The New York Islanders must be sick of the Pittsburgh Penguins by now. In the fifth meeting between the two clubs this month, the Isles failed to pick up two points yet again. They sit at 1-2-2 over those five meetings. Thankfully, there’s only one more to go (this month).
While there was at least one clunker in there they haven’t all been and yet the Penguins still leave with eight points from a possible ten.
It just seems that when the Islanders play the Penguins, they bring the worst out of the Isles.
New York Islanders pick up a single point vs. Penguins
Oliver Wahlstrom has been getting his chances all season long, but he’s only started to convert on them now. But that isn’t giving him any more leash from the coach. Even though Wahlstrom was riding a two-game point streak, he isn’t getting more than ten minutes of ice-time; 9:59 and 9:25 over his last game.
He is getting a ton of time on the power play. The “world-class shot” is a natural fit in the release position along the left wall. With a late power play in the first period, Wahlstrom extends his point streak to three games with this setup for Brock Nelson.
There’s something about the Penguins
No one knows what it is, but there’s something about the Penguins that brings the worst out of the Islanders. After taking a 2-0 lead from Mathew Barzal‘s eighth goal of the year, the Penguins scored two goals of their own in a matter of 26 seconds.
Both of the goals were absolute gifts. On the first one, Varlamov caught an edge and gave Crosby a wide-open goal to shoot at. Obviously, he made no mistake. The second, only seconds later, game on a Letang one-timer that Varlamov should have had. But if not for Pulock to get caught up along the boards there isn’t any space to make that play for Letang.
The Islanders were playing well through much of the game. Through 60 the Isles held 54.55% of the scoring chances, 66.67% of the high-danger chances, and 52.86% of the expected goals.
It’s not that the Islanders deserved to win the game outright, but the only reason the Pens were in this one was because of a few gifts.
Second Line Clicks
Thankfully, the Islanders second line was playing well today. Josh Bailey would pick up only his second goal of the season with this nice tic-tac-toe goal.
The second line of Beauvillier-Nelson-Bailey needed to get clicking. Bailey specifically needed to get on the scoreboard after going MIA most of the year.
Through 60, the Isles second line was its best with some great underlying numbers that confirm what the eye-test said: 79.17 CF%, 77.78 SCF%, and 81.79 xGF%. We know the top line plays well, we know the third line is clicking, and the fourth line is playing as expected. To be at their best, the Isles needed the second line to click.
It seems they’ve figured it out.
One More Mistake and a Single Point
The game-tieing goal came just 18 seconds into the third period as the puck jumps Pulock’s stick at the offensive blue line which leads to a two-on-one with Evgeni Malkin and Jared McCann that would convert.
With the Islanders only getting five shots on Tristan Jarry in the third, overtime was needed. That’s when with 26 seconds left in the extra-frame, Kris Letang walks into the Islanders zone and fires a weak wrist shot through Jean-Gabriel Pageau and past Semyon Varlamov who misread the shot.
This was not Varly’s game. But with 15 starts on 19 games, he was bound to put up a bad game. The Isles will get another chance to take two points in less than 24 hours when they face the same Penguins again.
(Advanced stats from NaturalStatTrick.)
Kris Letang (2G (GWG), 1A): He really knows how to score on Semyon Varlamov. All four of his goals this year have been scored against the Isles goalie.
Brock Nelson (1G, 1A): Big game from Brock and his line.
Sidney Crosby (1G, 1A): Hate him all you want, but man he’s good.
Semyon Varlamov (27 saves, 0.871SV%): Not a good game from him. But he needs a break.
Jordan Eberle (2SOG): He didn’t have a stand-out game tonight that’s for sure.
Mathew Barzal (1G, 4PIM): He’s GOT to stay out of the box.