-Greetings from an uncharacteristic but pleasantly warm January day in Pittsburgh. It's been in the low 60s most of the day. Most of the snow piles in parking lots are melted away. A few brave souls are wearing shorts. There's even a little sunshine. It almost makes you feel like the playoffs are around the corner, which in a 48-game season, they almost are.
-The Rich Pilon-Jeff Norton statue is ready:
-The Penguins are 0-2-0 against these Islanders since this hunk of scrap metal was unveiled. Why oh why did they choose to troll the Islanders in statue form?
-The big news today is the Penguins' blue line. With Matt Niskanen on the shelf for two to four weeks, they must lean more on Simon Despres on the top defensive pairing with Kris Letang. Niskanen and Letang had a mostly smooth run through the first five games of this season. Will Despres be able to establish something approaching the same chemistry with Letang? Will he be comfortable logging in excess of 20 minutes a night?
-The bottom pairing of Deryk Engelland and Ben Lovejoy will need to step up too. They were strong when pressed into service against the Senators Sunday. Can they keep it up against another speedy team in the Islanders?
-What will the Penguins do with their left wing role on the second line? We would expect them to keep rotating Tyler Kennedy, Tanner Glass and Eric Tangradi tonight.
-Speaking of rotating, what to do about the Penguins' first unit power play which has been held in check the past two games. There's lot of moving parts on this group but that has led to little in the way of success. Does the team need to find more permanent roles on this group, at least in terms of positioning.
-Marc-Andre Fleury gets another start tonight which is a departure from the team's routine thus far which has seen Fleury start every other game while alternating with Tomas Vokoun.
-These aren't your older cousin's Islanders. They're mostly healthy for once and they have quite a bit of depth. With John Tavares going strong, Evgeni Nabokov has given them some stability in net and they seem to have three solid pairings of dependable defenseman. In this type of season, we wouldn't be surprised to see the Islanders seriously contend for a playoff spot.
-It will be interesting to see Brian Strait in person for the first time since he left the Penguins earlier this month. He's been teamed with all-star defenseman Mark Streit and by many accounts, successful. Streit has been allowed to take offensive chances while the defensive-minded Strait is more of a stay at home player. This has been a strong duo thus far.
-A few sights around the arena:
-Gary Roberts must be here if there's a Fiji water box:
-A Sidney Crosby World Junior Championship jersey:
-Brandon Sutter has a fan who is friends with fans of a few other notable Penguins centers:
-Jersey Foul of the Night: Wayne Gr---ky Oilers:
-Fans walking in from Center Avenue:
-Plenty of Ron Francis jerseys around:
-Even in Hartford Whalers form:
-Maxime Talbot jerseys are starting to take on that "Oh, yeah. He played here" feel to them:
-We're pretty sure this is the first Matt Niskanen jersey we've ever seen:
-Slight jersey foul here but we'll allow it. Old school Sharks:
-Two No. 17s. Petr Sykora:
-And Mike Rupp:
-The late great Johnstown Chiefs:
-T-Shirt of the Night: 1991 Prince of Wales Conference champions:
-Jersey of the Night: It takes a brave soul to wear a Gorton's fisherman Islanders jersey on the road. Even if it is former Penguin Darius Kasparaitis:
-Surprising move here. Dustin Jeffrey is in the lineup tonight.
-The Penguins' starters are Sidney Crosby, Chris Kunitz, Evgeni Malkin, Simon Despres, Kris Letang and Marc-Andre Fleury.
-Their scratches are Robert Bortuzzo, Matt Niskanen and Eric Tangradi.
-The Islanders starters are Brad Boyes, Michael Grabner, Frans Nielsen, Brian Strait, Mark Streit and Evgeni Nabokov.
-Their scratches are Eric Boulton, Joe Finley and Radek Martinek.
-Travis Hamonic is in the lineup for the Islanders. He was considered a game-time decision due to an ankle ailment.
-Jeff Jimerson handles his business:
19:53: So far so good for Despres. The speedy Streit tries to push a puck up the right wing boards but is stookd up at the Penguins' blue line on a shoulder check by Despres which knocks the puck loose. Nice hit.
19:40: A thunderous "LET'S GO PENS!" chant rains down. It's much louder than anything we heard in the home opener last week.
18:50: A point shot by Hamonic is blocked by Sutter.
