The New York Islanders bounced back from Wednesday’s poor performance in their playoff opener in Pittsburgh and defeated the Penguins 4-3. The series is now even at 1-1.
Kyle Okposo was the star of the game for the Isles. He scored the game-winning goal with 7:37 left in the third period and his second period fight with Pittsburgh’s Matt Niskanen helped change the momentum of the game in the Islanders’ favor.
The game did not get off to a good start for the Islanders. By the time the game was 3:19 old, Pittsburgh led 2-0 on goals by Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby. Crosby’s goal came on the power play. It was Crosby’s first game since March 30th when he suffered a broken jaw in a game against the Islanders.
Crosby scored again at the 7:22 mark of the first period, just 18 seconds after Matt Moulson scored the first goal of the series for the Islanders.
Pittsburgh led 3-1 after one period and seemed in control of the game and the series. But there were some key differences in this game as opposed to Game 1. Offensively, the Isles were getting scoring chances even if their team defense was still struggling. It was enough to keep the Isles close and give them hope after one period.
The turning point of the game was Okposo’s fight with Niskanen 4:58 into the second period. Okposo came in to defend Moulson after Niskanen gave him a hard hit against the boards. It was Okposo’s first NHL fight and he bloodied Niskanen’s face with a hard early blow before the Pens’ defenseman battled back and ended up on top of Okposo. By standing up for Moulson, the Isles’ forward inspired his teammates.
It didn’t take long for the fight to have an affect on the Isles. Just 14 seconds later, Colin McDonald crashed the net and beat Pens’ goalie Marc-Andre Fleury with a backhand and the Pittsburgh lead was cut to 3-2.
Matt Martin tied the game at 10:37 of the second period on a puck that Fleury probably should have had. But again, the Isles were going to the net and creating opportunities which tonight, they were able to take advantage of and turns into goals.
By the third period, the Islanders seemed to be in the swing of playing a tighter-checking, playoff-style hockey game. They held the Penguins to eight shots on goal and pulled ahead on Okposo’s goal midway through the period. After that, the Isles did a good job of shutting down the high-powered Penguins offense and held on for the win.
Evgeni Nabokov overcame a sluggish start, stayed the course and made 30 saves to earn the victory. By the end of the game, the Islanders had outshot the Penguins 42-33 and evened the series at 1-1. They also showed their never say die attitude that got them into the playoffs in the first place.
Game 3 of the series will be Sunday at noon at the Nassau Coliseum. Islanders tickets for this and other games are available.
James Neal was a scratch for Pittsburgh. He left Game 1 and did not return. Brooks Orpik was also out of the Penguins’ lineup due to injury.
Pittsburgh dominated in the faceoff circle, winning 61 percent of the draws in the game. Jussi Jokinen led the way, winning of 7-of-8 faceoffs.
Both teams were 1-of-4 on the power play.
Matt Carkner was in the Islanders’ lineup in place of Thomas Hickey.