No one picked the Pens to sweep, right?
Because backs against the wall, heading into an asbestos filled barn against an organization that hasn’t hosted a home playoff Game 1 since before you were even spilled into your mom’s belly, we all had to know that the Pens weren’t coming away with this.
But damn if they weren’t close.
On three separate occasions, they came back from a deficit to tie the game up. The Islanders were flying around from the opening puck drop, stacked the defensive blue line, and were otherwise total dicktrolls.
Yet, over the course of the 52:57 of 5v5 play, the Penguins were largely the better team.
Sure, they failed to take care of the puck at times, but they by and large controlled most of the events that took place.
Except for goals at 5-on-5, save for Phil Kessel.
And if the Penguins can continue to dominate the puck the way that they did last night and start taking care of the puck even 50% more in the defensive zone, the bitter taste you have in your mouth won’t be sticking around for lone.
This…was just one of those games.
It only took 82 goddamn games, but we finally got the near-best on-paper Penguins lineup as Brian Dumoulin made his return to the lineup, bumping Jack Johnson from it and making Johnson the first player in Penguins history to skate all 82 in the regular season and be a healthy scratch for a playoff opener. ZAR also came back, removing Blueger.
Murr vs. Lehner between the pipes at the Coliseum.
Absolute breathtaking first shift from the Martin-Cizikas-Clutterbuck line on the first shift of the game, smoking the Crosby line and just as you thought they survived being buried, Tom fucking Kuhnhackl hopped off the bench, picked up the puck, walked through unabated, and wired one of the nastier wristers you’ll see off the pipe and in through a Letang screen.
But HCMS would challenge the hell out of it because Matt Martin was slow getting out of the zone. Really damn tight, but the right call was made. No goal.
NYI –1:40 – Eberle; A: Lee, Pelech – 1-0
But that didn’t matter because out rolled the Isles top line and boy, did they go to work.
Hounding the puck in the neutral zone after the Pens just got it out, they turned it back into the offensive zone like they were Greg Jennings marching towards the endzone on a broken leg.
Pens were scrambling, got a save out of Murray as the Isles worked it in front from behind the net, but looked like they had a chance to clear when Dumo picked up an errant pass behind the net on his backhand.
But things….did not go well. He threw the puck out but found only Adam Pelech at the point for a shot that got deflected in the slot, went off Eberle three times all alone in front, and fell to him instead of Murr for him to actually open the scoring. Unlucky as hell, but them’s the breaks sometimes.
But from there, the Penguins started to settle in a little bit, largely in part because of a big shift out of the Malkin line that ended with Lehner robbing Hornqvist with a point blank kick save.
PIT –5:42 – Phil!; A: Simon, Dumoulin – 1-1
But on the next shot Lehner faced, the outcome was very different.
With the lone forechecker putting Dumoulin and Schultz under pressure, they did a nice job skating around it to allow Dom to drop in deep to pick up the puck and eventually get the zone exit and weave through the neutral zone, getting a little fortunate with the ice being dogshit.
He gained the offensive zone, got the puck knocked off his stick, but luckily for him Phil! was swooping in behind him.
Playoff Phil! arrived Johnny on the spot, snapping a vintage Phil! shot through Lehner and into the back of the net.
NYI –15:46 – PPG – Nelson; A: Eberle, Toews – 2-1
Things seemed to be settling down a bit after the crowd was shut the fuck up with the Kessel goal, but could’ve went up 2-1 before Cizikas got in behind Pettersson on a dump in with the latter cross-checking the former from behind to give the Islanders the first PP of the series.
Murr was up to the task on the chance though.
The Isles PP this season converted at the 3rd worst 14.5%, but in the first period last night, they clicked at 100%.
This is because the Penguins PK was a Nightmare on Hempstead Turnpike. First, Dumoulin went chasing and finishing his check. That moved the puck to Not-Related-to-Jonathan-Toews Devon Toews at the point.
Toews looked poised to leadership one on net until Rust rushed over to the shooting lane, blowing a tired in the process and sliding into next week and with Dumo still out of position, Letang was stuck in a 3v1 down low when Eberle took Toews’ pass.
Nelson there all alone to bang home the go-ahead.
First period 5-on-5 numbers via Natural Stat Trick:
Pens owned the shot attempts (27-20), unblocked attempts (22-17), and shots on goal (17-11). Isles owned both sets of scoring chances and put 5 high danger shots on Murray, scoring one goal from there.
If Mike Sullivan walked into the locker room at the first intermission, kicked a trash can, and told the team to stop needlessly giving the puck away in the D-zone, the Penguins on their way to a good second period.
Thing is, if that was the talk, they didn’t seem to listen and gave the Islanders all the chances their little hearts could’ve desired but simply giving them the puck in the offensive zone early in the middle frame. Pens weren’t without their chances either, but had it go by the wayside with a Kessel tripping penalty 5:43 in.
Murr was the Pens best penalty killer.
