The Upshot: NY Islanders defeat Pittsburgh in OT on Adam Pelech's game-winner

After yet another third-period blown lead, the Islanders at least managed to salvage this one.

Feb 20, 2024; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; New York Islanders defenseman Adam Pelech (3) is
Feb 20, 2024; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; New York Islanders defenseman Adam Pelech (3) is / Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
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Tonight in Pittsburgh, the NY Islanders played another solid game that included a blown third-period lead. However, this time, the Islanders gutted out the second point, winning in overtime on Adam Pelech's first goal of the season.

HOW IT HAPPENED

The Islanders and Penguins traded opportunities in the first period, but Pittsburgh took a 1-0 lead to the locker room on Marcus Pettersson's third goal of the season. The Isles outshot the Pens 13-12 in the first, but were unlucky to head to the intermission down a goal.

Fortunately, the second period started with a bang, with Brock Nelson tying the game on his 24th goal of the season three minutes into the period. Of course, immediately after that goal, Mathew Barzal took a hooking penalty. However, this time, the Isles killed the penalty off- and sprung Barzal for a breakaway right out of the box which he converted to give the Isles a 2-1 lead. About seven minutes later, Simon Holmstrom's forechecking caused a giveaway behind the Penguins' net, and Holmstrom was able to sneak one through Alex Nedeljkovic to give the Islanders a 3-1 lead.

But things got sticky after that. Lars Eller scored to cut the lead to 3-2, and after a failed challenge for a handpass, not only was the goal not overturned, but the Islanders were put immediately onto the penalty kill again. But a strong penalty killing effort kept the game 3-2 heading into the third period.

The Islanders and Penguins traded chances for the first ten minutes of the third period, but the game stayed 3-2 until Mike Reilly's fourth goal of the season 10:42 into the period gave the Islanders a (dreaded) two-goal lead late in the game. And sure as water is wet, two and a half minutes after Reilly's goal, the game was tied. Goals by Valterri Puustinen and Drew O'Connor 56 seconds apart made the game 4-4, and put Islanders fans into a familiar panic.

However, on this night, the Islanders survived the Penguins' onslaught in the last few minutes of regulation, and after a few back-and-forth runs in overtime, Adam Pelech's wrist shot found the back of the net, and the Islanders assured themselves the crucial second point.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

The Islanders penalty kill was successful on all three power play attempts granted to the Penguins. This is a step in the right direction, and if the Islanders have any prayer of making the postseason, they will need a strong penalty kill the rest of the way.

Ilya Sorokin stopped 37 shots and was largely very effective tonight. Additionally, Mathew Barzal scored again, and now has 59 points in 54 games this season.

The Islanders third line of JG Pageau, Oliver Wahlstrom, and Simon Holmstrom had a very effective game, with Holmstrom scoring a goal and Pageau mixing it up physically all night. Additionally, Casey Cizikas took a few hits to the face and body and, as usual, stayed engaged and played a strong defensive game.

WHAT WENT WRONG

The Islanders could not hold a 4-2 third period lead- as usual. It appears impossible for this team- as constructed- to fix this problem, and fans are at a loss when watching these crumbling performances. Fortunately, the Isles at least gained the second point tonight in overtime, but these blown leads just continue for this team. As plenty of people have mentioned throughout the season, the Islanders have become a country club atmosphere, and bigger changes to the roster may be necessary moving forward.

Patrick Roy
Patrick Roy's failed challenge almost caused the Islanders to lose their lead. While the penalty kill held on, the Isles should be more cautious with challenges until the penalty kill is more dependable in general. / Minas Panagiotakis/GettyImages

The Islanders also lost a challenge after Lars Eller scored to cut the Isles' lead to 3-2 in the second period. I thought this was the first objectively bad coaching decision of the Patrick Roy era. The Islanders had momentum, even after the 3-2 goal, the risk of a penalty for a failed challenge seemed too high for an Isles team with the worst penalty kill in the NHL. Unless it's a slam dunk, when you have such a horrendous penalty kill and a track record of quickly blowing two-goal leads, this is not a challenge worth taking. Fortunately, the Islanders were able to kill that off, so no harm no foul.

STATS OF THE GAME

- Coming into tonight's game, the Islanders had spent the fifth-fewest time trailing in games of any team in the NHL. Of course, that doesn't matter if you cannot finish the game with the lead.

- Tonight was the Islanders' 21st overtime game this season, the most of any team in the NHL.

- Pelech's goal was his first of the season, and it was certainly a big one.

- The Islanders only won 42.2% of faceoffs tonight. For the season, the Islanders have won 51.1% of faceoffs. The way the Isles play, controlling the puck and keeping it out of their defensive zone is crucial.

- The Islanders are now 4-3-3 in the Patrick Roy Era.

SOCIAL MEDIA MOMENT OF THE GAME

The third-period blown leads have led fans to near-hysterics, as these frustrating performances seem to never end from the Islanders. However, sometimes the best comedy is borne out of the most frustrating obstacles we face:

WHAT'S NEXT

The Islanders travel to St. Louis to face the Blues Thursday night. Puck Drop will be at 8:00 PM ET.