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Saturday, October 26, 2013

Recap: Pens vs Isles by @pghgirl15222

The last time the Penguins faced the New York Islanders was in the 2013 NHL playoffs where the Islanders had basically melted down and succumbed to what was a very lucky Pittsburgh Penguins team. Flash-forward to Friday night and you saw basically the same Islanders team that continues to matchup really well against this team. Hate to say it, but this was about the most complete looking team the Penguins have played in their first 10 games and the results are not what you want. The Pens walked away from a very disappointing and frustrating 4-3 loss that really was decided in the final 10 minutes of this hockey game. This game came down to capitalization of opportunities for both teams.

Jeff Zatkoff was making his second start of the season, hoping to show that his first NHL game against the Florida Panthers, a 6-3 loss, was nothing more than nerves. The Islander came out strong, as you would expect, cycling the puck really well. Zatkoff came up with the games first big save about four minutes into the game, stopping a shot from Kyle Okposo from the slot. That save would set the tone for Zatkoff (for most of the game anyway) as he looked locked in. The first period can basically be summed up of power play opportunities for both Clubs. The Pens first real opportunity to score resulted in their first power play of the night. The first unit looked strong as they fired countless shots at Evgeni Nabokov but couldn’t find the twine. Soon after, Matt Niskanen was sent off for hooking and the Islanders made quick work of the man advantage as Frans Nielsen threw a shot at the net, which was redirected and saved by Zatkoff. Matt Moulson took a few hacks at the puck to give the Islanders the first lead of the game at 10:14. Jayson Megna, who was making his NHL debut, drew a penalty on Josh Bailey and the Pens went to work on another failed power play. However, as the second power play unit was on the ice, Brandon Sutter make a heck of a defensive play to then lead a rush and put a high shot on Nabakov. Jussi Joiken basically had the puck fall on his stick from the rebound Nabakov gave up and buried it home to tie the game at 1-1. To end the first, the Penguins went on two more power plays (one which carried over into the second period), but just like Ricky Bobby doesn’t know what to do with his hands, the Pens didn’t know what to do with their opportunities. The game started off all Islanders, but thanks to their less and stellar decision making abilities, handed the momentum right back to the Pens.

The second period was just an excuse for Sidney Crosby to show the NHL that his ability to play hockey really sometimes isn’t fair. Crosby took a bad turn over opportunity from the Islanders, and went the other way on a two-on-one with Kunitz. Nabokov chose about the worst positioning possible and gave Crosby essentially a free shot on net which he gladly put in, far post 2-1 Pens. Crosby now has 8 goals and 10 assist on the year. (Insert your own Claude Giroux or Philadelphia Flyers joke here). Somewhere in that period Deryk Engelland had an honestly great shift that made me believe for a second he might actually have found his niche on this team. Seriously, the guy had a good game. This period was more or less about Zatkoff again as he held his ground making a lot of big saves. He wasn’t getting much help out there. Kris Letang, making his debut this season, made a nice defensive play on Bailey to stop what would have been essentially a goal. Bailey pulled of a nice drag of the puck with his stick, a move Zatkoff bit and froze on, but Letang was able to get a stick on the play and clear the danger. Pens had another power play in that period as well, but, well, 0-5 on the night.


Fast forward to about seven minutes left in the game, the Pens carrying a nice 2-1 lead and Zatkoff is easing the minds of Pens fans about him being a decent backup. In a matter of about 70 seconds, everything changed. Thomas Hickey took a shot from the point that was rediected by Nielsen’s stick in the high slot. Game all tied up at 2-2. But fear not Penguin fans, there was hero about to be born, at least for, 53 seconds. Vitale and Engelland came rushing into the zone (there was play similar to this in the second) but Vitale knows Engo can’t fin… and then the internet exploded as Engelland tapped in a pass in front of the net and the Pens took a 3-2 lead. A hero is born, the games unlikely star was supposed to ride off into the sunset. But Pierre-Marc Bouchard got a break and remained patient to tie the game up 3-3. A lot went wrong on this play, like a lot. Kobasew not clearing the puck, Maatta being in the wrong position, and Zatkoff gave up what looked to be a pretty weak goal. It was all over for the Pens after that, as Letang made an awful decision to chase down a man deep into the defensive zone essentially leaving a wide open Bailey to fire a point black shot at Zatkoff, who made a great save, but was not able to recover. Bailey gave an unreal second effort and the game went to the Isles, 4-3. The take away from this game is the Jeff Zatkoff played really well, didn’t get much help. But he showed that his just isn’t an NHL caliber goalie. He is not to blame for this loss, but he did not help his own cause.

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