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Islanders Playoff Puck Talk – Game 1 vs Pittsburgh

The Stanley Cup Playoffs started off on Long Island and my goodness was The Barn rocking.  After a crazy back and forth game in which two teams that absolutely hate each other, Josh Bailey buried an OT winner off a beautiful play by Mathew Barzal, one in which he hit the post.  Bailey redeemed himself after nearly ending the game in regulation, on a tip shot from Cal Clutterbuck off the post with five seconds remaining.

Game 1 – Wednesday, April 10th, 2019 – Pittsburgh Penguins @ New York Islanders

Score – 4-3 Islanders (OT)

Player of the game – Josh Bailey

Grade – B

The New York Islanders didn’t play their best game, but they got off to a scorching hot start.  Tom Kuhnhackl scored within the first minute to erupt the Coliseum crowd, but the goal was challenged and overturned after Matt Martin was found to be offsides.  It didn’t matter as Jordan Eberle scored within the first two minutes of the game, and the crowd once again erupted.

Phil Kessel silenced the crowd a few minutes later when he and Dominik Simon criss-crossed the Isles’ defense and he had a wide open shot in the slot.  Near the end of the first period, the Islanders found their much-maligned PP and revved it up, scoring on a great feed from Jordan Eberle to Brock Nelson right in front.

The second period was by far their worst, at one point being outshot 11-2.  Robin Lehner made some incredible saves, many of them deemed impossible.  He made three or four saves that kept the Islanders in the game, and his 41 overall were not easy saves.  Unfortunately for him, Leo Komarov took a bad penalty and Evgeni Malkin’s shot was deflected off Adam Pelech’s stick and in.

The third period was dominated by the Islanders even though the game went to overtime.  They had about five to six opportunities to take the lead and build upon it, but they finally broke through Matt Murray midway through the third when a great forecheck by Leo Komarov led to a knuckling shot by Nick Leddy hit off the post and in.  The Islanders were a minute and half away from winning the game in regulation when Justin Schultz fired a howitzer through a screen and tied the game up.

This game took overtime in probably the most even matchup in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.  It’s no surprise that these teams were neck and neck all season despite their vastly different style of play.  The Pens nearly scored within the first few seconds of overtime but the Isles D and Lehner stood strong.  Just under five minutes into overtime, Kris Letang got caught deep and turned the puck over to Josh Bailey, who lofted a pass to a wide open Mathew Barzal.  Barzy did what he does best, cross up defenders with his elite skating skills, and weaved around Matt Murray.  His shot hit the post but Bailey followed the play and buried it into a wide open net.  It was true redemption for Bailey after missing with just five seconds to go in regulation, and the Islanders take a 1-0 lead heading into Friday.

Game Notes

  • The referees were absolutely horrible last night.  Anders Lee’s boarding call was once of the worst I’ve ever seen
  • Ryan Pulock and Adam Pelech were able to shut down Sidney Crosby’s line for nearly 20 minutes
  • The Islanders had a very tough time containing Phil Kessel and Evgeni Malkin
  • More specifically, the Isles were constantly getting crossed up with Pittsburgh’s zone entries
  • Jordan Eberle scored his first goal in his Stanley Cup Playoff career.  He had a great game with a goal and an assist
  • Tom Kuhnhackl had two goals reviewed, one at the beginning of the game and one at the beginning of overtime.  His overtime goal didn’t count because it didn’t cross the line until after the net had been taken off its moorings

 

Overall, it was a fantastic win for the Islanders despite not playing well in the second and giving up a heartbreaking goal late in the third.  They deserved to win that game considering the way they played, and they won in spite of the officials.  The game was a little wonky because of all the reviews and stoppages, but a win is a win is a win.

The Islanders next face Pittsburgh on Friday night at Nassau Coliseum.  This game will be both on NBCSN and local broadcast MSG.  The Isles need to continue to push the pace against the Pens, but on Friday they need to do a better job in the defensive zone.  Robin Lehner bailed them out of a few bad plays but they need to push more against the Pitt offense.  It doesn’t matter because a win is a win, but there’s a lot to improve on.

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