Everything about this game through 40 minutes had the feel of Islanders typical. Between the slog and the 3-2 lead through two, expecting the Isles to just clog it all the way to a W seemed about right, especially after the way they dominated the back half of the 2nd frame.
But the Penguins continue to do the very good bit where they decide to just come back in games.
tremendous bit by the penguins keep doing the good bit guys
— REZ (jon bernthal’s podcast co-host) (@ReZhockeytweets) January 31, 2021
And with the way the 3rd went, you’d have to say the Pens probably deserved a regulation win. It was maybe the most dominant period of hockey this team has played all season long at evens.
End of the day, two points on the road in the first of a back to back against these guys will always be a big two points. They’re now in 5th place, but 3 points out of first with a game in hand and 12 of 16 games in March at home. Buckle up.
Lots of changes from the team that lost 5-2 on Thursday night. The Penguins would welcome back Jared McCann, inserting him on the left wing with Malkin and Rust and reuniting the ZAR-Blueger-Tanev line. Anthony Angello would make his season debut on the wing with Lafferty and Sceviour in place of Mark Jankowski. On D, Pettersson was elevated to play with Letang and POJ down with Ceci.
— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) February 27, 2021
For the Isles, Clutterbuck was a game time decision, but did not play. Dal Colle was activated off IR for this one. Same D they’ve rolled all year. Varly vs. Jarry.
— LinesLinesLines (@CcCMiddleton) February 27, 2021
Such a typical Islanders game start that you could have decided to go on a vision quest, went on that vision quest, gotten back from that vision quest and fixed everything in your life that prompted you to go on the vision quest in the first place before getting home, still reeking of bear piss and tree sap, and turning on your TV to find this game on. And before you could ask anyone in a Twitter Space what was happening, you’d remember the before times and would know exactly what happened, right down to the Brock Nelson goal late in the period…
NYI –18:40 – PPG – Nelson; A: Wahlstrom, Leddy – 1-0
…and the goal early in the period off of a Penguins stick.
NYI –1:34 – Barzal; A: Lee, Mayfield – 2-0
But somewhere along the line, we got a Freaky Friday situaish where the Penguins were the freaky part of the movie and became the Islanders with two goals in 26 seconds to bring things level.
Remember Freaky Friday? The movie where two very different people switched bodies for absolutely no reason other than to exist as a movie? Remember that?
PIT –2:17 – PPG – Crosby; A: Letang – 2-1
First came a Crosby powerplay goal. Remember those? Here is one, winning the faceoff and opening up, blasting one by a Varlamov who looked like someone in that movie Shooter. Remember Shooter? The movie with the hamburger guy who is also a sniper?
Mike’s tweet here is from that movie, Shooter.
— Mike Neurohr, per source (@mwn3d) February 28, 2021
Quick response goals always felt like an Islanders thing against the Pens, which is why this was like a Freaky Friday scenario.
PIT –2:43 – Letang; A: Kapanen, Guentzel – 2-2
And before you could get either of those killer references, the Pens took the next faceoff and went straight to the Islanders zone, setting up so that Letang could dance around at the point and open up a lane to feed Guentzel for a high slot shot.
The shot missed, but Kapanen went to town down low, smoking Pulock and feeding 58 for the 2016 Cup Final Goal.
Pens got another PP midway through the period and we almost got the obligatory Islanders shorty. Some bits are good, other bits are bad. The Islanders scoring backbreaking shorthanded goal bits is one of the bad ones.
Also a bit is the Islanders taking over and running the Penguins off the ice and grabbing a lead heading into an intermission, which is exactly what they did. The last 10 minutes of this period felt like when you’re camping in the cockpit in Checkmate just getting crushed with flashbangs and smoke grenades and just hoping you somehow make it out alive. You take some damage, but somehow sneak out the back.
That’s what this was.
NYI –14:51 – Bailey; A: Beauvillier, Nelson – 3-2
Pens win a D zone draw here and Pettersson shovel’s it up the wall on his backhand to Kapanen along the wall. Pulock pinches down and keeps it in.
Pettersson follows Nelson up high, but only as far as the top of the circle. Then he lets him go and starts filtering back towards the net front. But Pulock makes a slick little backdoor feed to Nelson as he drags Kapanen towards the middle of the ice and opening up space for Nelson.
Pettersson and Crosby both see this and jump to Nelson, neither seemingly communicating with each other. Beauvillier drifts in down low like he was Jake Guentzel or that ghost Brandon Tanev saw, taking the feed and creating a 2v1 down low on Letang.
But you don’t get your 6th third period comeback win of the season without scoring a goal to tie things up in the 3rd period and also having 5 of those coming into a game. This is math.
PIT –0:18 – McCann; A: Malkin – 3-3
Tough offensive zone pinch from the Isles and the Large Lad doing Large Lad things, just shurgging off and powering through an attempted hold to head in on 2v1 with McCann. As soon as Gene got that pass across, you knew what was coming.
Absolute put the team on your back shit here from 71.
Pens controlled much of the rest of the period, got a powerplay, but there was next to no chance this game was ever being decided in 60 minutes.
End to end stuff as you’d expect with the 3v3. Crosby with the best chance to end it on his penultimate shift.
Sullivan played it so that he could get Crosby, Guentzel, and Letang out for the final shift of OT and it proved to be a master stroke.
PIT – 4:34 – Letang; A: Crosby – 4-3
No chance of the Islanders jobbing the neutral zone on a 3v3, so Crosby letting Letang carry the mail while he pulls off to the wing and opens up the lanes. Pulock forcing Lee to switch here killed them and allowed Letang to just skate straight down Pageau’s throat and fire one off his stick and between his legs to make it 6.
- Malkin is starting to wake up. Another great game here. He had the motor going, his skating looks a lot stronger and more powerful, and the puck is staying on his stick. He’s slicing and dicing through masses of bodies with the puck on a string again and, folks, it’s a sight. That line with McCann and Rust had 13:45 of 5v5 ice time together, controlled shot attempts 20-11 (64.52%), 70.36% of the expected goals, and 13-7 in scoring chances. Rust led the way team-wide with 8 individual 5v5 shot attempts and 6 scoring chances.
- Letang is waking up too. Tied among defensemen in this one with 4 5v5 shot attempts and had 3 scoring chances of his own. He’s up to 14 points (4G, 10A) on the season and 4G, 3A in the last 4 games.
When they realize you're part of the solution pic.twitter.com/js8enPXKKL
— I'm wall to wall racoons (@Blaze_Weedman) February 28, 2021
- Jarry was good again too. He’s saved 3.18 goals above expectation in his last7 straight starts (via EvolvingHockey.com).
- Mike Matheson is hands down the most entertaining player this team has had in years not named Crosby or Malkin. Absolute, unabashed chaos each and every single shift and it rips. He finished the game with the second most shot attempts and scoring chances on the team with 6 and 4 respectively.
- POJ had a great game away from Letang. His minutes and role were a little more conservative and he got to play more of his game. Sometimes certain guys, even as good as they are or may grow to be, simply do not work with others. Probably the case with POJ and Letang. In 12:27 of 5v5 play, POJ was on the ice for just 5 shot attempts against and saw 11 directed at the Isles cage (68.75%). The Islanders also had just 1 shot on goal with POJ on the ice and just 0.1 expected goals. The Pens with Joseph on the ice controlled 82.71% of the expected goals and an 8-2 edge in scoring chances.
Back at it on the Island at 5 PM on Sunday. Go Pens.
All data via Natural Stat Trick unless otherwise noted.