What a win. Two points from Jordan Eberle and an overtime goal from Josh Bailey sealed a game one 4-3 victory for the New York Islanders.
The New York Islanders took game one with a high-tempo play that kept the Pittsburgh Penguins on their toes and pinned back in their own zone for the majority of the game.
It wasn’t a defensive masterclass from the Islanders who won 4-3 in overtime, but a win is a win in the playoffs. The New York Islanders were electric from the moment the puck dropped. One down, three to go.
God, I hate the offside review. Within the opening minute, Tom Kuhnhackl comes barreling down the middle of the ice and riffles a wrist shot over Matt Murray’s shoulder.
But, because Matt Martin had not yet cleared the zone the goal was waved off. Keep in mind Martin was skating away from the puck and was in no way in on the play. But offside is offside. Am I right? (So much sarcasm in that.)
No matter though, because some 40 seconds later Jordan Eberle would score his first career playoff goal after collecting a point shot from Adam Pelech and sneeking one under Matt Murray.
Jordan Eberle has been on fire of late. After a rough season, I’m glad he’s finally putting up the points we thought he could put up.
Phil Kessel would tie the game up at one as he finds some open ice in the slot after Casey Cizikas blows a tire in the neutral zone.
The Islanders wouldn’t let up though. The Isles kept up their incredible tempo, dictating the pace, pushing the play forward, and just crushing the Penguins with 17 hits in the first period.
Their play would be rewarded with a power play. A power play that they’d convert. That’s right, they scored on the power play. They were the 29th ranked power play in the regular season and scored two PPG’s in their last 24 opportunities. They don’t typically score on the power play. But tonight Brock Nelson did just that.
(PS: Eberle picked up the primary and Devon Toews the secondary)
The second period started just like the first. The New York Islanders were pressing the Penguins and were creating chances because of it. But that intensity started to dip a little.
By the 12:30 mark of the second, Ryan Pulock took down Sidney Crosby and was sent to the box for two minutes. It was the second time the Isles were shorthanded in the period.
The Penguins were the fifth most efficient power play in the league. Giving them opportunities was not going to end well for the Islanders. Sure enough, on the power play, Evgeni Malkin tosses a shot towards the net that finds a hole. Game tied at two.
You know it’s playoff hockey when the refs put their whistles away in the third period. There were likely three easy tripping calls to make on the Penguins, but the men in stripes kept those whistles in their pockets.
At least until Anders Lee and Erik Gudbransson get tied up and both go down heavily into the boards. And the refs give Lee two minutes for boarding. Bad call. See for yourself.
To be fair it doesn’t look good how both players go into the boards. But that was a result of two players fighting for positioning and not some slue-foot from Lee.
Not long after killing that Anders Lee penalty Nick Leddy gets a puck at the point and drills it on net. The puck hits the post and bounces in to give the Islanders the lead once more at 3-2.
Another guy who’s had a quiet year who’s starting to wake up for late. I’m all for it.
But with a minute to go Pittsburg pulls the goalie for the sixth skater and with ice in their veins, they tie it up thanks to Justin Schultz.
You can tell the Penguins have been in this situation before. There was absolutely no panic in what they were doing. Just absolute confidence that they could convert. And they did. Overtime here we come.
I hate the stress of overtime in the playoffs. There’s so much on the line. Any shot or any play could end it and then you’re down a game.
But four minutes into the extra frame Mathew Barzal puts on a show and gets Dumoulin to bite and he slides out of the crease to prevent a passing lane to Jordan Eberle, leaving Barzal alone on goal.
His backhander rings off the post and out, but Josh Bailey is there to collect the rebound and bury it for his first playoff OT winner.
That was Bailey’s first playoff OT goal, but he isn’t new to clutch OT goals, he has six regular-season overtime goals in his career.
The Islanders played a high tempo game against one of the better high tempo teams in the league and bested them at it. We didn’t think the Islanders could hang with a fast flying Pittsburgh team, but they did.
That has to cause Mike Sullivan a headache. Does he keep that same strategy and just try to outlast the New York Islanders, or does he try something different?
Either way, Barry Trotz has to be happy. He’s seen that his team can hang and play a high octane game, and do it well. And if Sullivan wants to change it up, the Islanders are more than comfortable playing a tight defensive game. They’ve been doing it all year.