Ok everyone, take a breath. Just 20 hours before the Islanders make you go through it all again.
The Islanders battled the Penguins, and seemingly the officials, and escaped with a hard-fought 4-3 shootout victory.
The game started out rather tame. In fact, it took the Isles several minutes to even get their first shot on goal. The two teams would trade decent chances, with both goalies looking sharp. With under two seconds to go in the first period, the fun began.
With Alan Quine being pushed into Marc-Andre Fleury, Jason Chimera fed a beautiful no-look pass to Brock Nelson who buried it to give the Islanders a 1-0 lead. The officials however, saw it differently. Pittsburgh challenged the play, saying Quine was interfering with Fleury. While he was absolutely in the crease, he was pushed in. In the eyes of the officials, and the replay crew in Toronto, he did not make enough of an attempt to get out of the way. It seems a little insane when you look at the play. But, you decide for yourself.
So, the call was overturned and we would go to the second period tied at zero. Doug Weight was not a happy camper for obvious reasons. After the game, he told Shannon Hogan, “the officials came to me and explained their reasoning behind the call. I understood, but we just agreed to disagree,”
Inevitably, the Penguins would get on the board first. You knew it was coming after the first period disappointing ending. And just 1:54 into the second frame, Caneron Guance would tally his first of the season to put the Penguins up 1-0.
The Islanders would not be down for long though. Josh Ho-Sang, who is seemingly involved in every big play for the Isles lately, slid into the Penguins’ zone and left a drop pass for Brock Nelson who blasted one past Fleury for the goal. It was Nelson’s 17th of the year.
Exactly four and a half minutes later, controversy struck again. Josh Bailey, who is having a career year, skated across the blue line with Anders Lee, left the puck in the slot for Lee who rifled it past Fleury to give the Isles the 2-1 lead. But, it looked a lot like Lee was clearly offside. He definitely had a foot in the zone before Bailey came in. But, alas, you underestimate the hockey IQ of Josh Bailey. While Anders Lee was straddling the line, Bailey had slid the puck into the zone. He waited to touch it so Lee could touch up. He did just that, got back onside and rocketed it past Fleury for the goal. Pittsburgh would challenge the call but lose it, and their timeout, much to their surprise. Take a look at the play for yourself.
The teams would exchange goals, and we would head to the third with the Isles’ up 3-2. The Isles would do an excellent job in the third, peppering Fleury with shots. But, one mistake would allow the Penguins to tie it. Gaunce took the puck down the right side, he got by Bailey, caught the Isles’ defense napping, and allowed Matt Cullen to pick the rebound on the doorstep to put it top-shelf on Jaroslav Halak. So, with 6:10 to go, we were tied at 3. It was seemingly headed for a disappointing outcome for the Isles, who really came out wanting it in the third. Once the pens tied it, momentum was on their side.
However, despite their best efforts, the Isles held the Pens off the board. We would head to overtime.
Both teams has some great chances. The Islanders could not convert on a 3-on-1, and the Pens actually had one reviewed to see if it went past Halak. But, neither team was able to win it in the five-minute overtime period.
We would go to a shootout, where for only the second time this season, the Islanders would come away victorious. Anthony Beauvillier, and John Tavares tallied to give the Isles the early 2-0 advantage. After Sidney Crosby beat Halak top-shelf, and Andrew Ladd had his shot poked away by a sprawling Fleury, the Penguins had one last chance. Halak stopped Nick Bonino‘s attempt to give the Isles the 4-3 victory.
It was a huge victory for the Isles, as they now head home to play Boston tomorrow, tied with them in the standings. The Islanders do have a game in hand on Boston. With nine games and eight games left respectively, the teams are tied with 82 points. Lurking in the shadows are the Tampa Bay Lightning with 81 points, and eight games to play.
Jaroslav Halak was very good. He kept the Islanders in the game, making 37 saves. He looked a lot like the Jaro we were used to seeing. It seems as if he has his confidence back, and that’s huge for the Isles down the stretch. If they can get Greiss some rest without compromising the goaltending, it could get them into the playoffs…and more.
Tomorrow is another huge game for the Islanders, who have now won two in a row away from Barclays. They took down two of the top teams in the NHL in the past three days.
Puck drops at 7 PM tomorrow night, with Thomas Greiss back in net for the Isles.