-A few random notes and observation we've been able to cobble the last couple of days or so:
-Pascal Dupuis was visibly rattled during a press conference to address his blood clot Wednesday. Earlier today, when riding in an elevator with a reporter, he was far more concerned with getting to the right floor to drop something off at the team's pro shop. When the reporter gave bad information as to which floor to get off at, he chided the reporter in an amusing fashion.
-Don't worry about Pascal Dupuis' state of mind. It's just fine.
-We talked to former Penguins defenseman Matt Niskanen the other day to get a few thoughts on Dupuis as a teammate. One anecdote which didn't make it into the published story was from during the 2012-13 lockout. During the work stoppage, several of the Penguins conducted practice at Southpointe on their own. Niskanen and Dupuis were two of the regulars. After one of the proposals was shot down, things looked pretty bleak in terms of getting a season started and enthusiasm for those workouts really waned. So the Penguins players tried to find ways to mix things up to keep it interesting.
-One day, when the handful of reporters who showed up for those practices saw Marc-Andre Fleury and Brent Johnson skating around with normal stick and helmets, it was surprising. Even more surprising was seeing Dupuis and Niskanen waddle off the rink wearing the equipment of Fleury and Johnson. We'll let Niskanen explain:
"I think it was right after one of the deadlines was missed or whatever so we for sure weren't playing [games] for a little while. And I think the goalies were not that thrilled - nobody really - about going out there [for practice] again. But as long as we were at the rink we thought we'd make it more of a fun day. I think 'Duper' offered so I just jumped in there as well. We pretty much volunteered."
-Also, don't worry about if Beau Bennett is used on the left wing or the right wing. He isn't. We had an informal conversation with him about the subject yesterday and he seemed to be more upset over why media and fans get bent out of shape over which wing he's on than than he is himself. Without getting into too many details, Bennett basically said it's an overblown issue.
-Yesterday, we asked Marc-Andre Fleury for an update on his yellow pads and when they might see the light of day in an actual game. He said, "The next one," meaning the Penguins' next game they wear their throwback jerseys. That would be Wednesday's contest against the Maple Leafs.
-The Islanders will be starting former Penguins goaltending prospect Chad Johnson tonight. He was drafted by the Penguins in 2005 but never signed with the team. The Penguins had John Curry under contract and were in the process of signing Brad Thiessen. With so many goaltenders in the system, it didn't make sense in Johnson's mind to sign with the Penguins. Given that Curry and Thiessen barely made an impact in the NHL and Johnson has become a pretty steady backup, you can lump this up as a pretty big miss from the Ray Shero era.
-The member of the Penguins' staff who scouted Thiessen prior to drafting him? Jason Botterrill, the Penguins associate general manager and presumed general manager in training.
-If you're going to wear the jersey of someone who scores garbage goals, why not stand near a garbage can?
-Alexei Alex Kovalev:
-Sidney Crosby Team Canada:
-Fans entering the barn:
-There aren't many Islanders fans on hand. We spotted a John Tavares jersey:
-And Travis Hamonic:
-We waited approximately 22 minutes for these Rick Tocchet and Mike Bullard fans to line up just right:
-Even if this guy did leave the building, this is a jersey foul:
-Former Islanders captain and Penguins forward Bill Guerin:
-Maaannn... Ian Moran:
-Jersey of the Night: This guy has a Darius Kasparaitis jersey AND a Kasparaitis Kruncher hat:
-The Penguins' starters are Blake Comeau, Sidney Crosby, Chris Kunitz, Christian Ehrhoff, Olli Maatta and Marc-Andre Fleury.
-Their only scratch is Simon Despres.
-The Islanders' starters are Mikhail Grabovski, Frans Nielsen, Kyle Okposo, Calvin de Haan, Travis Hamonic and Chad Johnson.
-Their scratches are Cory Conacher, Matt Donovan and Brian Strait.
-No Jimerson. No anthem.
19:27: de Haan chops a slapper from the left point off the near side of the cage.
18:55: Brandon Sutter challenges Nick Leddy one-on-one on the right wing of the New York zone. Nick Leddy fights him off the puck.
