The New York Islanders suffered their fourth straight loss (0-2-2) as Kris Letang scored at 1:24 of overtime to give the Pittsburgh Penguins a 3-2 win Friday night at the Barclays Center. The Islanders were able to pick up a point, but are now 1-3-4 in their last eight games as they head out west for a three-game California road trip next week.
The game-winning goal came off a pretty play by Sidney Crosby who held the puck, faked out a defender and delivered a pinpoint, cross-ice pass to Letang who beat Isles netminder Jaroslav Halak to end the game.
An inconsistent effort again proved to be the Islanders’ undoing.
“I didn’t think the first [period] was great,” admitted Islanders captain John Tavares. “We were a lot better in the second, probably not our best in the third, but we gave ourselves a chance. We just didn’t sustain enough.”
The Islanders came out of the gate flat in the first period and were outshot by the Penguins 16-5 in the first 20 minutes of play. The team had trouble successfully breaking out of its own end and the Pittsburgh forecheck consistently forced turnovers and kept the puck bottled up in the Isles zone.
Strong goaltending by Halak kept the game close and the Penguins didn’t score until the 15:19 mark when Crosby netted his 11th goal of the season when he put home the rebound of a Letang shot from the right circle on the power play. There was no Islander defender near Crosby on the play.
The Islanders responded well in the second period and quickly evened the score on a power play goal by Brock Nelson. Tavares carried the puck across the blue line with speed and found Ryan Strome on the right side. Strome delivered a good cross-ice pass to Nelson who beat Pittsburgh starter Matthew Murray to the short side to even the game at 1-1 just 1:51 into the period.
The Isles took the lead just 43 seconds later when rookie Anthony Beauvillier forced and turnover and found himself alone behind the Pittsburgh defense. Beauvillier calmly lifted a backhander over Murray and into the net and the Islanders had a 2-1 lead.
“I had a good bounce,” Beauvillier said. “The puck went off Letang’s skates and I had a breakaway. It was a good feeling finding the back of the net again.”
The Islanders outplayed the defending Stanley Cup champions for most of the second period, outshooting them 11-4, but the Penguins evened the score with 6:05 left in the period when Trevor Daley blasted a shot from just inside the blueline past Halak. The play was set up by Phil Kessel who won possession of the puck behind the goal line and fed it back to Daley for the open shot.
Pittsburgh controlled the tempo for most of the third period but Halak made 14 saves to force overtime and give his team a point.
Unfortunately, Crosby’s skills proved too much in the extra session. Crosby has always played well against the Islanders. In 56 career games against the Isles, Crosby has scored 31 goals and 98 points.
“There are no moral victories in this game, but we played a tough opponent and we played well,” Isles coach Jack Capuano said. “At the end of the day when the guys are coming and they’re working hard, you can’t beat them down. You’ve got to stick with it and show them confidence and eventually you hope things will turn for the guys.”
The Islanders now embark on the three-game road trip that will commence Tuesday night when they travel to Anaheim to face the Ducks.
The Islanders scratched Alan Quine, Scott Mayfield and third-string goalie Jean-Francois Berube.
Halak made his seventh straight start for the Islanders.
Official attendance was 13,365.
The Islanders outhit the Penguins 38-22. Thomas Hickey, Travis Hamonic and Shane Prince each recorded four hits to pace the Islanders.