16:37: Off a nifty give-and-go, Dupuis has a chance above the crease but can't pull the trigger. Nabokov covers the puck.
15:03: The Penguins get the first power play of the game as Okposo is called for boarding against Adams. Another iffy boarding call. Malkin, James Neal, Chris Kunitz, Kris Letang and Crosby take the ice.
13:27: Short-handed, the speedy Grabner pushes a puck up the right wing boards, spins off a check from Paul Martin and throws a weak wrister on net. Fleury steers it away. sh
12:50: With his penalty expires, Okposo rushe the puck into the offensive zone, pulls up on the left half wall and attempts a cross-ice pass. Orpik goes stick on puck and deflects the puck out of play. The Islanders were credited with two shots on the Penguins' power play. The Penguins, zero.
11:33: Kunitz lifts a wrister from the left wing. Crosby drives to the net past Andrew MacDonald and re-directs the puck on net. Nabokov fights it off.
10:04: Another power play for the Penguins as Matt Carkner is called for high sticking Sutter. Malkin, Crosby, Neal, Kunitz and Letang take the ice.
9:39: The Penguins attempt a novel concept and put a shot on net during the power play. Letang strikes a slapper from the top of the slot. It sneaks through traffic andis gloved by Nabokov.
8:46: A pass attempt by Letang from the right point is deflected out of play by Grabner.
8:04: The Carkner minor is killed. Another weak effort by the Penguins as they only attempted one shot.
7:19: Strait takes a pass at the right point and booms a slapper. Fleury fights it off with a "thud."
7:01: Despres chucks a wriser on net from he left point. Nabokov eats it up.
6:37: Despres muscles a slapper from the right point. Nabokov eats it up.
6:22: MacDonald booms a slapper from the left point. Fleury kicks it out despte traffic.
5:54: Taking a drop pass from Malkin, Neal cranks a slapper from the above the right circle wide on the near side.
5:40: Sutter goes wide on the right side an lobs a wrister on net. As Glass crashes in hoping for a rebound, Nabokov is able to steer it to the left corner.
4:20: The bingo balls are bouncing. Jeffrey just took a shift with Malkin and Neal. Kennedy is out with the great Joe Vitale and Adams.
3:59: The Islanders strike first. Martin tries to chip a puck oof the left wing corner of his own zone but Casey Cizikas hustles in on a forecheck and blocks the puck. He settles the puck, outworks Martin for position and moves behind the net. He attempts a back-handed wraparound and is able to sneak the puck off the left skate of Fleury and into the cage. What an effort by Czikas. Martin and Fleury were taking naps there. There are no assists. Martin could claim one. Islanders 1-0.
3:10: Taking a bounces pass off the right wing wall in the neutral zone by Dupuis, Sutter races in off the right wing and rips a low wrister. Nabokov fights it off.
1:32: A backhander by Sutter is denied by Nabokov.
0:00: End of period. Islanders 1, Penguins 0.
-What an ugly period for the Penguins. They didn't do a ton wrong. But they just looked bad. Just bad. Their power play looked absolutely lost. And the play they gave up the Islanders' only goal on was ugly.
-This power play... it's a work in progress. That's about the nicest thing we can say.
-Brandon Sutter might have played his best period as a Penguin. He was pretty involved with the offense and generated some of the Penguin's best chances.
-We're not sure what Eric Tangradi did between Sunday and tonight to merit a scratch. He was okay against the Senators and even contributed to the Penguins' lone regulation goal.
-Jeffrey was hard to notice.
-So far so good for Despres. He was physical and contributed a little bit on offense.
-Nabkov was strong. He faced a good bit of rubber and seemed to calmly turn away almost all the Penguins' chances.
-The Penguins have an 8-7 edge in shots.
-Sutter leads the game with three.
-Grabner leads the Islanders with two, both short-handed.
-Speaking of which, Grabner has two shots in four minutes of Penguins' power play time. The Penguins have 1.
-MacDonald leads the game with 10:14 of ice time.
-Malkin leads the Penguins with 8:12.
-The Islanders have a 14-12 edge in faceoffs (54 percent).
-Keith Aucoin is 6 for 8 (75 percent).
-Crosby is 5 for 10 (50 percent).
-Deryk Engelland, Ben Lovejoy and Sutter each lead the game with two blocked shots.