18:47: The Penguins strike first and early. Steve Downie plays a little hot potato with the puck on the right half wall then flings a cross-ice pass to Martin at the left point. Martin take the pass and chops a slapper at the cage. Sutter is positioned right in front of Johnson and deflects the puck through his five hole. What a deflection. Martin and Downie get assists. Penguins 1-0.
17:23: Zach Sill rips a wrister from the high slot and it deflects out of play.
16:59: Tempers flair up as Cal Cutterbuck chirps a few Penguins in front of the benches. Bodies gather but officials quickly break it up.
15:07: Robert Bortuzzo pinches in high on the right wing and tags Anders Lee with a big hit at the New York blue line. That results in Ryan Strome getting a clean chance on the left wing of the Penguins' zone. Fleury smothers his shot.
14:01: The Penguins take the game's first penalty as Kris Letang hooked up Casey Cizikas in the Penguins' left wing corner. Marcel Goc, Sutter, Ehrhoff and Scuderi take the ice.
13:36: Johnny Boychuk booms a big one-timer from above the right circle. Fleury kicks it out. John Tavares gets a weak shot off on the rebound. Fleury fights that off and Goc skates the rebound out of danger.
11:54: Off a deenive zone turnover
11:42: The Islanders tie it up. With the Penguins in the midst of a line change, Hamonic zips a stretch pass form his ob blue lien to Matt Martin at the Penguins' blue line. Martin hustles up the left wing and rips a wrister under Fleury's blocker on the near side. Uuggggleeeee. Full credit to Martin for scoring that goal, but that's a preventable goal for Fleury. And what a dreadful line change. Full credit to Hamonic for recognizing the situation. Hamonic and Strome get assists. Islanders 1, Penguins 1.
11:13: The Islanders take the lead. Right after a commercial break, the Penguins win a neutral zone faceoff. Paul Martin has the puck stolen by Nikolay Kulemin in front of the Penguins' bench. Kulemin hustles his way into the offensive zone, dekes by Letang in the slot and rips a wrister by the glove hand of Fleury. Those are two bad goals for the Penguins to allow. The goal is unassisted. Islanders 2-1.
10:07: Forget Light Up Night. It's more like getting lit up night for the Penguins. Thomas Hickey tees up a slapper from the left point. It sails through a phalanx of sticks and legs and deflects off the forehand of Strome behind FLeury's left skate. What a wretched sequence for the Penguins. Hickey and Josh Bailey get assists. Islanders 3-1.
9:16: Sill does what he can to regain some momentum and lights up Nielsen with a big hit in front of the Penguins' penalty box. Oof.
9:12: Okposo curls and drags the puck to the high slot and whips a wrister on net. Fleury snags it.
8:24: Paul Martin strikes a one-timer from the left point wide on the near side.
7:28: Patric Hornqvist rips a wrister from the slot. Johnson fights it off. Malkin jabs at the rebound from the right of the cage and is denied by Johnson.
7:01: After Ehrhoff is dumped by Cal Clutterbuck on the Penguins' right half wall, Casey Cizikas rips a wrister from above the slot wide of the cage.
6:19: de Haan races up the left wing of the neutral zone, gains the offensive zone and chips a bouncer on net. Fleury steers it away.
5:09: Lubomir Visnovsky chops a slapper form the right point and it gets blocked.
4:44: Visnovsky fires a one-timer from the right point and Nick Spaling blocks it.
4:26: As a dominant Islanders shift in the Penguins' zone continues, Bailey chips a loose puck from the slot wide of the cage.
3:26: Blak Comeau gets some revenge against his old team. Taking a feed from Kunitz, Comeau glides up the left wing, scoots behind the cage and taps a backhanded shot into the crease. It hits off the right skate of Matt Martin and bounces into the cage. The Penguins need that badly. Kunitz and Maatta get assists. Islanders 3-2.
2:22: Hickey chops a slapper from the right point. Fleury fights it off.
2:10: A one-timer by Okposo in tight on the right wing is denied by Fleury.
1:56: Ehrhoff sweeps a one-timer from the right point. Johnson says no.
1:44: Bennett chucks a wrister form the left circle. It's off the mark.
0:33: Kunitz pops a slapper from the left half wall. Johnson kicks it out.
