Thoughts, musings, and observations from the Pens' 4-3 overtime loss against the Islanders in Game 1.
* The Pens battled back from 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2 deficits to force overtime. Pittsburgh tied the game with 1:29 left in regulation on a Justin Schultz goal with the goaltender pulled. However, Josh Bailey tallied in the extra session as the Islanders prevailed.
* The Pens preached patience over the past five days. They knew they would have to play a smart and disciplined game against a team as sound and structured as the Islanders. But in overtime, the Pens did the opposite. And paid for it.
Kris Letang was at the end of a long shift and tried to carry the puck into the offensive zone outnumbered. He lost the puck and the Islanders countered with an odd-man rush that led to the overtime winner.
That's where being patient and smart comes into play. Dump the puck and head to the bench.
* I admit that there was a lot more open ice and free flowing play than I anticipated. With the Islanders' style of play I expected them to sit back and play a more passive game, wait for the Pens to make mistakes and then pounce for opportunities.
Instead, the Islanders played aggressive with their attack, and both teams ended up getting exposed. Both teams combined for 77 shots (Pittsburgh, 44; New York, 33), and also combined for 145 shot attempts (Pittsburgh, 83; New York, 62).
If the series continues in that fashion, it should benefit the Pens as they have the superior offensive talent. That being said, I wouldn't be surprised to see things much more clamped down for Game 2.
* One thing I did expect was the Islanders being physical. Their goal, it appears, is to beat down the Pens. They finished every check and never passed on a chance to take the body. The Isles also pushed the play into some post-whistle scrums.
The Pens, though, stood their ground and even punched back. Pittsburgh outhit the Islanders, 43-42, led by Nick Bjugstad's game-high 8 hits. But being physical isn't the Pens' game. It isn't their strength. Pittsburgh can't just back down though. The Pens need to hit back as much as possible, but really this is about a war of attrition. The Pens will have to survive the abuse and fight through it in order to win this series.
* Speaking of surviving the abuse, Pittsburgh was forced to play lengthy stretches of periods without Brian Dumoulin (first period) and Erik Gudbranson (third). Both D-men were knocked out of the game, but managed to return. Dumoulin appeared dazed after getting knocked down, and Gudbranson went feet-first into the end boards.
* The Pens made a surprising roster move to start the game. With Dumoulin returning to the lineup, one of the other healthy defensemen had to come out. That man turned out to be Jack Johnson.
It was surprising because Johnson had appeared in all 82 regular-season games for Pittsburgh. And his physicality could be an asset in this series. But the coaching staff, after a week's worth of deliberation, came to the conclusion that Johnson was the odd-man out.
I expect Johnson will get his chance before this series is over. And I expect him to deliver for the Pens.
* The Pens also made some line combination changes. After playing Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel together for the majority of the regular season, the duo was split in an effort to create depth and add a legitimate scoring threat on every line.
The plan paid off as both Malkin and Kessel's individual lines had jump and played well.