Michelle Crechiolo gives her three impressions from the press box of the Penguins’ 2-1 loss to the New York Islanders.
1. SPECIAL TEAMS
That’s what this game came down to. The Isles converted two of four chances, while the Pens didn’t score on any of theirs. The Pens’ penalty kill has been strong as of late, allowing just one goal on the last 14 chances heading into this game. But tonight just wasn’t their night. New York’s first deflected off Brian Dumoulin’s stick; the second was a point shot through a screen. At the other end, the Pens were going up against the East’s top penalty kill and Sidney Crosby said they had to be ready for their aggressive style and needed to make sure they moved the puck quick and supported each other. They did that, but weren’t able to get it towards the net enough. That was especially evident on the Pens’ golden opportunity late in regulation, when they got their third man-advantage of the night after Evgeni Malkin drew a penalty with Thomas Greiss in net for an injured Jaroslav Halak. While the Pens held the zone for over a minute-and-a-half, they couldn’t convert.
2. CLEAN BREAKS
Patric Hornqvist said after their loss to Calgary the other night they have to play the right way no matter what the result is. They certainly did that 5-on-5. Head coach Mike Sullivan has said he feels the ability to come out of their end zone efficiently and effectively is vitally important to his team’s success. He feels it helps them establish a speed game through the neutral zone. That’s exactly what they did tonight. Even without Carl Hagelin in the lineup, I felt the Pens looked incredibly fast. The defensemen were able to get the puck up to their forwards, who were coming back and providing support for quick, easy passes. Once they received it, they moved between the blue lines like a knife through butter and got the Isles to back off. Overall, I felt it was one of the cleaner, crisper games I’ve watched the Pens play as of late.
3. FLEURY STRONG
This loss is definitely not on the shoulders of Marc-Andre Fleury. When the Pens were prone to defensive lapses, he was there. Fleury was tracking pucks through traffic, which there was lots of. He was particularly excellent in the latter half of the first period and then throughout the third period with all of the special teams play (the teams combined for five penalties), making a number of quality saves. His defensemen also did a good job of managing the puck – if a rebound popped out, they would grab it, control it and make a play instead of blindly throwing it away.