If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. The New York Islanders were on a two-game winning streak as they welcomed the Pittsburgh Penguins to the Nassau Coliseum for the second time in the month.
(The Isles and Pens will play six times in the month of February.)
In their current two-game win-streak, the Islanders were back to that bubble form that saw them march their way to the Eastern Conference Finals in Edmonton. The fourth line was active and scoring and the power play was working as well.
New York Islanders deserved a win tonight
Leading into this tilt, the fourth line was coming off three goals in two games, including the only two goals in a 2-0 win over the Rangers on Monday. The CCM line, or the E=MC² line, or the “best fourth line in hockey” had found their groove.
They went from being the third-worst line in the NHL (by xGF per MoneyPuck) to the 24th worst now. No one expects them to be the best line in the league, but that jump in xGF is an easy way to show the fourth line is playing well now.
That good work continued against the Penguins as Casey Cizikas hounds John Marino into turning the puck over which creates this scoring opportunity that Cizikas converts in impressive fashion.
Just like the fourth line, the Islanders power play has found its groove with two goals in eight opportunities. That’s a 25% efficiency. For a team whose power play has been a weakness instead of a strength over the past three seasons, this has been a welcomed development even if it’s in a small sample.
They’ve been working on the power play during their unscheduled COVID break and it showed the last time they played the Penguins with a PPG on their only chance. With Codi Ceci firing the puck over the glass, the Islanders would convert on their first chance in this game thanks to a great tip by Jean-Gabriel Pageau.
After all of that scoring in the first, the Islanders fell asleep in the second period holding a 32% xGF, 27% shots-for, and 33% high-danger chances-for (stats from NaturalStatTrick). Which is something we’ve seen all season long. For some reason, the New York Islanders have a hard time in the second as Arthur Staple pointed out over Twitter.
Going in the third, the Isles needed a spark. A hit, a big save, a good chance, or better yet, a goal. Leave it to Mathew Barzal to get the team going by scoring this incredible goal to get the lead for the third time in the game.
(Look out your jaw will drop when you see this.)
But like throughout the rest of the game, the Isles let the Penguins back in. With 18 seconds left and with the Penguins net empty, Evgeni Malkin puts home the game-tieing goal with a blast from the top of the faceoff circle.
It’s hard to find anyone to blame here, maybe Brock Nelson could have closed the gap on Malkin more. But the Islanders could have done better on the two other goals in this game instead of having to protect a one-goal lead and kill a 6on5 at the end.
At least the Islanders got a point out of this game to continue this point streak at five games. They deserved the win, but falling asleep in the second cost them tonight.
Sidney Crosby (shootout winner): He had the game on his stick and delivered.
Mathew Barzal (1G): The team needed a spark and he gave them what they needed.
Bryan Rust (1G, 1A): Rust never sleeps.
Codi Ceci (2PIM): Gave the Isles an early PP that cost his team.
Noah Dobson (-1): I didn’t like his game today. His play along the board, specifically on that second Pens goal was lacking.
Pierre-Oliver Joseph (1 SOG): Mathew Barzal made him look like a pilon out there.