0:12: HUGE save. After Scuderi fails to keep a puck in at the point of the attacking zone, Bailey outraces him for the puck in the neutral zone and attacks the Penguins' net on a breakaway. As Scuderi dives back for a poke check, Bailey attempts a backhander but Fleury is able to sprawl out his left skate and kick it out. Wow.
0:00: End of period. Islanders 3, Penguins 2.
-Within the context of the past two or three years, that was a pretty normal period of Penguins-Islanders hockey. Plenty of offensive chances, lots of skating and poor goaltending.
-Marc-Andre Fleury needed to be better that period. At least one of those goals should have been prevented. He made up for it a bit with that huge save on Bailey at the end of the period.
-Johnson hasn't been much better. He was badly out of position on Sutter's goal.
-It wouldn't be a stretch to suggest Simon Despres was the Penguins' best defenseman in that first period.
-The Islanders have a 13-5 lead in shots on net.
-The Islanders have a 26-13 lead in attempted shots.
-Strome, Okposo, de Haan and Boychuk each lead the game with two shots.
-Paul Martin leads the Penguins with 8:00 of ice time.
-Visnovsky leads the Islanders with 7:30 of ice time.
-The Islanders have a 10-7 lead in faceoffs (59 percent).
-Crosby is 4 for 4 (100 percent).
-Tavares is 4 for 6 (67 percent).
19:40: Off a feed from Maatta, Ehrhoff whacks a one-timer from the right point.
19:25: Tavares booms a slapper from the right half wall. Fleury kicks it out.
18:55: Kunitz grips and rips a wrister from the left wing wide on the near side.
18:43: Off a feed from Bennett, Downie rips a wrister from the right circle. Johnson says no.
17:56: Off a feed from Downie, Martin strokes a one-timer from the left point. Johnson eats it up.
16:18: Hamonic a chance a one-timer from the left circle but fans on the shot.
15:47: Adams takes a cross pass from Goc in the right circle and lifts a wrister which completely misses the net.
14:44: Bailey chips a wriste rfrom the right
14:38: Leddy pounds a one-timer from the right point. It hits a body in front.
14:18: The Islanders regain a two-goal lead. From behind the Penguins' cage, Strome feeds a pass to Leddy who has moved into the left circle. Leddy rips a one-timer by the left shoulder of Fleur on the far side. That was a nothing but hard work down low by the Islanders and it negates what was a really good start to the period for the Penguins. Strome and Anders Lee get assists. Islanders 4-2.
14:01: Play is halted a Matt Martin and Robert Bortuzzo get into a fight. They mostly wrestle around and hug each other. Each player has a pretty long each and neither will let the other go to swing a real punch. Eventually officials step in and break it up. Bortuzzo challenged Martin after Martin hit Crosby along the boards. We understand Bortuzzo's motivation but why would Martin give Bortuzzo a chance to fire up his team?
12:37: Ehrhoff whacks a one-timer from the right point. Johnson eats it up.
11:54: A one-timer by Crosby from the left circle is blocked.
11:10: Buckle up. Malkin feeds a pass toff the left half wall to Hornqvist in the slot. Hornqvist cranks a one-timer which hits a stick or two and rattles around. Spaling is fighting for position above the blue paint and chops at the puck. It bounces by Johnson's left skate and into the cage. That was a garbage goal. Martin and Hornqvist get assists. We have a typical Penguins-Islanders games on our hands. Islanders 4-3.
9:55: Nielsen races up the left wing an rips a wrister. Fleury fights it off. Maatta clears the rebound.
9:32: The defensive pairings are a little scrambled with Bortuzzo in the penalty box. Paul Martin is with Scuderi, while Letang is shifting with Maatta and Ehrhoff.
7:46: Malkin rips a wrister form the left point. It hits something in front.
7:35: Downie and Hickey are sent off for slashing minors. We'll see four-on-four play for two minutes
7:18: Sutter rips a wrister from the left circle and Johnson eats it up.
5:33: As play returns to five-on-five, a wrister by Tavares from the left half wall is blocked by Letang's stick.
4:55: On a two-on-two rush, Bennett feeds a pass off the right wing to Downie who drives to the net down the slot. Downie can't get a clean shot off.