18:48: Tavares and Okpos each have a chance in tight but can't get a clean shot on net.
16:02: This is bizarre. With Paul Martin in deep behind the cage, Adams attempts a slap pass from the right point. The puck is intentionally sent wide on the near side where Crosby is positioned and attemps a re-direction but he pokes the puck wide. They were trying took up on Crosby's patented deflection from the side of the cage:
15:15: Malkin gets a chance in the left circle with a loose puck but whips his shot over the cage.
13:59: A wrister by Despres from the left point his Nabokov. The rebound rattles around before its cleared from danger.
13:24: Dupuis races up the left wing and booms a slapper from the left point. Nabokov kicks it out.
13:14: Engelland fumbles a puck at the right point and gives it to the worst person in a white jersey you can imagine. Grabner picks it up, hits the jets and is off to the races. As Lovejoy gives futile chase, Grabner approaches the net and rips a wrister. Fleury tries to snag it with his glove but only gets a piece of the puck which trickles into the cage. Another turnover leading directly to a goal. Somehow Streit and Reasoner get assists. Islanders 2-0.
11:27: Letang wheels from the left point to the right point and whips a wrister which is blocked by Thomas Hickey.
10:50: Attendance is announced as 18,657. It is the 256th consecutive sell-out and largest hockey crowd ever at Consol Energy Center.
9:54: After Jeffrey forces MacDonald into a turnover behind the Islanders' net, Malkin snaps off a pass from the right wall to Dupuis in the slot. Dupuis snaps off a wrister wide of the cage. Great effort by Jeffrey to create that chance.
8:05: With a faceoff in their own zone following an icing call, the Penguins call a time-out to get a breather.
6:17: Malkin pushes the puck up on the right wing one-on-one wth Strait. Strait stays with him and forces a turnover. But the puck ends up on the stick of Despres who puts a wrister on net. Nabokov fights it off..
6:00: Letang strikes a slapper from the right point. Malkin appears to re-direct it on net. Nabokov boots it out. Jeffrey has a chance at the rebound but punches it wide. Streit may have gotten a stick on Jeffrey there.
5:33: HUGE defensive play. Grabner puts a heavy wriste ron net from the right wing. Fleury kicks it out. Okposo appears to have a shot at the rebound but Jeffrey is there on a backcheck to recover the puck and skate it out of danger.
5:18: Neal is nabbed for holding Neilsen. Cooke, Sutter, Martin and Oprik take the ice.
4:48: Cooke blocks a shot by Streit a the right point.
4:38: Special teams are killing the Penguins. Neilsen lobs a puck from the left point. Moulso is down lot to the right of the cage and one touches it to Tavares on the right wing. Tavares jabs it by the glove hand of an out-stretched Fleury. Fleury had no prayer. Martin was out to lunch on that play. Okposo and Neilsen get assists. Islanders 3-0
3:54: Another power play chance for the Islanders. Kennedy is nabbed for coss checking Reasoner. Tanner Glass, Cooke, Orpik and Martin take the ice.
3:03: Tavares booms a one-timer from the right half wall over the cage.
2:45: The Islanders are running the Pengouns out of the building. Neilsen whips a wrister from above the right circle. It hits the stick of Brad Boyes in the slot and deflects to the end boards. Boyes hustle after the rebound and plays it back to Moulson in the slot. Moulson taps it into the cage by Fleury. The Penguins were standing around like dopes on that play while Boyes got on his horse. Boye and Nielsen get assists. Islanders 4-0.
1:44: Kunitz hustles up the left wing and puts a lowr steir on net. Nabokov eats it up.
1:06: On a chip-and chase play, ex-Penguin Colin McDonald chops a puck into the right wing corner of the Penguins' zone. Lovejoy gets to it first but is rammed from behind into the boards by McDonald. Lovejoy falls to all fours. A few Penguins give McDonald some grief. He's sent off for five minutes for boarding. Lovejoy heads to the dressing room with a towel over his face. The Penguins get a five-minute power play. If they have any shred of hope, they need to get at least two goals here. Crosby, Malkin, Neal, Kunitz and Letang take the ice.
0:23: After a ton of perimeter passes, the Penguins turn the puck over to MacDonald who flings it down ice.
0:06: Malkin steers his way by two defenders in the slot and has a clean look at the net but forces a bad pass to Kunitz which doesn't connect and hits the boards.
