Game 18, Penguins vs. Islanders Recap by @DXTraeger


The Pittsburgh Penguins opened a home-and-home series with the New York Islanders on Friday night at the Consol Energy Center.

Lineup changes for the Penguins included Robert Bortuzzo dressing for Simon Despres, and Zach Sill remaining in the lineup to occupy the void left by Pascal Dupuis's deep vein thrombosis health scare.

Pittsburgh won its previous contest with the Islanders on October 18th by a final score of 3-1.  In that win, the Penguins killed off seven Islanders power-plays, with Patric Hornqvist netting two goals and assisting on another.

First Period Action:

The Penguins wasted little time in beating the Islanders' backup goalie Chad Johnson, with Brandon Sutter tallying his sixth goal of the season off a nifty deflection from Paul Martin's shot from the point.

With the Islanders clogging up the neutral zone and standing up the Penguins at the blue line, the Penguins resorted to repeated dump and chase attempts to establish offensive zone time.  Unfortunately, the Islanders were more than up to the task, and were able to successfully transition several poorly executed dumps into scoring chances at the other end of the ice.

The Islanders tied the game at one apiece when Matt Martin received a pass in open ice as the Pens were caught with a lazy line change.  Martin snapped a wrist shot from the left circle and cleanly beat Fleury, who was on his line but still failed to stop the puck.

The Isles took a 2-1 lead when Paul Martin had the puck poke-checked off of his stick at his own blue line.  Nikolay Kumelin then proceeded to undress Kris Letang with an inside-out move in the slot, with Fleury getting a piece of of Kumelin's wrister before it found the back of the net.

New York would score their third goal in under 1:30 as Ryan Flome had a Thomas Hickey shot from the point deflect off of his toe and behind Fleury.  The Isles' third goal came after Marcel Goc lost a defensive zone faceoff and the Penguins were unable to clear the zone.

After a lengthy offensive possession by the Islanders that nearly saw them score their fourth goal of the period, Blake Comeau bounced a puck off of Matt Martin from behind the net, drawing the Penguins within a goal after one period.

As I discussed in my article from earlier today, the Penguins under Mike Johnston have adjusted their offensive zone entry tactics, with their forwards opting to enter the attacking zone with possession rather than utilizing the dump and chase.  For the period, the Penguins unofficially entered the attacking zone with possession 16 times while attempting 11 dump and chases (most of them originating from a Penguins' defenseman outside of the attacking blue line).

Second Period Action:

Sidney Crosby and his linemates Chris Kunitz and Blake Comeau opened the second period with an initial strong push, but soon found themselves chasing the Islanders in their own end.

Crosby and Company generated an excellent scoring chance four minutes into the second, but a quick transition from the Islanders suddenly sprang New York on a virtual 4-on-1 entering the Pittsburgh zone.  The Isles' scoring chance was ultimately negated when the Islanders tried one pass too many and the puck went harmlessly into the corner.

Craig Adams had a wide open net on the Penguins next shift, but rushed his shot attempt and missed by a wide margin.

Two shifts later, the Penguins made a careless neutral zone pass that was brought back the other way by the Islanders.  Nick Spaling lost the man he was supposed to be marking, defenseman Nick Leddy, and Leddy one-timed a wrister past Fleury to restore New York's two goal lead.

After a quick referee whistle cost Crosby a rebound scoring chance, Spaling would earn a measure of revenge with #13 finding a bouncing puck and banging it past Johnson to pull the Penguins back within one goal.

Kris Letang nearly tied it from the side of the net, but Johnny Boychuk saved Johnson's bacon with a stick save on the goal line.  Malkin then created a scoring chance for himself on the very next shift, and barely missed backhanding a rolling puck past the Islanders' goalie for tying tally.

With only 1.7 seconds remaining in the second period and with an offensive zone faceoff, Penguins' coach Mike Johnston pulled Fleury for an extra skater, but Crosby lost the draw, negating any potential scoring opportunity.

The Penguins carried play in the second period, and generated their offense by focusing on entering the offensive zone with possession and getting away from the dump and chase that had repeatedly sprung the Islanders' breakout and transitions in the first stanza.  Unofficial entry numbers were 18 entries with possession with only 9 dumps and chases.

Third Period Action:

The Penguins opened the third period with a series of successful dumps that put the Islanders back on their heels, but it was the Isles that nearly opened the period's scoring, prevented only by an excellent Malkin stick-check in front of Fleury.

Kunitz then let his man crash the net with a half-hearted backcheck that nearly resulted in the Islanders fifth goal, but Fleury made the stop.

The Penguins continued to vary their zone entries in the third, with Malkin's line nearly scoring after Nick Spaling drove the net and partially screened Johnson.

Spaling would repeat his center drive later in the period, successfully collapsing New York's defensemen and creating an open lane for Hornqvist in the slot.  Malkin went tape-to-tape, and Hornqvist's snapshot beat a screened Johnson to tie the game up at 4.

After yet another sloppy line change, Crosby's line nearly surrendered a go-ahead goal, but Fleury made a series of saves to keep things even.

After the Islanders' Calvin de Haan limped off of the ice following a head-first collision into the boards, Johnny Boychuk targeted Malkin away from the puck and hit the Penguins center with a cross-check to Malkin's wrist while simultaneously kneeing the inside of Malkin's left knee.

The Penguins would then weather a series of late New York scoring chances, including a dangerous bouncing puck that Fleury had to redirect away.

Regulation ended with the two teams still tied at 4-4.

Unofficial zone entries were charted at 15 zone entries with possession and 14 dump and chases.

Overtime:

The Penguins controlled the first half of overtime, but kept the puck at the periphery while not taking many shots at Johnson.

The Islanders had a few moderate scoring chances, but Fleury was on his line and held everything out of the net, bringing the two teams to the shootout.

The Shootout:

The Penguins elected to shoot first, as is their usual custom with Fleury being a shootout specialist in net.

Evgeni Malkin tried to surprise Johnson with a quick wrist shot, but missed wide.

John Tavares entered the zone with speed, then slowed down, trying to force Fleury to commit.  Fleury held his ground, and Tavares fired a harmless shot off of Fleury's right pad for an easy save.

Crosby came down on Johnson, faking forehand before roofing a backhand past Johnson to put the Pens up 1-0 in the shootout.

Franz Nielsen then replicated Crosby's shootout move, beating Fleury with a backhand to Fleury's glove side.

Brandon Sutter then attempted his patented forehand-to-backhand breakaway move, but Johnson appeared ready for it, easily turning it aside.

With the game on the line, Kyle Okposo faked left and Fleury bit, leaving Okposo with a wide open net for the game winner, thus giving the Islanders the 5-4 shootout victory and denying Fleury of his 300th career win.

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