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Escalating Tensions Just Part of Playoff Hockey for Isles and Pens

The Islanders and Penguins series is developing a playoff edge

by Sasha Kandrach KandrachSasha /

Down by one goal and trailing the Pittsburgh Penguins for the first time in the Stanley Cup Playoffs series, Anthony Beauvillier put the New York Islanders on the board 1-1 in what ended up being a 3-1 victory. What immediately transpired following Beauvillier's goal while uncharacteristic, fit the circumstances. Instead of a passionate and jubilant celebration, Beauvillier, who had just scored his first-career playoff goal, joined his teammates in a heated scuffle in front of the Penguins net. 

That was a flashpoint on Friday night, but also a glimpse into the rising tensions between the Islanders and Penguins through two games. 

"That's just the nature of a playoff series," Mathew Barzal said. "I think any time you play a team back-to-back and you know you're going to get them possibly seven times as a series goes on, you're going to have those in-game battles with guys. That kind of stuff is part of it."

Barzal and Beauvillier capitalized on a rush after Barzal's initial shot was blocked by Penguins' goaltender Matt Murray. Murray got his blocker on the puck and straight to the stick of a crashing Beauvillier. While Beauvillier scored, Barzal was simultaneously slammed into the boards by Marcus Pettersson, leading to the mini brouhaha. 

Video: PIT@NYI, Gm2: Beauvillier taps home rebound on rush

"It was honestly an overreaction on my part," Barzal said. "Petterssen let up on the hit and I thought I might have been a little bit vulnerable. He let up and just kind of rode me into the boards. A bit of an overreaction on my part, but that's hockey sometimes."

Barzal's initiative didn't come unwarranted, there had been exchanges between teams since the opening faceoff. When Barzal found himself in a one-on-three, his teammates immediately jumped in to defend one of their own. 

"They're a close team," Head Coach Barry Trotz said. "They have each other's back. They've grown together. I love the fact that this game is about emotion. It's about having the emotion at all times. Win, lose, you get different emotions, during the game, each period, all of that. It's life. You know you're alive. They're having fun. Just leave it out there. Every night. Every shift. Things will take care of itself."

Both teams picked up right where they left off after a physical Game 1, which resulted in a Isles 4-3 win in overtime on Wednesday night. Leo Komarov and Evgeni Malkin set the tone with some face-washing along the boards, and the on-ice tensions translated onto the scoresheet. Twelve penalties were distributed, eight to the Penguins and four to the Isles, while the teams combined for 79 hits, 41 for the Isles and 36 for the Pens. 

Video: PIT@NYI, Gm2: Clutterbuck lays out Malkin on the rush

"They pushed back and so did we," said veteran defenseman Johnny Boychuk. "It's just part of the game. We just have to stay even-keel because you don't want to hurt your team by any means. We just have to worry about ourselves and continue to do the right things."

The hostilities persisted even as time expired, with Malkin and Sidney Crosby mixing things up with Boychuk and Scott Mayfield, another indication of the escalating tensions between the two teams. Trotz said he wants his team to keep playing hard between the whistles and not buy in too much to the extracurriculars. 

"We've played pretty disciplined all year," Trotz said. "That hasn't been a factor. We don't have to prove anything. We trust that there's a way we have to play and there's a responsibility to every individual that's in that room on how you have to respond or not respond. We've done that. They're trying to get us to react. We're not going to react." 

Video: Eberle, Lehner lead Isles to Game 2 win vs. Penguins

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