0:00: End of period. Islanders 4, Penguins 0.
-Oof. Was that ugly. We can't recall things being that ugly for the Penguins in a period in a long time. Even at the worst times in the playoff series against the Flyers, they had a chance to score. This was so one-sided.
-The Islanders are just out-working them. So many of the Islanders' chances are the product of hard work. Dan Bylsma's teams supposedly skate every inch of the ice. Tonight, they look like they can barely skate inches.
-It's amazing how simple and effective the Islanders' power play is in comparison to the Penguins. They have roles. They know what their supposed to do on the ice. The Penguins seems to confuse everyone, including themselves, with their approach.
-After an outstanding game Sunday, Paul Martin has crashed to earth. Hard. Not his best game.
-Dustin Jeffery was on of the Penguins' few bright spots that period. He is playng like he has something to prove to the coaches.
-Michael Grabner always seems to kill the Penguins.
-Evgeni Nabokov looks so composed. He's making everything look easy.
-It's hard to blame Fleury for this. He's in a shooting gallery.
-The Penguins have a 19-17 lead in shots.
-Grabner leads the game with four shots.
-Sutter, Despres and Crosby each lead the Penguins with three.
-MacDonald leads the game with 18:00 of ice time.
-Letang lead the Penguins with 15:35.
-The Penguins have a 27-24 lead in faceoffs (53 percent).
-Sutter is 5 for 8 (63 percent).
-Reasoner is 7 for 10 (70 pecent).
-Lovejoy and Hamonic each lead the game with three blocked shots.
-McDonald also received a game misconduct for the hit on Lovejoy.
-Even tonight's calendar has the Rich Pilon-Jeff Norton statue on it. What a jinx:
-Sidney Crosby is on tonight's IceTime:
20:00: Tomas Vokoun is taking over for Fleury. That strikes us as more of a motivational move by Bylsma insted of anything indicitive of Fleury's play. The Penguins will have 3:54 of power-play time on fresh ice. Malkin, Crosby, Neal, Letang and Kunitz take the ice.
18:44: A low wrister by Jeffrey on the right wing is fought toff by Nabokov with a thud.
18:06: Jeffrey lifts a pedestrian wrister from the left wing on net. Nabokov gloves it.
17:48: Andrew MacDonald bres up a pass to Crosby ot the right of the cage. Crosby appeared to have an open net too shoot at.
16:48: Letang lobs a lazy pass from the top of the slot which Grabner breaks up. Grabner chips it down ice for a lien change.
16:17: After Jeffrey falls in the left wing corner, Hamonic whips the puck down ice for a clear to kill off the rest of the power play. The Penguins had two shots on that power play. Each by Jeffrey.
15:00: Kennedy spins out of the left wing corner and chips a puck to the slot. Vitale is there but can't get a stick on it.
14:19: Matt Martin knocks Cooke down in the neutral zone with a solid hit.
13:57: Off a rush into the offensive zone by Kunitz, Adams whips a wrister on net. Nabokov eats it up.
11:52: Moulson whips a heavy wrister on net from the slot. Vokoun steers it away.
10:54: Kennedy whips a wrister from deep on the left wing on net. Nabokov eats it up.
9:38: After some strong cylcing down low by Makin, Jeffrey and Neal, Despres whips a wrister at the cage from the left point. Nabokov says no.
9:07: Malkin takes a drop pass from Jeffrey in the slot and whips a heavy wrister on net. Nabokov makes a nice glove save. he's been tuned int tonight.
8:36: Strait puts a wrister net from the left point. Vokoun steers it away.
7:01: After some hard work down low by Kennedy and Vitale, Martin whips a wrister from the right point. Nabokov gloves it.
6:02: A backhander by Malkin is rejected by Nabokov.
3:59: Engelland floats a wrister from the left point. Nabokov eats it up. Cooke jabs away for a rebound but no dice.
3:18: Reasoner challenges Despres one-on-one on the left wing and loes the puck on a poke check.
1:31: Dupuis goes wide down the left wing and whips a wrister on net. Nabokov says no.
