The Penguins came out with good energy possibly motivated by the return of Bryan Rust to the line-up. On the blue line, we saw a change up when Cameron Gaunce (2) suited up instead of Frank Corrado, and the defenseman rounded up the 4th pairing with Mark Streit in a multi-point effort tonight. Rust came out rejuvenated, with a speed down the ice that rivaled the one he had in the beginning of the season. The Isles matched that intensity with Ho-Sang and both teams traded chances early in the 1st Period. The Penguins failed to capitalize on a Power Play halfway through the period, as the Isles Penalty Kill kept Pittsburgh in the defensive zone for approximately 1:15 of the power play. The Islanders rang a couple of pucks off the crossbar and at the very end of the 1st they scored, only for it to be challenged for goalie interference and be taken back. The Period closed 0-0 as both teams headed into the locker rooms.
At the 2nd Period, Gaunce wasted no time with his shot at cracking the line-up, as he scored his first goal in a Penguins uniform. The lead was short-lived as Brock Nelson tied it for the Isles on a wrist shot that got past Fleury. Sullivan then shook up the lines to generate more offense, pairing Rust with Crosby and Sheary in the first line while Kunhackl, Kessel, and Sundqvist rounded the second line. The Isles made it 2-1 with a goal from Lee and even though the Penguins challenged for offside the goal stood. Ruhwedel was quick to feed Crosby, who scored his first of the game. Even though Penguins Phil Kessel rang it off the crossbar at 38 seconds to go, it was the Islander’s Cizikas who scored with 4.5 seconds left in the 2nd period.
The 3rd period was fast in a back and forth battle between the teams. Dumoulin who was struggling with turnovers and clearing the puck off his defensive zone recovered and helped Fleury keep the Penguins within one. With impressive save after save Fleury helped the Penguins kill a penalty to Cole and gain momentum in their offensive zone. On a rush to the net by the Penguins Gaunce, Cullen found the puck and buried it past Halak and tied it with 3:42 to go forcing overtime.
On the overtime 3-on-3 both teams exchanged exciting changes, but in the end, it was Halak and Fleury who stood tall forcing the shootout. With Beauvillier and Tavares scoring while Fleury stopped Ladd, it was up to Kessel, Crosby, and Bonino to score and take the extra point. Only Crosby was successful in his attempt against Halak, forcing the game to end in a loss despite the effort.
-Marc-Andre Fleury had an inspired performance with 41 saves overall and kept the team in the game when the Islanders were surging.
–Nick Bonino is now leading the NHL in blocks and played in his 400th career game.
-The Penguins took a point keeping them ahead of the Colombus Blue Jackets in the standings who have a game against the Philadelphia Flyers tomorrow.
–Scott Wilson missed the game due to an upper-body injury.
-Malkin and Letang have no timetable for their return hurting these SO situations.
The snippet of the game:
Coach Sullivan on his team’s injuries: “Our expectation is that we’re gonna win games regardless of who we have in the line-up… that’s the expectation we place on ourselves.”
Feature Image credit goes to AP / Gene J. Puskar