3:46: Scoring change. On Spaling's goal, Hornqvist and Malkin get assists. Not Paul Martin.
1:58: Stealing a puck in the left circle, Malkin floats a wrister from the slot wide of the cage.
1:35: Letang races into the offensive zone and lifts a wrister from the high slot. Johnson knocks it dead and covers as Letang crashes into accidentally. Letang taps him on the head to apologize.
1:27: Cizikas rips a wrister from the left wing. Fleury snags it.
1:11: Letang snaps off a quick wrister from the left point. Johnson snags it.
0:45: Kunitz chucks a wrister from the left wing. Johnson eats it up.
0:25: Matt fans on a one-timer at center point. The misfire ends up turning into a nice pass for Ehrhoff on the right half wall. He cranks a one-timer which Johnson fights off.
0:00: End of period. Islanders 4, Penguins 3.
-Overall, that was a much better period for the Penguins. It was hardly perfect, but given how poorly the first period went, this was a step in the right direction.
-It might be a good time to put out an APB for Sidney Crosby. The Penguins need a bigger contribution from their captain.
-Things settled down for the Penguins' defensemen. They weren't nearly as loose in their zone as they were in the first period.
-Here's a good question:
-The Penguins have a 23-19 lead in shots on net.
-The Islanders have a 41-40 edge in attempted shots.
-Ehrhoff leads the game with four shots.
-Leddy, Bailey, Strome, Okposo, Boychuk and Tavares each lead the Islanders with two shots.
-Letang leads the game with 17:33 of ice time.
-Hamonic leads the Islanders with 14:49 of ice time.
-The Islanders lead in faceoffs, 18-15 (55 percent).
-Tavares is 4 for 7 (57 percent).
-Crosby is 8 for 12 (67 percent).
-Scuderi leads the game with three blocked shots.
-Visnovsky, Clutterbuck and Lee each lead the Islanders with two blocked shots.
19:27: Nielsen air mails a slapper from the neutral zone. Fleury snags it.
18:38: Downie chops a slapper from the right half wall. Leddy blocks it out of play.
18:20: Hornqvist cranks a one-timer form the slot. Johnson kicks it out. Scuderi jumps on the rebound on the left half wall and pounds it on net. Johnson fights it off.
17:40: Maatta tips a puck past Hamonic at the New York blue line and has an acre of ice to work with on the left wing. He rips a wrister juuuuust wide to the far side.
16:38: Off a feed from Okopos, Grabovski fires a one-timer from in tight which Fleury kicks out.
14:56: Lee chips a wrister from the left point on. Fleury kicks it out.
14:46: Lee knuckles a wrister from deep on the right wing. Fleury eats it up.
14:29: Clutterbuck lifts a wrister from the right circle. Matt Martin jabs at the rebound a few times and is denied by Fleury. Big saves.
13:55: Hornqvist lifts a wrister from the right wing. Johnson gloves it.
12:52: Bennett sneaks a wrister on net from the right circle. Johnson's right pad kicks it out.
10:44: Matt Martin rips a wrister from the left circle. Fleury punches it away.
9:20: Off an offensive zone steal by Letang, Hornqvist snaps off a wrister from above the left circle. Johnson fends it off.
9:05: Hamonic cranks a slapper from the right point. It deflects out of play.
8:46: Leddy chucks a wrister from the left point. Fleury boots it out .
8:39: A wrister by Nielsen in the high slot is blocked.
7:29: Bortuzzo staggers Matt Martin with a neutral zone hit.
7:00: Tie game. Malkin roars into the offensive zone and sets up shop on the right half wall. He surveys the zone and deals a pass to Hornqvist moving into the slot. Hornqvist takes the feed and rips a shot behind Johnston to tie the game. What an effort by Malkin. Malkin and Ehrhoff get assists. Islanders, 4, Penguins 4.
5:41: Spaling sticks Nielsen on his wallet with a stiff check in the Islanders' left wing corner.
5:12: Scuderi chucks a wrister from the left point. It gets blocked.
4:47: Wow. Matt Martin races up the left wing and backhands a pass to Nielsen sneaking in off the left wing. Nielsen taps it off the near post and the pucks deflects out of play as Kunitz crashes into the net on a backcheck.
