Stanley Cup Playoffs: Eastern Conference Quarterfinal – Game 3: Penguins vs. Islanders

As is customary in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, game three of the Eastern Conference Quarter Final between the Penguins and the Islanders moved to Long Island, New Jersey and the ice surface of Nassau Coliseum. The series tied at a game apiece following the Isles come-from-behind victory on Friday, tensions were running high between both the teams and their respective fans.

The Isles had early momentum in the first, taking a seemingly effortless 2 to 0 lead  through the first five minutes of play. Matt Mouslon got New York on the board with just a minute and seventeen seconds off the clock when he was able to push a loose puck past Marc-Andre Fleury after Simon Despres fell into the net-minder. A minute and a half later, Matt Cooke found himself at the wrong end of a whistle when he was called for a slash, sending the Islanders to the power-play.  Special teams not being much of an issue, the Penguins killed it off no problem but the Isles would make it 2-0 shortly thereafter, this time the goal credited to Casey Cizikas. The Isles earned another man advantage when Tanner Glass was sent to the box for roughing. The Islanders couldn’t capitalize. With just over seven a half minutes left to play in the first, the Penguins earned their first power play of the afternoon when Mark Streit was called for a hook. The Islanders penalty kill unit appeared to be getting work done but with just thirty-four seconds off the Streit penalty, Travis Hamonic was called for a trip, sending the Penguins to a five-on-three. This was just the opportunity the Penguins needed to get back in the game, Jarome Iginla cutting the Isles lead in half just twenty-three seconds in.  Chris Kunitz followed nineteen seconds later with the Penguins second of the afternoon, tying the game in less than a minute. A pass from Evgeni Malkin gave Kunitz and breakaway opportunity and he wasted NO time banking in on Evgeni Nabokov. In the final minute of play in the period, the ice suddenly shifting in favour of the Penguins, it was Pascal Dupuis bringing the Pens ahead a goal. Sidney Crosby used his body to protect the puck in the corner before moving around a defender and backhanding the puck into the slot where Dupuis picked up and knocked it, and, just like that, the Penguins were up 3 to 1. Through the first, the Pens were outshot 13 to 8.

The second period elapsed pretty quickly, with very few whistles. The teams headed to some four-on-four action with 10:40 left in the middle frame when Matt Cooke and Matt Carkner were sent to the box. After Cooke was hit into the boards on a play, Carkner, sitting on the bench, hit him in the face with the blade of is stick. As is the natural progression of things, Cooke retaliated and was given two minutes for roughing while Carkner was given two for interference. Both teams escaped unscathed. With 6:12 left in second, the Isles would opt to take their timeout. However, three minutes later it was Douglas Murray making it 4 to 2 for the Penguins. Evgeni Malkin found open ice and got the puck to Murray, waiting in the circle. All Murray had to do was snap it over Nabokov. The Penguins would end the period on the power play when Matt Martin was called for a hold. The Isles pulled through and after forty, the Penguins continued to lead while shots were even at 8 apiece.

Five minutes into the third, the Isles earned their third of the afternoon. The goal, a short-handed tally courtesy of Kyle Okposo, resulted in a miscommunication that saw Matt Niskanen move himself beyond the play while Brenden Morrow’s pass to Mark Eaton moved beyond reach. Niskanen couldn’t get back in time, Okposo earned the breakway, and in a split second it was a one-goal game.  John Tavares would tie it up with 9:12 left in regulation on a turnover that allowed him to use a Pittsburgh d-man as a screen.  The Islanders then moved to a power play when Jarome Iginla was called for a trip.  The Penguins were able to keep the game at four apiece, killing off the Iginla minor.  Neither team could pull ahead through the remainder of the third. That meant – that’s right – the game was headed to overtime. Trough sixty minutes, the Penguins were outshot 34 to 19.

It would take just over eight minutes into the fourth frame for the game to be decided. With 8:11 gone off the clock in the first overtime period, Brian Strait was whistled for a hold opening up an opportunity for the Penguins power play unit to get work done. It took thirty-three seconds for Pittsburgh to capitalize. Kris Letang slid a pass to Sidney Crosby at the side of the net who then sent it on to Chris Kunitz in the slot. All Kunitz had to do was shoot it, beating Nabokov and giving he Penguins a 2 to 1 series lead.

Kris Letang led all skaters with 33:33 of ice time while Paul Martin followed with 31:33. Chris Kunitz registered five shots on goal while Sidney Crosby had four.  Kunitz and Crosby each had three point games, Kunitz with two goals and an assist and Crosby with three assists. Marc-Andre Fleury faced 36 shots while the Penguins sent 25 toward Nabokov.

The Penguins continue be without Brooks Orpik and James Neal. No timetable has been given for the return of either player.

Game 4 of the series goes Tuesday night at 7:00pm in Long Island.