1:09: The shutout is broken. Kunitz flicks a pass from the right wall down to Crosby on the right of the cage. Crosby one-tochd it back to Kunitz who punches it on net. Nabokov makes the save. Dupuis out-works Streit and taps the rebound by Nabokov's left leg. The penguins decided to get dirty down low for once tonight and it paid off. How about that. Kunitz and Crosby get assists. The "Hey Song" is played. Islanders 4-1.
0:03: A scrum breaks out in the right win corner. Cooke appear to be in the middle of it with Carkner. All five skaters group up in the corner. Officials break it up. Cooke and Carkner are sent the dressing room and get minors. Four on four.
0:00: ENd of period. Islanders 4, Penguins 1.
-Brutal. Just brutal. Short of games heavily impacted by injuries, we can't recall a Penguins game this ugly in a long time. After a solid start, they just had nothing. Nothing. There was little to be enthusiastic about with this game if you're a Penguins fan. They looked bad in just about every phase of the game.
-First, the big culprit was the power play. It was hideous. In nine minutes of power-play time, the Penguins generated three shots on net. Two of those shots were by Dustin Jeffrey, a healthy scratch the previous four games. During that same time frame, the Islanders' penalty killers generated two shots.
-The Islanders talked about being able to keep the Penguins on the perimeter of the offensive zone and preventing clean shots and passes by clogging up lanes. That was part of it. The bigger reason was the Penguins' inability to skate the puck into the offensive zone. It was a killer. You're not going to win many games without puck possession in the offensive zone on the power play.
-We can't fathom how the likes of Kris Letang or Sidney Crosby can't gain the zone on a power play. It really makes you appreciate players like Alex Kovalev or Steve Sullivan who used to do it easily for this franchise.
-Conversely, the Islanders dominated on their power plays. It went 2 for 2 and made things seem so simple in comparison to the Penguins. They gained the zone, set up shot and made tape to tape passes. How can the Penguins, with two former MVPs on their team, look so bad in comparison?
-Things weren't much better five-on-five, especially with Crosby and Malkin. They generated little against the Islanders defenders. Andrew McDonald shadowed Crosby quite a bit and limited a lot of things he could do. The Brian Strait-Mark STreit combination really hampered things for Malkin and James Neal.
-A growing theme this season has been speed killing the Penguins. We saw this last postseason with the Flyers running up and down the ice on the Penguins. The Maple Leafs, Jets and to a lesser extent, the Senators, each have had some success against the Penguins by just outskating the Penguins. The Islanders did the same.
-Jeffrey was one of the few positives for the Penguins. He created quite a few things offensively by just skating and he seemed more than capable of keeping up with Malkin and Neal. Hopefully for his sake, he gets a longer look in the future.
-Simon Despres was sharp in his return to the lineup. He put a few shots on net and appeared strong in his own zone. He stepped up.
-Paul Martin was brutal. Just brutal. He had a turnover which directly led to the opening goal and was badly out of position on the goal by former Penguins forward prospect Matt Moulson. He was outstanding Sunday and horrible tonight.
-The first-goal aside, no rational person can blame Fleury for this. He needed to make a better play on the goal by Casey Cizikas but he was left out to dry by his teammates most of the night.
-If the Penguins were going to take Tyler Kennedy off the second line, why bump him to the fourth line instead of the third line? The Kennedy-Brandon Sutter-Matt Cooke trio had some success early. Why not reunite them?
-Evgeni Nabokov continued to own the Penguins. He now has a 10-2-0 record against them all-time.
-Strait looked strong against his former team. He didn't seem overwhelmed by the Penguins' considerable skill and seemed to mesh well with Streit. It's hard to imagine he couldn't help the Penguins right now.
-Michael Grabner always seems to hurt the Penguins with just pure and simple speed. He so dangerous.
-The Penguins led in shots, 38-24.
-Ben Lovejoy, Kennedy, Crosby and Grabner each led the game with four shots.
-Andrew MacDonald led the game with 26:12 of ice time.
-Maybe its because he's also from Nova Scotia but MacDonald more often than not seems to have success against Crosby.
-Letang led the Penguins with 23:46.
-The Penguins led in faceoffs, 41-31 (57 percent).
-The great Joe Vitale was 11 for 18.
-Keith Aucoin was 10 for 19 (53 percent).
-Hamonic, Grabner, Lovejoy and Letang each led the game with three blocked shots.
-The Penguins are now 0-3-0 against the Islanders since they decided to build a statue with Rich Pilon and Jeff Norton.