When Phil! was released, he got himself a breakaway that was turned aside by Lehner just before Komarov went off for holding Pettersson in the Pens end of the ice to give them their first PP of the series, but they just couldn’t do anything with it against the 18th ranked PK during the regular season.
But right as it expired and with Malkin-Crosby-Kessel-Letang-Schultz on the ice for the end of it, Malkin crashed the net, let Mayfield and Co. get under his skin and scrummed with Mayfield to gave us some 4v4 puck. At the end of it, Pulock went off for interfering with Crosby and back to the PP they went with 7:30 to play.
PIT –13:41 – PPG – Malkin; A: Schultz, Phil! – 2-2
And once Malkin got out of the box, you just knew he was doing something here.
Isles got a clearance early on, Pens PP was struggling to set up, but a zone entry and dish to the far half wall got them set up. Phil! to Jultz to Gene, who exhibited more patience than George R.R. Martin writing a goddamn book before throwing a stick-seeking shot at the net that deflected in.
Pissed off Gene is a good Gene. Game on.
And game on is just what the Penguins did as the period burned through the last 6 minutes, with both the iron and Lehner denying them their 3rd goal. Had it not been for him, this game could’ve been out of control.
Because in 13:02 of 5v5 play in the middle frame, the Pens went owned:
Shot attempts: 20-12
Unblocked attempts: 16-9
High Danger SOG: 5-1
Scoring chances: 11-7
High danger chances: 7-3
Barry Trotz opened up the 3rd period by sending out his dickhead group of 4th liners and it nearly paid off in spades with Matt Martin latching on to a turnover and wiring one off Murr’s glove and off the iron. You just knew going into this series that line would be the ultimate villains and it seemed to just radiate energy throughout the rest of their lineup, which is a thing villains absolutely do.
Pens would get a chance after stemming the tide midway through the period to make it 3 after Lee went off for a boarding penalty on Gudbranson. Ugly, ugly collision.
Would be surprised to see him back before October. He returned to the game somehow.
Isles would go on to kill the penalty and generate noice and momentum from it, forcing the Pens to once again buck water in their own end of the ice.
NYI –12:35 – Leddy; A: Filppula, Komarov – 3-2
Part of that whole bucking of water bullshit was the Pens taking two straight icings, locking them into their own end of the ice for what felt like eternity.
It wasn’t eternity though because it had an end and that end was via Nick Leddy, who was the beneficiary of Maatta getting caught in possession by Komarov when he collected a rebound off of Murr.
Komarov’s centering feed was bullshit and bounced around and out to Leddy at the center point to slap and end-over-end bullshit shot through three screens in front of Murr and off the iron and in.
Get real with this.
HCMS would get Murr out for the extra skater with under 2 to play after a big puck battle was won in the Pens corner of the ice and airmailed it down into the Islanders zone.
They looked poised to clear it, but a huge keep in by Jultz set up the equalizer. Kid knew he was in for getting stapled, but took it like a champ and got it down low to Money Bag.
Pens poked and prodded along the perimeter long enough to open up enough of a window for them to run them Jultz fast and tie this baby up.
No chance Lehner had an eyeball on this at all.
But with 6 seconds left, you could’ve made a diamond with the clenched poopers across the city of Pittsburgh when Bailey collected a Clutterbuck pass alone in front of Murr, but he found nothing but iron and off to OT we went.
Right off the hop, Kuhnhackl almost did it again, but had his potential goal rule no goal because the puck didn’t cross the line before he barreled into Murr.
But just like in the first period, the Islanders responded by scoring an actual goal, this time immediately after the Pens looked like they were going to end it themselves.
NYI – 4:39 – Bailey; A: Barzal – 4-3
First, it was Dumo that was unlucky not to bury a backhander by Lehner, but the Islanders cleaned it up and hit the exit button with Bailey trying to find Kuhnhackl with a heroic pass that Simon picked right the fuck off to find Letang scorching through the neutral zone, only to have the puck stop on him as soon as he crossed into the offensive zone for Bailey to hit Barzal to send him in on a 2v1 with Eberle on Dumo with a near hint of offside on the play.
This time, Barzal baited Dumo into selling out, patiently waiting him and Murray out as he cut into the slot and walked in to chip a backhander off the post as he got taken down from behind by Letang.
Bailey was quickest to react and stashed it into the empty cage to finish it.
Game. 1-0 Isles.
- Crosby line virtually nonexistent bad. They got absolutely caved in at 5v5. On top of the below abysmal shot-based metrics, they manufactured just 0.24 expected goals for and 1.04 against. Even worse, they generated just one scoring chance, giving up 13 and just one high danger chance, giving up 7. Would absolutely not expect this to happen ever again.
- Spin zone: the other 2 lines in the top 9 were extremely good.
- Tough to find too much fault in Matt Murray on the goals. He was a little shaky at the start of the game, but one he settled in, he was fine. Three 5v5 goals against on 2.74 expected goals against (4 on 3.42 in total).
- That ice was horribad.
Game 2 on Friday at 7:30. Redemption city and Josh and I will be there.
Bury them.Go Pens.