Thoughts, musings, and observations from the Pens' 3-1 loss against the Islanders in Game 2.
* New York held serve on Long Island and will carry a 2-0 series advantage to Pittsburgh for Games 3 and 4. The Pens find themselves in a hole they haven't experienced under head coach Mike Sullivan. In fact, Pittsburgh finds itself trailing 2-0 in a series for the first time since the 2013 Eastern Conference Final against Boston.
* The Pens are frustrated. You can see it their game. You can see it in their eyes. They weren't able to establish their typical flow or exert their offensive will. Add in some soft penalties, and the Pens are feeling the pressure.
The Pens knew coming into this series that remaining patient would be a major factor if they wanted to be successful. And now Pittsburgh is really being tested. How the Pens handle that frustration in Game 3 will go a long way in determining if they will be able to claw back into this series.
* The Pens are by no means in a dire situation being down 2-0. But Game 3 has now become as close to a "must-win" as possible without elimination being on the line. If Pittsburgh falls behind 3-0 in the series, then, well, you know.
The Pens will have to dig deep down and find that inner strength to persevere. They'll have to tap into whatever extra reserve they have and find a way to gut out a victory. The Islanders have proven that they aren't going to let the Pens dictate the pace and they aren't going to give the Pens any easy goals.
If Pittsburgh is going to win, it'll have to use guts and determination. This series is going to test the team's will and character.
* Head coach Mike Sullivan's message to the team following the game: the winner of the series is the first to win four games, not two. The Pens will go back to Pittsburgh and focus on winning one game. That's Game 3. And go from there.
And that's exactly the mindset they need right now.
* Game 2 was much different from Game 1. Tonight's contest was tighter and more of what I expected this series to be. Both teams had to battle for every puck and for every inch of ice.
It was 1-1 entering the third period, and it was anyone's game. The Islanders pulled away with a pair of goals halfway through the period en route to the win. But this was another game that could have gone either way. It didn't go the Pens way. But now they no longer have the luxury of letting games slip away.
* The Pens took 8 penalties in the game and were shorthanded 6 times, including 54 seconds worth of a 5-on-3. The Pens' PK, to its credit, killed the first 5 opportunities to keep the Pens within striking distance.
However, the Islanders would strike with a dagger power-play goal with 8:22 left in the game to make it 3-1. Pittsburgh asked too much of its PK. The unit did a heck of a job, but at some point even the best PKs are going to break.
The Pens need to limit those penalties in Game 3, especially the offensive zone stick infractions.
* The Pens also need to do a better job of getting inside the Islanders. They are being forced to take shots from the perimeter and hope for a deflection or rebound. All of their goals this series (Phil Kessel, Evgeni Malkin, Justin Schultz, Erik Gudbranson) have come from long range.
Isles goaltender Robin Lehner has proven that he's the real deal. If the Pens are going to have success against him they need to work the puck into the dirty areas and fight for opportunities.
* The Pens coaching staff did a good job of getting Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel away from the defensive pair of Adam Pelech and Ryan Pulock. That tandem has been tasked with handling the Pens' dynamic duo. Pittsburgh was able to get Malkin's line against them and save Crosby for more favorable matchups.
However, Crosby and Guentzel still didn't get on the scoresheet. The effort is there, just not the result. Right now the Pens need more from them. Now more than ever.