In what was a closely fought game, the Islanders fell to the Penguins 4-2 in Pittsburgh. Similar to a tough home loss to the still unbeaten Canadiens on Wednesday night, they got beat with a couple of minutes left by a better team.
It was Shea Weber who did the Islanders in with a power play goal breaking a 2-2 tie with 2:57 left in regulation. Tonight, Sidney Crosby did the damage literally. In his second game back after missing the first six games with a concussion, the Pens’ superstar took out Islander defenseman Johnny Boychuk behind the net and then stuffed home the game-winner past Jaroslav Halak with 2:25 remaining. Phil Kessel added a power play goal 32 seconds later to seal it.
The issue for the Islanders is that Boychuck felt he was wronged by the refs on Crosby’s winner. Prior to Crosby steering home Scott Wilson’s rebound from Justin Schultz, the Pittsburgh captain caught Boychuck with a clean shoulder hit after he released the puck. Eventually, it led to Crosby scoring in front with one of his patented garbage goals that makes him so hard to defend. It was his second goal in two games.
“I’m sure if it was reversed I’d be getting a phone call and a suspension,” Boychuk fumed to Newsday’s Arthur Staple about the non-call on Crosby. He felt it should’ve been interference.
“The ref gave some excuse I didn’t hear and he asked me if I was all right after the goal. Their players did too.”
He felt Crosby hit him with a head shot. I am not sure I agree. It was a fast moving play. This wasn’t the same as Boston forward David Pastrnak clearly targeting Dan Girardi up high in last night’s Ranger win over the Bruins. Judge for yourself.
Here is the Pastrnak hit on Girardi, who went to play a puck up high and got buried by the Bruins’ forward:
In the second case, Pastrnak left his feet and was head hunting. In Crosby’s, he’s finishing a check. Was it a tad late? Yes. But I don’t think it’s a penalty.
The bottom line is the Islanders didn’t finish the play. Nobody took Crosby in front and he did what he does best. Andrew Ladd didn’t help matters when he hit Carl Hagelin from behind for a boarding minor. Hagelin immediately went to the locker room.
The Isles’ penalty kill was woeful. They twice allowed the Pens to set up and score easy power play goals. Patric Hornqvist tapped one in in the first from Crosby and Kessel 46 seconds into the contest with John Tavares off for a hooking minor. Kessel finished the scoring on a similar play in which no Islander defended the middle, resulting in a tic-tac-toe Pens goal started by Trevor Daley with Evgeni Malkin passing for a wide open Kessel, whose wrist shot beat Halak with 1:53 left.
It wasted a good effort on the second night of a back-to-back against another superb team. Twice, the Islanders rallied from one-goal deficits. Defensive defenseman Travis Hamonic tied the game with 4:47 left in the second period- getting his first from Shane Prince and Brock Nelson. Activated from the injured reserve, Prince set up a pinching Hamonic for a perfect laser past Marc-Andre Fleury. If not for Fleury, the Isles score with more frequency. They had plenty of shots and quality chances but were stoned by the Pens’ number one goalie. Josh Bailey can attest to that after getting robbed by the catching glove of Fleury.
The Islanders out-shot the Pens 17-7 in the second but only had one goal to show for it. They had 32 shots in the first two periods to the Pens’ 19. The difference was Fleury, who finished with a game high 35 saves.
Pittsburgh played a better third, out-shooting the Isles 16-5. Malkin put them ahead from Kessel and Chris Kunitz at 12:48. But with Malkin in the penalty box for a trip, Prince caught a nice break when he got a favorable bounce to beat Fleury for his first of the season on the power play to tie the score with 4:22 left. Nelson and Hamonic added helpers.
Unfortunately, the Islanders didn’t finish the game. Instead, Crosby hit Boychuk moments after he moved the puck and then was left alone to beat Halak in front. His second whack resulted in the game decider.
Poor coverage by the Isles’ D is why they lost. Similar on the two dreadful penalty kills that allowed the Pens to do what they wanted.
BONY 3 Stars:
3rd Star-Travis Hamonic, Isles (goal-1st of season, assist, 5 shots, 8 attempts, 5 blocked shots, +1 in 24 shifts-20:09 including 16:58 even strength, 1:59 SH, 1:12 PP)
2nd Star-Phil Kessel, Pens (power play goal-3rd, 2 assists, +1 in 24 shifts-16:48)
1st Star-Marc-Andre Fleury, Pens (35 saves including 16/17 in 2nd)
Notes: Mathew Barzal was a healthy scratch. He’s only played in two games. … Rookie Anthony Beauvillier only received 16 shifts-19:54 all at even strength. … Ladd has 1 assist in 8 games. Moved back on the top line with Tavares, he received 23:06 including 6:20 on the power play. Bailey played with them finishing with four shots in 22:44. Tavares finished with six shots and eight attempts in 25 shifts-23:53 including 7:02 on the man-advantage. … With a goal and assist, Crosby is 1-2-3 in two games. His goal was the 30th of his career and his two points gave him his most points against one team. That includes assists (66), total points (96) and GWG (8). … The Isles out-shot the Pens 37-35 but were out-attempted 76-61. … Face-offs went to the Isles 36-32 with Tavares 17-and-13 and Nelson 9-and-4. … Blocked shots were 19-16 Isles (Hamonic-5) with Daley pacing the Pens with three. … Islanders (3-5-0) have the next two days off before hosting first overall pick Auston Matthews and the Maple Leafs Sunday.