The New York Islanders came into Pittsburgh and (as expected) played a defensively sound game, ultimately defeating the Penguins 4-3 in overtime, taking a 1-0 series lead. Deadline acquisition Kyle Palmieri shined for the Isles, scoring two goals in the game, including the overtime dagger.
It was a high-spirited affair between these division rivals, which saw a combined total of 119 hits laid throughout the game. Neither team was able to capitalize on their powerplay opportunities, with the Pens finishing 0-3 and the Isles finishing 0-2 on the day. The game was quite evenly matched in almost every aspect, making it a nail-biter from start to finish.
Both teams were hit with alarming news prior to puck drop, as the Islanders goaltender Semyon Varlamov did not dress for the matchup. The Vezina trophy candidate left the team’s final regular season game with what Barry Trotz called a minor injury, and more of a precautionary move. For the Pens, their offense took another tough injury as Evgeni Malkin was ruled out of the series opener. The Russian superstar has battled through numerous injuries throughout the season and was yet again sidelined for game one. Additionally, Pens backup netminder Casey DeSmith did not dress after picking up an injury in practice earlier in the week.
Kyle Palmieri got the scoring underway at 7:58 of period one after taking the puck across the ice through the neutral zone, before rifling a shot past Tristan Jarry’s glove-side. Under five minutes later, the Pens had their response. Frederick Gaudreau, who has continued to be a surprisingly consistent force on the team’s third line, beat Ilya Sorokin on a rebound after a flurry of blocked shots in the slot. Shots were 18-13 in favor of the Penguins after one period of play in what was an explosive first period for both sides.
|07:58||NYI||Kyle Palmieri (1)||Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Noah Dobson|
|11:10||PIT||Frederick Gaudreau (1)||Evan Rodrigues|
|03:47||PIT||Sidney Crosby (1)||Brian Dumoulin, Jake Guentzel|
|03:33||NYI||Jean-Gabriel Pageau (1)||Scott Mayfield|
|15:50||NYI||Brock Nelson (1)||Anthony Beauvillier, Ryan Pulock|
|16:21||PIT||Kasperi Kapanen (1)||Jeff Carter, Cody Ceci|
|1st OT Period|
|16:30||NYI||Kyle Palmieri (2)||Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Oliver Wahlstrom|
Period two saw just one goal that came at the 3:47 mark courtesy of Penguins captain Sidney Crosby. The star forward tipped a Brian Dumoulin point shot into the bottom corner for his 69th career postseason goal. The highlight reel tip saw Sid outstretch his stick into the middle of the slot with one hand, while fighting for body position, redirecting the puck past Sorokin. The Pens held onto a 2-1 lead heading into the third.
“I was just trying to get my stick on it. Didn’t know which way it was going to go, but fortunately, Dumo put it in a good spot. It’s always great when you can score this time of year.” Said the Penguins captain.
In the final frame, Jean-Gabriel Pageau levelled the playing-field at two for the Isles, walking into the top of the left circle, and beating Jarry over the glove-hand with a wicked wrist shot. At the 15:50 mark of the period, Isles forward Brock Nelson found himself in the slot one-on-one with defenseman Kris Letang, and the forward fired a wrist-shot through Letang, which Jarry appeared to react late to, ultimately squeaking under his arm and into the net for a 3-2 Islanders lead. The Penguins refused to allow that weak goal to be the dagger and under a minute later, Kasperi Kapanen wired a perfect wrist shot off the post and into the net from the top of the right circle, tying the game once again, and sending it to an overtime period.
Through three periods, it became evident that the Isles defensive system was frustrating the Pens stars who struggled to get puck through to the net. The Islanders collapse and block the shooting lane extremely well, making creativity in the offensive zone an important factor to defeat them.
As for the Penguins, they managed to neutralize Mathew Barzal, an important piece of their defensive game plan as the star forward was held to just a single shot in the game.
The overtime went the distance and lasted 16:30 before Kyle Palmieri netted his second of the game to seal the victory. The Isles forward picked up a rolling puck at the side of the net and scored from a near-impossible angle, squeezing the puck between the crossbar and Jarry’s shoulder to close out a very entertaining game one.
“I thought we did some good things, especially in the first half. I thought we were on our toes, created a lot. There’s still some things to improve on, but we came out with the right mindset and generated a lot of chances. We’ll look to continue to do that.” Said the Pens captain post-game.
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Goaltending was always going to be a huge factor in this series, however, Isles rookie Ilya Sorokin was very tough to crack, posting a stellar playoff debut where he made 39 saves and held a save percentage of .929, an encouraging performance for the 25-year-old. The former third-round pick (78th overall) is a highly-rated prospect who has plenty of KHL playoff experience for CSKA Moscow, explaining his composure and confidence in his playoff debut.
At the other end, Tristan Jarry played well, despite allowing four goals. The Canadian made 37 saves and finished the day with a save percentage of .902. A solid effort in what was just his second career postseason start. A worrisome trend to keep an eye on for the Pens netminder is that all four Islander goals came on the glove side, a weakness that the opponents seem to be targeting and hoping to expose. It worked in game one, and adjustments to that area will be necessary as this series continues to progress.
Coach Mike Sullivan on Jarry’s performance: “I thought Tristan made some big saves throughout the course of the game to keep the game where it was at. There were some good saves at both ends of the rink. I just think we have to do a better job as a group.”
Game two of the series from PPG Paints Arena is on Tuesday night at 7:30 PM EST, where the Pens will look to even the series at one before they head out to Long Island.