The New York Islanders dropped a 6-3 decision to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday night at PPG Paints Arena, as their winning streak was halted at three games. The matchup was the first of a two-game set between the East Division rivals. With the win, the Islanders fell to 2-3-2 vs the Penguins.
"We weren't good enough, we had too many passengers in tonight's game," Head Coach Barry Trotz said. "We needed a timely save, we took unnecessary penalties and when you do that against Pittsburgh, you're not going to have any success, plain and simple."
It was an uncharacteristic and undisciplined performance from the Islanders, who took costly penalties and allowed Pittsburgh to take a 5-0 lead midway through the second period. Pittsburgh's scoring was supported by goals from Frederick Gaudreau, Evan Rodrigues, Sidney Crosby and a hat trick from Bryan Rust, which included even strength, power play and empty-net goals.
The Islanders mounted a late attempt at a comeback as Mathew Barzal and Anthony Beauvillier scored at even-strength and Jordan Eberle scored with the Islanders net empty. Ilya Sorokin started the game and allowed four goals on nine shots before he was pulled for the first time in his career after logging 26:18. Semyon Varlamov closed out the game with 32:03 and made 10 saves on 11 shots.
There was no shortage of hard feelings between the two clubs as eight penalties were exchanged between teams, including four from the Islanders.
Here are five takeaways from the Islanders' 6-3 loss on Saturday:
POOR START DIGS ISLANDERS IN A HOLE EARLY ON
The Islanders dug themselves into a hole early on - just as they did on Thursday night against Boston - as they allowed two goals in the first period. Despite outshooting the Penguins 9-3, Pittsburgh capitalized twice.
"Our first period was fine, we really didn't give up much," Trotz said. "We out-chanced them in the first, but then you're chasing the game."
The Islanders didn't do themselves any favors as they went on the penalty kill just 3:17 into the period as Oliver Wahlstrom took a goaltender interference penalty. The Islanders executed a strong kill which held Pittsburgh's power play shotless, but the momentum was short-lived as the Pens scored their first of the night 1:29 later.
A quick exit out of Pittsburgh's zone provided a two-on-one for Sam Lafferty and Gaudreau. Gaudreau buried his first goal of the season on Lafferty's cross-slot pass. Not long after, the Pens doubled their lead 2-0 at 10:07, as the Islanders made a sloppy line change.
Pittsburgh hemmed them in their own zone and Jared McCann forced a turnover allowing Rodrigues to wire his wrist shot from the high slot under Sorokin's left elbow and through a screen set by a jockeying Zach Aston-Reese and Jordan Eberle.
The Islanders ended the period on their second power play of the game, after they were unable to convert on their first power play at 15:23, as Jarry took a high-sticking penalty on Cizikas.
SECOND PERIOD SLUMP BURDENS LATE RALLY
The Islanders started the second period on the power play with 1:12 carried over from Lafferty's tripping penalty on Wahlstrom, but their discipline and structure unraveled from there. Though the first 30 minutes of play, the Islanders had allowed five unanswered goals which only made their late push that much more challenging as they responded with three of their own in the second half of the game.
"That's why we lost the game," Jordan Eberle said of going down 5-0. "You get down that many [goals], it's too hard to come back in this league. There were some defensive breakdowns by us. They're a good team over there. They've been capitalizing, look at the standings they've been doing well."
The Penguins flipped a switch and extended their lead 5-0 with three goals - including two on the power play - scored in the span of 3:55 in the middle frame. Fortunately, Barzal's goal late in the period cut the Islanders' deficit down 5-1 and softened Pittsburgh's skew for the period.
Pittsburgh began the scoring flurry as Nick Leddy went to the box for slashing at 4:09. The Pens power play went to work and converted at 4:26. Sorokin made the initial stop on Kris Letang's point shot, but was unable to detect the rebound, which was roofed in by Crosby.
