After absolutely dominating in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals with a decisive 5-0 win over the New York Islanders, the Penguins were looking to make the series 2-0. However, they were in for a battle as the Isles, known for bouncing back and fighting until the very end, brought a different mindset to the second game of the best-of-seven series. And, making his playoff debut for this season was Number 87. Having missed a month as the result of taking puck to the face, Crosby, who had been listed as day-to-day earlier in the week, was cleared for contact earlier today and was sure to bring a new resurgence to the team and their dynamic of play.
The Penguins wasted no time at all getting on the board, the first goal of the evening coming just forty-three seconds into the period courtesy of Evgeni Malkin. Following a setup by Jarome Iginla, Malkin made a swipe for the puck, diving as he did so, connecting and nudging it behind Isles goaltender Evgeni Nabokov. Just over two minutes later, it was Sidney Crosby making the came 2 to 0. After a shot by Malkin hit the backboards and bounced to Iginla who fed it to Crosby for the tap-in. However, unlike the first game, the Isles were not going to be shut out. Their first of the game came with just over seven minutes off the clock. With 13:38 left to go in the first period, Deryk Engelland was whistled for cross-checking, sending the Isles to the power play. This would give New York the opportunity to cut the lead in half with a goal originally credited to Brad Boyes but later credited to Matt Moulson after it appeared to go off the skate of a Penguins defenceman. The Penguins were quick to respond – just nineteen seconds later – with Crosby’s second goal of the night. Nabokov would make the initial save on Mark Eaton but would send the rebound right to Crosby who would send it back on in to Nabokov and past him, into the net, giving the Penguins a 3 to 1 lead halfway through the first. In spite of the lead, the Isles were testing the Penguins, applying a lot of pressure on net-minder Marc-Andre Fleury and while they would not get another one past him in the first, after twenty they were outshooting Pittsburgh 20 to 12.
Both teams started the second period down a player, the result of a pair of late first period penalties to Matt Cooke and Travis Hamonic. But the Isles would build momentum through the second frame. It appeared to start when Matt Niskanen and Kyle Okposo went toe-to-toe after Okposo took offence to a hit Niskanen delivered on Matt Moulson. Niskanen won the draw – albeit a bit bloody – but it was the Islanders responding with a goal. With five minutes off the clock, Colin McDonald snuck the puck past Fleury, bringing New York to within one. The teams, in true fashion, exchanged a penalty two and a shove by Jarome Iginla to Brian Strait after Strait hit Crosby ended a Penguins power play after Lubomir Visnovsky had been whistled for boarding. The Penguins killed it off but immediately after it was bouncing puck and one Matt Martin tying the game at three goals apiece with 9:23 left in the first forty. With 3:29 left in the period, John Tavares was whistled for a high-stick when the contact between his stick and Brenden Morrow’s face drew blood. The first two minutes of the four minute power play passed without much production from the Penguins, but the final two would see a flurry of activity in front of Nabokov. Pittsburgh couldn’t convert and would carry 0:31 into the third period. After forty minutes of play, the Islanders continued to outshoot the Penguins, this time 14 to 13.
The Islanders successfully killed the final half minute of Tavares penalty, emerging unscathed. Through the first ten of the third, the ice was even for both teams, the play bouncing between both ends. With just over seven minutes left to go in the third, the Isles took a 4 to 3 lead when a shot from Kyle Oksposo resulted in a bad bounce that slipped past Fleury and into the net. That goal would seal the deal for Game 2, the series tied
Kris Letang led all skaters with 29:04 of ice time. Paul Martin followed with 23:43. Evgeni Malkin notched 10 shots on goal while Sidney Crosby had 8. Marc-Andre Fleury faced 42 shots while Evgeni Nabokov face 33. In his first game back, Crosby had two goals, earning two points in 23:21 of playing time.
James Neal did not take to the ice tonight after missing most of the first game after hurting his ankle in game one of the series. Brooks Orpik also continues to be sidelined although, unlike Neal, he did practice with the team this morning.
The series moves to Long Island. Game 3 goes Sunday at 12:00pm.