3:21: Downie drops Boychuk with a hip check in the Islanders' left wing corner. That could have been a lot worse but Boychuk dodged most of the hit.
2:31: Ehrhoff chops a one-timer from the right point. It hits a body in front. Crosby swipes at the rebound but no dice.
1:46: Off a defensive zone turnover by the Penguins, Leddy chops a slapper from the right point. Fleury fights it off with his left shoulder.
1:11: Play is halted as de Haan crashes into the end boards awkwardly while battling Sutter for position. As they got tangled up, de Haan fell to his knees and slid into the board face first. He's in a lot of pain. An athletic trainer attends to him and
0:47: Malkin takes a tumble to the ice as Boychuk steps up in the Penguins' right circle and basically trips him o the ice. with a knee on knee hit. Athletic trainer Chris Stewart attends to him. Malkin get tho his feet fairly quickly and returns to the bench. No penalty.
0:18: Tavares deals a pass from the right circle to Hickey in the slot. Hickey taps a shot juuuust over the cage.
0:00: End of period. Penguins 4, Islanders 4.
(Behold the last dry scrape you'll ever see in Pittsburgh.)
The Islanders have a 33-29 lead in shots on net.
4:21: de Haan pounds a slapper from above the left circle which is blocked.
4:12: Leddy sneaks a pass from the right circle to Tavares all alone to the right of the blue pain. Their timing is off and the pass fails to connect. How is Tavares that wide open?
3:15: The Penguins score! Or do they?! Hornqvist whacks a slapper from the center point. It gets deflected wide to the right of the cage. Letang collects the rebound on the left of the cage and tries to tuck it in. the goal horn goes off briefly and play is halted. Somehow, Johnson held that out.
2:11: Ehrhoff whips a wrister from the right point no where near the net.
1:56: Battling for a puck in the left wing corner, Sutter slams Visnovsky to the ice. Oof.
1:51: The Islanders call a time out to get a breather after icing the puck.
1:36: After an offensive zone turnover by Malkin, Bailey pushes the puck up the left wing and has a wrister blocked.
1:22: Brock Nelson fires a wrister from above the left point. Fleury eats it up.
0:28: A on-timer by Bennett from the right circle is blocked by de Haan.
0:00: End of period. Islanders 4, Penguins 4.
-Malkin is up first. He moves down the slot slowly and rips a wrister well wide of the cage.
-Tavares goes slightly to the left, attacks the net and lifts a wrister which Fleury kicks out with his right leg.
-Crosby goes slightly to the left, levels out, slows down and lifts a backhander by the glove of Johnson. Penguins 1-0.
-Nielsen weaves his way down the slot, goes forehand-backhand and lifts a lethal backhander by Fleury's glove hand. Islanders 1, Penguins 1.
-Sutter goes slightly right, goes backhand and is denied by Johnson's blocker.
-Okposo can win it. He goes down the slot slowly, jams up Fleury and tucks a forehand shot by his left leg. End of shootout. Islanders 2, Penguins 1. End of game. Islanders 5, Penguins 4.
-Penguins-Islanders. It's not Penguins-Flyers or Penguins-Capitals, but it's become a pretty darn entertaining rivalry. And with the Islanders adding some depth and playing some meaningful hockey, it's become a pretty important rivalry too. Tonight's win makes tomorrow's rematch all the more important as the Islanders are now only two points behind the Penguins for first place in the division.
-The Penguins won't run away with this division this season like they did last season. The Islanders are perhaps the biggest reason why.
-Two seasons ago, the Islanders claimed Brian Strait off waivers from the Penguins and squeezed out some serviceable but hardly spectacular hockey out of him. Two seasons ago, Strait was playing top four minutes for the Islanders. Tonight, he was in the press box. When guys like Brian Strait are healthy scratches, that's a sign of depth. The Islanders have a lot more depth than they did two years ago and it showed tonight.
-The biggest point of consternation tonight has to be the scratching of Simon Despres in place of Robert Bortuzzo. Mike Johnston was asked at the start of his postgame press conference about the move and said:
"We made a decision to - with seven healthy defensemen - put [Bortuzzo] back in the lineup tonight. A lot of our defnesemen have been playing well. I don't want to keep anybody sitting for extended period of times. We won't be on a rotational basis but that was the decision we made tonight."
