New York Islanders at Pittsburgh Penguins
When and Where: Sunday, April 14, PPG Paints Arena, Pittsburgh, Pa., 12:08 p.m. EDT.
New York leads 2-0
Sidney Crosby has gone silent, and that is not a good sign for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Looking to avoid a 3-0 series deficit, the Penguins hope their superstar center can get back on track and help them find a way back into their first-round series versus the New York Islanders at home Sunday.
Isles showing speed and hustle in grabbing 2-0 lead
Though the Islanders finished only three points ahead of the Penguins in the Metropolitan Division, the gap has seemed larger in the first two games of this series thanks to New York’s relentless skating and Robin Lehner‘s stellar goaltending.
Jordan Eberle and Josh Bailey scored goals 3:44 apart midway through the third period as the Islanders rallied for a 3-1 victory Friday night to hold home-ice advantage. Lehner made 15 of his 32 saves in the third period for New York, which sapped some of Pittsburgh’s energy by creating five power-play chances in the first 27 minutes.
Though the Islanders failed to convert on any of those chances, Bailey’s marker came on the man advantage as they improved to 2 for 8 in the series. It also marked the first time New York has scored power-play goals in back-to-back games since Feb. 9-10.
“I haven’t played many playoff games and the ones I did, I didn’t play very well,” Eberle told The Athletic, referring to his 2017 postseason with Edmonton in which he had just two assists in 13 games. “You hold a grudge, you get a little pissed off that you didn’t take advantage of that opportunity.”
Eberle has scored goals in both games, extending a scoring clip in which he struck for four goals in the final five games of the regular season.
Lehner, whose only postseason experience before this series was mopping up two games with the Ottawa Senators in 2013, has turned aside 73 of 77 shots while recording a .948 save percentage. He has made 10 or more saves in all but one of the six regulation periods thus far.
“I thought we played a good game,” he told Newsday. “I thought we got back to our game a little bit more. They’re a heck of a hockey team with a great offense. They’re going to find chances, but I think we stuck with it.”
Pens looking for offense beyond Malkin
Crosby was not convinced his team played all that poorly in Friday night’s loss, a sentiment that filtered throughout the Penguins as they made their way back home to begin trying to level this series.
“I thought we had some good chances,” Crosby told The Athletic. “I don’t agree with the (notion) that we didn’t have the puck a lot. It’s a tight game. No one really had the puck a ton.”
How Islanders coach Barry Trotz chooses to position his team when Crosby has been on the ice has been a cat-and-mouse game that goes back to Trotz’s time with Washington. Crosby has 17 points in 20 playoff games versus Trotz-coached team, and that 0.85 points per game average is well off his mark of 1.18 per game against all other clubs.
Evgeni Malkin has assisted on three of the four goals Pittsburgh has scored in this series, but the Islanders are getting under his skin. The veteran Russian forward was whistled for a pair of first-period penalties as New York’s players are making it a point to pick on him.
“I can play better,” Malkin said. “I’m trying. It’s not like I don’t want (the) puck. I try to play my best, but sometimes it’s bad luck. I hope at home, we have better ice, and I can use my stick, and we play better.”
Malkin also believes the Penguins need to simplify their game offensively given how aggressive the Islanders are skating and play a more direct game as opposed to trying to work the width of the ice.
“We should probably play simple,” he added. We try to pass across so much, and they win all those. They have five guys forecheck and try to stop our passes. Maybe from the blue line, shoot to the net. Two guys go look (for a) rebound. It’s not a fun game, it’s not a pretty game right now … they play simple. We need to start playing simple too.”
Pittsburgh has not faced a 3-0 series deficit since being swept in the 2013 conference finals by the Boston Bruins.
The Penguins are:
- 7-2 in their last nine playoff games as favorites between -151 to -200.
- 11-5 in their last 16 conference quarterfinal playoff games.
- 8-1 in their last nine games as favorites between -151 to -200.
The Islanders are:
- 0-4 in their last four playoff games as underdogs between +151 to +200.
- 17-35-3 in their last 55 road games vs. the Penguins.