"We have a pretty good first and you're down 2-0, the next goal becomes a pretty important goal," Trotz said. "If you make it 2-1, you're back in the game, they make it 3-0 and now the mountain looks pretty big. It is a tougher way to live, it's not impossible to come back and win games, but it takes a lot more from your bench. We're also a better four-line team when we roll them over and don't worry about who is up against anybody. We seem to have more success that way. When you're chasing it, you're giving it more to different people."
Not even a minute later, the Islanders returned to the kill in an uncharacteristic fashion as Scott Mayfield was whistled for cross checking at 5:30. Swift puck circulation from Pittsburgh's power play unit provided a tic-tac-toe sequence from McCann to Crosby to Rust for a 4-0 lead for the Pens.
Trotz subsequently pulled Sorokin in place of Varlamov, which marked the first goalie change the Islanders have had to implement this season.
At 8:21 Rust scored his second goal of the game. The Penguins forced a turnover as Varlamov attempted to pass the puck from behind the net. Guentzel out-muscled Ryan Pulock to gain possession and poor coverage from the Islanders exposed a wide-open spot in the slot for Rust to beat Varlamov.
The Islanders' late push featured a second-period goal from Barzal, an early third period tally from Beauvillier and Eberle's strike late in the third. While the Islanders put forth a more resilient and dominant effort in the final 20 minutes of play and outshot Pittsburgh 10-3, it was ultimately too challenging to overcome the 5-0 deficit they put themselves in.
"The good thing about us is we didn't shrink, we tried to push," Barzal said. "I thought we made a great push there at the end. Obviously, we fell short, but anytime you're down 5-0 you can't expect to win."
Barzal gave the Islanders a bit of a boost heading into the third as he capitalized on a poor Penguins line change at 10:47 in the second. Barzal jetted past Letang along the boards before placing his shot over Jarry's glove to rob him of the shutout.
With his goal in the second period, Barzal snapped a 10-game goal drought and buried his 10th tally of the season. The last time the 23-year-old center had scored prior to Saturday, was his between the legs beauty against Buffalo on March 6. That was also the last time Barzal posted a multi-point outing.
Barzal was a catalyst for Beauvillier's goal at 5:23 into the third period. Barzal drove the night, his initial backhander was denied by Jarry, but Beauvillier crashed the crease and buried the rebound to trim Pittsburgh's lead 5-2.
Beauvillier's goal extended his goal streak to four games and marked his sixth goal of the season.
SOROKIN'S STREAK ENDS AT EIGHT
Sorokin's eight-game winning streak came to an end on Saturday night. It was an impressive run for the Russian rookie, who had established a new franchise record for consecutive wins among rookie netminders. Sorokin also became the first Russian-born rookie goaltender in NHL history to record eight straight wins.
During his eight-game tear, the 24-year-old only allowed 11 goals. Sorokin's record now is 8-3-1, with a 2.24 GAA and .911 SV%.
BELLOWS DRAWS IN FOR DAL COLLE
Kieffer Bellows returned to the lineup for the first time since March 18. The news of the lineup change came ahead of Saturday's game and following morning skate when Trotz confirmed that Michael Dal Colle would be out for at least two games with a lower-body injury.
Between the potential wingers available, it was Bellows who drew in the lineup in Dal Colle's spot. The 22-year-old skated alongside Brock Nelson and Josh Bailey and logged 11:54, fired off two shots and threw four hits.
On Saturday night, Josh Bailey reached the personal and impressive milestone of 900-career games. In doing so, Bailey became just the fourth player in franchise history to eclipse 900 games all spent with the Islanders as he tied Bobby Nystrom for third and now sits behind Hall of Famers Bryan Trottier 1,123 and Denis Potvin 1,060.
Bailey, who is 31-years-old, was drafted by the Islanders ninth overall back in 2008 and is the current longest tenured member of the team. Throughout his 14-year NHL career, he has amassed 495 points (159G, 336A) in the regular season and totaled 37 points (10G, 27A) in 52 postseason appearances.
The Islanders and Penguins will close out their regular-season series on Monday night at PPG Paints Arena. Puck drop is scheduled for 7 pm ET.