Oct 18, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; New York Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic (3) and Pittsburgh Penguins right wing Steve Downie (23) fight during the third period at the CONSOL Energy Center.The Penguins won 3-1. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
The New York Islanders went into tonight’s game with the Pittsburgh Penguins as the last undefeated team in the NHL. Having started the season 4-0-0 for the first time since 2001-02, they were seeking to go 5-0-0 for the first time in franchise history. It didn’t happen.
The Isles came out of the gates with decent effort. They went up 1-0 on a Thomas Hickey shot from the circle 5 minutes into the first period, and took a 1-0 lead into the second period. This is where the game fell apart. The Islanders got handed a gift in the form of a 5 on 3 power play for 90 seconds after the Penguins took two bad penalties, and they failed to convert them. That became a theme tonight as the team went 0-7 on them. The following shift as the Pens penalties concluded, the Penguins went on their own 5 on 3 powerplay. They converted on both, taking a 2-1 lead. They eventually netted the solidifier in the form of an empty net goal by Patric Hornqvist in the third period, ending the game in a score of 3-1.
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The Islanders just looked lost out there tonight. If not for some spectacular netminding by Jaroslav Halak, the score would have been much worse. They lacked effort, couldn’t get any zone entries, and seemed sluggish. A loss, however, it could do them some good. You cannot win every game in an NHL season, and they lost to a quality opponent. This was the first game after an injury to Mikhail Grabovski, so you also could expect a downturn of play as some new line combinations had to be made. Colin McDonald had his first game of the season, slotting into the fourth line with Matt Martin and Casey Cizikas. Josh Bailey was promoted to Grabovski’s slot on the second line, and Cal Clutterbuck took Bailey’s on the third. With Grabovski set to be out for extended time, I would not be surprised to see a call up from Bridgeport, namely Anders Lee, who was victim of a numbers game to start the season.
Tonight however, was a night the Isles need to learn from and improve on heading into Tuesday’s matchup with the Toronto Maple Leafs.