two man advantage and while the Islanders got some chances the PK was there to come up huge, like it did all night. It doesn't always have to be pretty and sometimes your goaltender is your best PK guy but when you win a game by one goal and you go 6-for-6 on the penalty kill then you are doing something right.
Penguins play Montreal in like six seconds. That will be a fun game.