-The Penguins had a lot of defensive issues that went well beyond the bottom pairing of Robert Bortuzzo and Rob Scuderi tonight but they didn't not look comfortable with one another at all. Ironically, Despres has played extensively with each player and has a very clear level of chemistry with each of them. We understand the desire to Bortuzzo into a game to prevent rust but this didn't' seem like a good idea on paper and it was an even worse idea in action.
-The other big aspect of this game was the lack of power plays overall but for the Penguins in particular. There was only one power play total in this contest and it went to the Islanders. The Penguins have shown they are a team which relies on their power play to rack up goals. They couldn't unleash their abilities with the man advantage.
-Through the first two periods, there really wasn't a lot of egregious plays where a penalty should have been called. Neither team did much to deserve a penalty which led to a power play. Late int he game, things got a little chippier and it seemed like the officials put their whistles away. The most blatant example of this was a low hit by Johnny Boychuk which staggered Evgeni Malkin:
-Unintentional or otherwise, there are three things the officials could have called there: Interference, kneeing and tripping. THey called nothing. A call there gives the Penguins a power play with less than a minute left.
-Voices from both sides seemed to enjoy how the game was called. Islanders forward Matt Martin said:
"I thought it was a great hockey game. The refs put their whistles away. They reffed a great game. There could have been calls both ways and they didn't call them. There was a lot of scoring, a lot of physicality and those are the games that are a lot of fun to play."
"That was a well-reffed game. I didn't think there was any penalties that deserved to be called out there. We had the one against that but other than that, there wasn't anything. Usually in a hard-fought game like that which is physical, there's going to be some penalties but they didn't try to over-call the game."
-The Penguins' second line was very hit or miss. Spaling-Malkin-Hornqvist was on the ice for three of the Islanders' goals but it scored the Penguins' last two goals. That trio remains a work in progress.
-You never want to say Sidney Crosby was a non-factor. He was on the ice a substantial amount and drew plenty of attention defensively but the Penguins could have used a bigger contribution from him. He was very, very quiet.
-Even if it was a fluky goal off an Islander's skate, Blake Comeau keeps finding ways to get offense. Was it a fluky hop? Yes. But the way he raced behind the net and put the puck into a position to be kicked in wasn't a fluke.
-Marc-Andre Fleury need to be better. He stole some goals and settled down as the game wore on but a few of the New York goals in the first period could have been prevented.
-Thankfully for the Penguins, Chad Johnson was not much better.
-The choice to use Brandon Sutter as the third shooter in the shootout was curious. Usually Kris Letang is one of the first three shooters. Perhaps the coaching staff felt Sutter had a hot hand after scoring the winning shootout goal against the Rangers last week.
-Paul Martin and Kris Letang have had and will have better games than the one they had tonight.
-We've been critical of Christian Ehrhoff the last week or so but he actually turned out to be the Penguins' best defenseman tonight. He was pretty aggressive with shooting the puck.
-If you want to criticize Crosby, that's more than fair. But be sure to criticize John Tavares as well. He was almost as quiet as Crosby.
-Ryan Strome is a bit part of that depth we mentioned earlier. The fifth overall pick in the 2011 draft, he has finally shown he can be an NHL regular. He came through tonight with a three-point effort.
-We really liked the game of Nick Leddy tonight. He was involved in all three zones.
-The Islanders led in shots on net, 35-30.
-The Islanders controlled attempted shots, 68-56.
-Letang and Leddy each led the game with five shots.
-Letang led the game with 29:20 of ice time.
-Hamonic led the Islanders with 22:53 of ice time.
-The Islanders had a 27-26 edge in faceoffs (51 percent).
-Tavares was 8 for 13 (62 percent).
-Crosby was 12 for 21 (57 percent).
-Anders Lee, Scuderi and Bortuzzo each led the game with three blocked shots.
-Martin moved ahead of Ulf Samuelsson and Bob Woytowich for 91st place on the franchise's career scoring list. Martin and Samuelsson each have 94 points but Martin (15) has more goals than Samuelsson (11). Woytowich has 93 points.