PITTSBURGH, PA – The Pittsburgh Penguins arrived to tonight’s matchup as the more desperate team, and it showed on the scoreboard, as Tomas Vokoun held the Islanders at bay, withstanding 31 shots and garnering the shutout, beating them in the end 4-0.
The game had a completely different outlook come the end of the first, as both teams played at an even-keeled pace and both generating good scoring opportunities and skating well. But the Islanders were the better team then, monopolizing Neutral Zone ice, shrinking the space for Pittsburgh in the process. Evgeni Nabokov showed some poise at the onset, but by the end of the evening, the Isles netminder was riding the bench after another shaky performance.
But in Nabby’s defense I will say that not starting Matt Carkner may have been the determining factor in why the Isles couldn’t find a way back, as his physical presence was in much need this evening.
Vokoun’s performance was adequate, but then again, his life was made a bit too easy as the Islanders never willingly attacked his area as they did with Marc-Andre Fleury. Perhaps the Islanders psyched themselves out into believing that the backup goalie was the Pens’ missing link. But after seeing a wobbly first period, I say that the Isles didn’t apply the necessary pressure needed to truly test Vokoun’s fortitude. They’ll need to simply open the floodgates this Saturday and see where that takes them.
So, the Isles lose big and yet are still in it. Nothing more than a game was lost. The Penguins may feel somewhat relieved by the win, but they shouldn’t think they have the series wrapped up. Not by a long shot.
NEW YORK ISLANDERS at PITTSBURGH PENGUINS
7:oo PM ET, May 9th, 2013
CONSOL Energy Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
- Islanders are on the receiving end of a weak penalty call early on in the first period: Brian Strait for Interference; referees failed to call the Penguins for a late hit after the whistle is blown to end that same play.
- No shots on net for the Islanders in the first 7 minutes of the first period
- James Neal takes a penalty for shoving Keith Aucoin after the whistle and the PP unit is getting the pucks to the net; Kyle Okposo creates a partial breakaway but nothing comes of it
- Tomas Vokoun is serving up juicy rebounds but the Isles failing to capitalize
- Islanders defense fails to pick up the loose player and a rink-side pass by Kris Letang sets up Tyler Kennedy for the breakaway and the first goal of the game
- Nabokov gives up a soft second goal–1:22 apart from the first: wrist shot from the point by Douglas Murray bounces off the Isles netminder and jumps behind him and lands in the net; without Marc-Andre Fleury to offset Nabokov’s poor play between the pipes, Isles’s deficiencies in said department are glaring beyond compare
- Sidney Crosby undresses two Islander defensemen to score his 3rd of the playoffs; in my opinion, defensemen apprehensive in hitting Crosby for fear of being called for a penalty: not giving the Isles an excuse, just making an observation
- Isles have loosen their grip of the Neutral Zone and the Penguins gaining confidence on both sides of the puck; Pens the better skating and shooting and scoring team this period, up by 3
- Islanders show very little creativity and deliberateness in their play early in the 3rd, failing to pester Vokoun in front
- Matt Martin called for a penalty and the Penguins quickly convert on the PP courtesy of Kris Letang; 4th goal for Pittsburgh; Nabokov pulled for Kevin Poulin
- Another penalty for the Islanders, this time Travis Hamonic midway through the third period
- The Islanders never attacked Vokoun’s space: needs to change if fortunes are to improve for New York
- Islanders’ Brian Strait gets called for Interference early on in the first period, but the PK, with Radek Martinek leading, does a fine job of killing it off.
- Islanders are the better skating team for the first half of period one: shooting at every opportunity and playing with continued confidence on the forecheck
- Matt Martin is coming up with the big hits, matching those of the Pittsburgh team
- Islanders force the Penguins to chip and chase for most of the first: good, solid Neutral Zone coverage; little ice for the Penguins to skate and set up for shots
- 14 to 7 SOG favoring the Isles at the close of the first, which quieted the crowd and quelling the initial Penguins ‘onslaught’; best part about Isles game thus far, is their Neutral Zone play: snubbing out any Penguin defensive zone breakouts
- Second period opens with the Isles continued temperance, skating strongly and confidently through the Neutral and Offensive zones
- Nabokov had a better start than on previous occasions (before his eventual collapse), not allowing for too many rebounds; fourtnate on an early scoring chance by Jarome Iginla as the puck skirted by the Isles netminder just wide of his left pad
- A win at home and the Isles are right back in it
- Back to back games–Saturday and Sunday–favors the Islanders, who have the fresher and younger legs
- If I am the New York Islanders, I play with very little fear this weekend. What’s the worst that can happen: lose a series no on gave you a chance to win?
- And that’s not to say that they should settle for mediocrity, but quite frankly what exactly should the Isles hang their heads in shame about?
- And if I’m the Penguins, I don’t waste too much energy patting each other on the back, for they played a horrendous series as well: not Cup worthy in the least.
- At his late juncture of the Quarterfinals, the Ottawa Senators are the only viable representative in the East to make a plausible charge for the cup, in my opinion.
- With that being said, I don’t see any team in the East capable of beating the Chicago Blackhawks.
- Going out on a limb to say that if the Isles play a formidable game 6 with a strong scoring surge, then their chances in game 7 go up. Don’t lose the faith, Isle country. Don’t. If I’ve learned anything from this series is that resiliency and will play a larger role than skill.
- Let’s just put this one to bed, and expect the best from the Boys this Saturday evening, as the Coliseum will remind the Penguins that we in NYC never say die!
**BE ADVISED ISLES GAME WILL BEGIN AT 7PM**