Thursday night, the Pittsburgh Penguins battled the NY Islanders in what was the final regular season meeting of the two teams for the 2013-2014 season. After an extremely competitive 60-minutes, Pittsburgh walked away with two points following a 6-4 victory over the Islanders.
New York started the night off striking first, when Defenseman Thomas Hickey saved the puck from being cleared from the zone, and chipped the puck in from the blueline. The puck skated across the ice to the left faceoff circle, where Michael Grabner found it and buried a wrist shot past Pittsburgh Goaltender Jeff Zatkoff’s glove hand.
Seven minutes later, Pittsburgh Defenseman Paul Martin brought the puck into the neutral zone while under pressure by NY Islander Cal Clutterbuck. Clutterbuck would deliver a check to Martin, and cause a turnover, springing Michael Grabner and Brock Nelson on a two-on-one breakaway. Grabner would drop-pass to Nelson, who shot high stick-side on Zatkoff for the 2-0 lead.
Following the Nelson goal, Pittsburgh would respond with Sidney Crosby chipping the puck into the Islander zone, chasing it to the corner and then dishing the puck to teammate Chris Kunitz near the left hash-marks for a one-timer. The shot would go over the glove of Islander Goaltender Kevin Poulin bringing the Penguins within one goal.
Two minutes later, with momentum on their side Pittsburgh would score again. This time Matt Niskanen would send the puck around the boards from the blue-line to Kunitz behind the Islanders net. Kunitz then delivered a quick pass to Crosby in front of the crease, Crosby would jam the puck through Poulin’s five-hole to tie the game 2-2 before the first intermission.
The scoring would continue into the second period and both teams having their offensive chances. Five minutes into the period, Kunitz would carry the puck into the Islander zone, drawing three Islander defenders to him. Kunitz then drop-passed to Defenseman Olli Maatta, Maatta would drive to the net before back-handing the puck past Poulin for the 3-2 Pittsburgh lead.
Later in the period, Matt Martin’s hooking penalty would cost the Islanders another goal. On the power-play, Pittsburgh would pass the puck around moving the NY Islander penalty-killers. The puck started with Kris Letang down on the left hash-mark, before going to the blue line to Evgeni Malkin, from Malkin to James Neal in the slot, then from Neal to Crosby near the right-side boards. Once the puck got to Crosby, Neal drove to the net, drawing defenders to the right side, Crosby would pass the puck under Neal’s legs back to a wide open Letang at the left hash-mark for a one-timer past an out of position Poulin, to make the score 4-2.
Going into the third period, fans at the Nassau Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum seemed to have faith in another Islander comeback. Three minutes into the period, after a neutral zone collision sprung Josh Bailey for a breakaway, the entire crowd stood on their feet watching an uncovered Josh Bailey drive to the net before a quick release past the blocker of Zatkoff would bring the Islanders within one. The goal, Bailey’s fifth of the season lifted an incredible weight off of the offensively struggling winger’s shoulders, and fueled the crowd for a tie game.
Two minutes later an errant pass behind the Islander net by NY Defenseman Matt Donovan rounded the boards to the blue-line, where Neal would pick up the puck. Neal would then skate from the right side boards to center ice before passing to an uncovered Malkin across ice, Malkin buried the puck past an out of position Poulin for a 5-3 lead.
The Islanders would comeback again, following a chip into the corner by Donovan, Brooks Orpik would try to play the puck, but a stick check by John Tavares would dislodge the puck. The puck would skip to Kyle Okposo’s stick in front of the crease, Okposo then wristed the puck to Zatkoff’s five-hole and after a few seconds the puck would sneak over the goal-line. The play was reviewed by on-ice officials and deemed a good goal to cut the lead to 5-4, leaving the Islanders nine minutes to once again tie the game and force overtime.
Unfortunately for the Islanders even with a five-on-three power play they couldn’t capitalize on the opportunity to score another goal, and instead with Kevin Poulin pulled for an extra skater, Brandon Sutter would intercept an errant pass by Andrew MacDonald to score an empty net goal sealing the game for the Penguins.
The final score was Penguins – 6 Islanders – 4.
The Islanders move to 21-25-7 and play the St. Louis Blues on Saturday at 1:00pm.
The Penguins move to 36-13-2 and continue on their road trip, playing in Texas at the American Airlines Center against the Dallas Stars on Saturday at 8:00pm
Three Stars of the Game
1) Sidney Crosby
2) Chris Kunitz
3) Kyle Okposo