R1G4: Letang's gaffes the cherry on top of Pens' poor performance; Isles even series at 2

R1G4: Letang's gaffes the cherry on top of Pens' poor performance; Isles even series at 2

Penguins

R1G4: Letang's gaffes the cherry on top of Pens' poor performance; Isles even series at 2

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UNIONDALE, NEW YORK – MAY 22: Jean-Gabriel Pageau #44 of the New York Islanders pushes back at Kris Letang #58 of the Pittsburgh Penguins during the second period in Game Four of the First Round of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Nassau Coliseum on May 22, 2021 in Uniondale, New York. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Coming into game 4, MoneyPuck.com gave the Penguins an 80.7% chance of advancing to the second round.

It goes without saying, but the Islanders figure to come with their best performance of the series.

Will they be able to neutralize the Penguins’ attack, or will the Penguins take a 3-1 stranglehold on the series?

Lineup

Status quo.

1st period

Neither team found the back of the net during the first.

The Islanders, predictably, came out strong and the Penguins had to weather a mild storm for the first 10 minutes.

As the period went on, the Penguins found some momentum and created a couple of decent looks, but failed to put one past Ilya Sorokin.

Toward the end of the period, Mat Barzal flew down the right wing and rang a shot off the far post as he almost caught Tristan Jarry cheating.

Both teams finished the frame with two high-danger chances, but the Penguins led in shot attempts 20-13.

2nd period

NYI GOAL – Bailey (2) A: Nelson, Beauvillier [8:07] 1-0 NYI

Eight minutes into the second, Kris Letang shoved Anthony Beauvillier into Jarry as Josh Bailey caught a pass at the left circle and wired it home.

Jarry was stuck inside of his net trying to recover from the contact and didn’t have much of a chance. Letang has got to know better than to shove someone directly into his goalie.

Self-inflicted wound puts the Isles on top.

NYI GOAL – Pulock (1) A: Wahlstrom, Leddy [14:51] 2-0 NYI

As the period went on, the wheels began to fall off for the Penguins.

After putting the Pens on their heels for several minutes, the Islanders found the back of the net again when Ryan Pulock’s shot went in off of Cody Ceci’s skate.

Jarry gave up a juicy rebound that found Pulock out high and it appeared as if he intentionally put it off Ceci.

Regardless, Isles are up by a deuce.

The Penguins conceded six high-danger attempts in the middle frame.

3rd period

Things get ugly from here. Reader beware.

The Penguins were gifted a powerplay several minutes into the period, but quickly found themselves at a 4-on-3 disadvantage thanks to penalties from Jason Zucker and Letang.

Letang’s penalty, an interference minor, was especially egregious.

NYI PP GOAL – Wahlstrom (1) A: Barzal, Pulock [6:04] 3-0 NYI

Of course, the Islanders tallied shortly after the advantage began.

Wahlstrom’s one-timer hit a body on its way in, and it slid past Jarry who was down for the count.

NYI PP GOAL – Eberle (1) A: Barzal, Pageau [6:28] 4-0 NYI

20 seconds later, the Islanders picked up another powerplay tally to seal the fate of the game.

John Marino chased Mat Barzal to the corner, leaving Jordan Eberle wide open on the far-side of the ice.

Barzal fed Eberle and he immediately fired the dagger past the glove of Jarry.

PIT SH GOAL – Aston-Reese (1) A: Dumoulin, Gaudreau [17:25] 4-1 NYI

Too little too late.

Zach Aston-Reese picked up the Penguins’ only goal of the game in garbage time.

At least they didn’t get shut out.

FINAL: 4-1 NYI

The Islanders did a great job of limiting the Penguins to shots from the point and high slot.

They had just one noteworthy shot attempt anywhere near the crease, and it was Aston-Reese’s goal.

Notes

  • Let’s get the Letang conversation out of the way immediately. His mistakes undoubtedly put the Penguins at a disadvantage in this game. However, the idea that every facet of his game absolutely sucked is nonsense. The Penguins conceded just 2 unblocked shot attempts in the 19 minutes Letang played at 5v5. They also controlled 83.7% of the expected goals during that time. That said, he absolutely has to be smarter and simply can’t put his team in the situations he did today. It’s okay to call him on his bullshit while acknowledging the positive impacts he did have.

  • We knew the Islanders would come with their best today. The Penguins stunk, but let’s not act is if the world is ending here. I like the Penguins’ chances in a best of three with home-ice advantage.
  • I’ve been tooting this horn for a while now, but it might finally be time to look at splitting the top line. While Crosby has just one point in four games, he’s still impacting the game in a positive manner at both ends of the ice. I’m not confident that can be said of Jake Guentzel and Bryan Rust. I’ll spare you all of the #fancystats that prove they weren’t as productive as they were made out to be during the regular season, but a different look could do them some good. I’d start by swapping Guentzel and Zucker.
  • Mike Sullivan strayed from his game 3 deployment and gave the Blueger line just under six minutes of ice time at 5v5. I’m interested to see if they see a hefty increase in game 5.

Thanks for reading! Let’s talk hockey on Twitter. Follow me @shireyirving.

All data via Evolving Hockey and Natural Stat Trick

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