The hype surrounding Penguins Captain Sidney Crosby’s return to the lineup was buzzing all day in the hockey world. Playing his first game since being sidelined with a concussion Jan. 6, Crosby missed 61 consecutive games. In his season debut, the center opened and closed the scoring, lifting the Penguins to a five-goal shutout win over the Islanders, with two goals and two assists for four points.
However, the shutout bid was not completely indicative of how the Islanders played as they put 29 shots on goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury. John Tavares
led the Islanders with six shots on goal and won 65 percent of his faceoffs (winning 14 of 21) and Islanders Captain Mark Streit
put up four shots.
“I thought we had some good energy to start the game,” Islanders Head Coach Jack Capuano said, “We came out, got ourselves in a bit of penalty trouble, had some chances and didn’t score. I think right now, we just have to find a way emotionally to not be that fragile team when they face adversity.”
|Sidney Crosby carries the puck as he is defended by John Tavares and Travis Hamonic during their NHL game at Consol Energy Center on November 21, 2011. (Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images) |
Capuano was of course talking about being down two at the end of the first period and then down three after a power play goal from Evgeni Malkin by the 3:17 mark of the second period. Crosby put the Penguins on the board at 5:24 of the first and Brooks Orpik scored at 16:29. Steve Sullivan brought the Penguins ahead 4-0 with a goal at 5:53 of the second and Crosby closed the scoring with a goal at 2:06 of the third.
Positives for the Islanders were Matt Martin
and David Ullstrom
, who never stopped moving their feet. Martin made a team-high nine hits, while Ullstrom made four hits, put up two shots and won two of three faceoffs in his NHL debut.
“We had some guys tonight that gave a good effort,” Capuano said. “I liked the effort from David Ullstrom
and Matty Martin, they had close to 15 hits between just the two guys, so I was real pleased with David’s game tonight and his effort.”
Ullstrom said, “It was exciting to get out there and play against these guys, but obviously it was a tough loss. I was just trying to work hard and be in the right spots and be reliable, work hard. I was just trying to do my best and I know I did. This is a great league and there are a lot of good players so you have to be at your best level every shift. It’s all about details and habits.”
Heading into Monday night’s contest at CONSOL Energy Center, the Islanders were coming off a shutout loss to the Boston Bruins, after which Capuano sent his players a clear message about how they need to play to win hockey games which included playing with energy, tenacity, physicality and desperation.
I didn’t think we played poorly, we just have to find a way to score some goals. You have to score two or three goals a night to win in the National Hockey League and we’ve just gone six periods without a goal. - Islanders Head Coach Jack Capuano
“I thought we came out and had our chances early, but again, two games back-to-back without a goal,” Capuano said. “I didn’t think we played poorly, we just have to find a way to score some goals. You have to score two or three goals a night to win in the National Hockey League and we’ve just gone six periods without a goal.”
The important thing for the Islanders now is not to get too down on themselves as they try to find a way out of their current predicament.
“We just have to try to stay with it,” Tavares said. “We have to stay together in this room. The most important thing is the guys that are here, there’s still a lot of season left to be played so we have to try to correct our mistakes. The last two games are unacceptable and so is losing. We just have to try to stay together, move forward and get ready for Wednesday.”
Nilsson makes first NHL start
Coming just two days after he was recalled from the Bridgeport Sound Tigers of the American Hockey League, Islanders rookie goaltender Anders Nilsson
made his first NHL start Monday night. He made 31 saves in the loss.
“It’s hard to be satisfied with the game tonight,” Nilsson said of his first NHL start. “I let in five goals and I should have had at least two or three goals I think. It wasn’t a very good game. I know I can play better than this.”
Though he feels he can play better, he’s viewing the game as a learning experience.
“The tempo and the speed and everything happens a lot quicker up here, so it’s almost like night and day compared to the American League,” Nilsson said. “It’s going to take some adjustment before I get used to everything up here.”