The New York Islanders suffered their first regulation loss against a Metropolitan Division opponent Saturday, falling 5-2 to the Pittsburgh Penguins at CONSOL Energy Center.
John Tavares scored his team-leading 15th goal of the season and Nick Leddy had his first, but only after Pittsburgh opened up a 5-0 lead. The loss snapped the Islanders’ two-game winning streak, a four-game run against the Penguins and dropped the Isles to 7-1-2 vs. the Metro division.
“They have a lot of weapons on their team,” Head Coach Jack Capuano said of the Penguins' power play, which went 2-for-4. “They move the puck quick and they shoot. Power plays that shoot have success and they got every puck to the net.”
Sidney Crosby had a pair of power-play goals, while Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang each had three assists for the Penguins, who were the more aggressive team from the start and outshot the Islanders 43-40.
There was no feeling-out process, as the teams traded chances from the drop of the puck, but the firewagon hockey ultimately favored the Penguins. Phil Kessel opened the scoring, chopping a loose puck – which bounced off Thomas Greiss’ stick and through the crease to him – at 3:34.
“We were battling back from the onset there,” Anders Lee said. “They had a pretty good start.”
The Penguins held a territorial advantage in the first and it showed in a 20-12 shot advantage. Greiss was tested by the Penguins’ best, as Crosby had four shots, while Kessel and Malkin had two apiece in the opening period. Greiss stopped Crosby on a pair of grade-A chances on the Penguins first power play, but couldn’t replicate it on the Pens’ second, as Crosby potted a rebound at 16:35.
The floodgates opened up in the second period, as the Penguins extended their lead to 5-0. Crosby scored his second power-play goal of the night at 10:25, beating Greiss with a laser shot upstairs. The Islanders went on the power play shortly after, but the opportunity to turn the tide backfired, as Matt Cullen scored on a shorthanded rush 32 seconds later.
“You’re not going to win too many games when you give up two power-play goals and a shorthanded goal,” Capuano said. “At even strength shots were 39-33 for us. Special teams were the difference in the game and something we have to be better at.”
Greiss was pulled after allowing four goals on 26 shots and was replaced by Christopher Gibson, who made his NHL debut, stopping 16-of-17 shots in relief.
The goaltending change didn’t stop the Penguins, as Patric Hornqvist made it 5-0 with a deflection. Tavares broke Marc-Andre Fleury’s shutout bid at 15:19, knocking in Calvin de Haan’s rebound. Leddy scored his first of the season with 56.3 seconds to play, wristing one past Fleury on a set play off a faceoff.
The Islanders lost more than just two points on Saturday night, as Cal Clutterbuck left the game in the first period, attempted to come back in the second, but ultimately exited the contest.
The Islanders don’t’ have much time to think about Saturday’s loss, as they host the Western Conference-leading Dallas Stars on Sunday at Barclays Center.
“Two out of three is big,” Thomas Hickey said drawing on the positives of the road trip. “There are a lot of little things we can learn from and gain some momentum from. It’s going to take a really good effort against a really good team [Sunday].”
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