One goal, sixteen steps…
It was a hockey night in Pittsburgh tonight as the Eastern Conference Quarterfinal between the Penguins and the New York Islanders kicked off. Having notched the first place position in the East, the Penguins secured home ice advantage long before they learned who their opponent was in this, their seventh consecutive turn in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Isles, for their part, squeaked into the playoffs in the eighth and final seed, having been without a playoff series victory in 20 years.
The Penguins took a 2-0 lead through the first, the goals coming courtesy of Beau Bennett and Pascal Dupuis. Both teams were quick out of the gate, playing fast-paced and physical hockey. However, as the period wore on, it appeared as though the Isles were slowing down. Just over a minute and a half into the period, the Penguins earned their first power play of the night when Brian Strait was whistled for interference. In the minutes the followed, a shot from Jarome Iginla would shake-up Isles’ net-minder Evgeni Nabokov when it hit him right in the mask. Nabokov would be alright and would remain in the game but a minute or so later would be unable to stop Beau Bennett. Bennett, earning his first playoff goal of his career on his first shot of the game, banked in on an odd angle, beating the net-minder, finding the net and giving the Penguins a 1-0 lead. It took the Pens almost ten minutes to earn their second of the evening, this time the goal coming from Pascal Dupuis. A scramble at the crease saw Iginla make an initial shot that rebounded to Dupuis who then batted in the airborne puck past Nabokov to get the goal, following up with one impressive celebration. Matt Cooke would draw Pittsburgh’s first penalty of the evening when he was whistled for interference, sending the Penguins’ penalty kill to work. The Isles managed a single, solid shot during the two-man advantage, unable to cut Pittsburgh’s lead in half. In the final minute of play, Mark Streit was called for an interference against Brandon Sutter, giving Pittsburgh the man advantage heading into the second. After twenty, the Penguins held a 2-0 lead over the Islanders, while outshooting New York 13 to 8.
Pittsburgh followed with three goals through the middle frame. On a power play as a result of Streit’s late interference call in the first, the Penguins earned a very brief 5-on-3 when Marty Reasoner was whistled for a trip. This opened up the opportunity for goal number three of the evening, credited to Kris Letang. Letang waited patiently with the puck before seeing an opening and sniping the puck past Nabokov. Pascal Dupuis followed thirty seconds later with his second of the night to bring the score to 4-0. With Nabokov out to play the puck, Dupuis found a rebound and easily pushed it past the net-minder for the tally. That goal signaled the end of Nabokov’s night as back up Kevin Poulin was sent into to relieve him. The Penguins bench grew shorter halfway through the second when James Neal headed down the runway following a hit prior to Letang’s goal, bringing Bennett up to his position with Evgeni Malkin and Chris Kunitz. Tanner Glass made it 5-0 when his shot snuck through the legs of Poulin from the wall at the bottom of the circle. With just over six minutes left to go in the second, Letang was whistled for a hook, giving the Isles their second power-play of the evening. Marc-Andre Fleury would come up big with a pad save at the post to protect the Penguins lead and the Isles would be unable to push a shot past him. After forty minutes, the Penguins led 5-0 but would head into the third period short-handed as the result of a hi-sticking call against Evgeni Malkin.
The Penguins successfully killed off the penalty to Evgeni Malkin, although Fleury was tested a time or two, coming up big to maintain the 5-0 score. The Isles would be given another opportunity on the man advantage three minutes in when Douglas Murray was whistled for a hold against Matt Martin with whom he’d been exchanging pleasantries all night. Once again, the Isles’ power play came up short, New York being unable to get anything past Fleury. With just over two minutes left on the clock in regulation, Marty Reasoner would collide with Jussi Jokinen who was slow to get up. Jokinen headed down the runway while Reasoner was given a five minute major and a game misconduct. Jarome Iginla was also given a game misconduct following an ensuing line brawl. Regardless, the Penguins took Game 1 5-0, earning a shutout for Marc-Andre Fleury, taking a 1 to 0 series lead.
Kris Letang led all skaters with 25:20 of ice time while Paul Martin had 21:32. Evgeni Malkin registered four shots on goal while Pascal Dupuis, Jussi Jokinen and Kris Letang each had three. Both teams registered 26 shots on goal. Pascal Dupuis, Jarome Iginla, Jussi Jokinen and Evgeni Malkin each enjoyed a two point night.
The Penguins continue to be without Sidney Crosby. Crosby, who is now listed as day-to-day after having undergone extensive dental work through the month of April to repair the damage that resulted from a slap shot to the face, may return before the end of the series but no timetable has been set. The team was also without Brooks Orpik, sidelined with a lower body injury. James Neal did not return following his departure during the second period.
The series will remain in Pittsburgh for Game 2 of the series which goes Friday at 7:00pm.