Josh Bailey scored with 1:40 left to cap off a thrilling third-period rally for Islanders who defeated the Penguins 4-3 on Friday night at the Consol Energy Center. Pittsburgh led 2-1 going into the third period on goals from Jussi Jokinen (5) and Sidney Crosby (8) but the game opened up in the third and New York scored three goals in the final 7:14 of regulation. What dug the Penguins in was that they got careless with the puck. “We got careless with our management of the puck,” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “They block a shot and it turns into almost a 2-on-1 against and even when we got back in position we didn’t take care of the dangerous part of the ice and they got more than one whack at the game-winning goal.”. Penguins captain Sidney Crosby added: “We made some mistakes and they made us pay.”
— Goaltender Jeff Zatkoff was much improved making 21 saves on 25 shots. He showed more confidence and positionally was squaring up shooters much better than he was against Florida. “I felt way better,” Zatkoff said. “I felt confident the whole game.” That said, there’s nothing about Zatkoff that jumps out and says the Penguins can count on him in goal if Marc Andre Fleury goes down with an injury or falters in the playoffs for the fifth straight year. For a win-now team with Stanley Cup aspirations, I still think it’s a given the Penguins will be looking to bolster the backup position as the season progresses. This game wasn’t on Zatkoff, though. “I thought he played a lot stronger in net,” Bylsma said. “He made the save in the second period with the guy coming down the left side and made a big save there. It should have been enough for the win.”
— The defensive breakdowns were concerning but what did the Penguins in tonight was the power play. Pittsburgh was 0-5 on the power play and failed to convert on four first period power plays. The Islanders were playing with fire but the Penguins couldn’t make them pay. The Penguins are now 1 for their last 20 on the power play and the issue isn’t puck possession in the offensive zone. It’s the Penguins not creating enough havoc in front and trying to get some garbage goals. I thought the puck movement was very good at times but just not enough traffic. The Penguins had 11 power play shots on five opportunities.
— It’s no secret the New York Islanders need a goaltender bad to really take the next step, but for one night Evgeni Nabokov was a true difference maker making 39 saves. The save of the game for Nabokov was stopping Sidney Crosby on a breakaway 4:56 into the third period. Crosby scores there Pittsburgh goes up 3-1.
Kris Letang played big minutes in his return to the lineup, logging 25:32 of ice time. Defensively Letang was a bit up and down, on the ice for 2 even strength goals against and did not shoot the puck enough on the power play in the eyes of his head coach. “I’d like to see him shoot the puck on the power play a little bit more,” Bylsma said, citing Letang passed up three or four good chances.
Deryk Engelland returned to the lineup as a winger on the 4th line, a spot the Penguins envision him playing at moving forward (spot duty), and Engelland delivered, scoring the go ahead goal at 13:02 of the third period to put the Penguins up 3-2, though the lead would be short lived as the Islanders would score 53 seconds later to tie the game up at 3-3. On Engelland’s goal, the Penguins beat the Islanders in transition as Matt Niskanen got the puck up to Joe Vitale wide with speed and Engelland did an excellent job of driving to net and Islanders defenseman Andy MacDonald had poor awareness and never picked up Engelland in front as Vitale made a nice feed in front for the goal.
Matt Niskanen had a defensive gaffe on Pierre Marc Bouchard’s third period goal but Niskanen picked up 2 assists and a +1 rating as he continues to put up strong offensive numbers (1G-7A-8Pts-+10) to start the season. Niskanen is tied for 3rd among defenseman in points (8) and tied for first in plus-minus rating (+10) among defenseman. It’s not happening but should the Penguins try to sell high on Niskanen?
— The Penguins outshot the Islanders 42-25 but Bylsma made mention of how the scoring chances were much more closer than the shots indicated. For instance the Islanders had 60 shot attempts with the Penguins blocking 23 shots in the game. Brooks Orpik had a team-high 5 blocked shots.
Tanner Glass continues to play very well, collecting 4 hits and drawing two penalties in the loss.
Jayson Megna made his NHL debut and played 9:26. He was a minus-1 and drew a first period penalty. Megna is likely to come out of the lineup tonight as Matt D’Agostini will come off LTIR.