-Greetings from a lovely spring day on Long Island. It's a little windy mostly sunny and in the mid-60s. There's quite a bit of humidity as well. Once again, there are air conditioning units hooked up outside the barn to suck out any humidity:
-In the past week or so, the Penguins have developed a bunker mentality. They're not allowing anything in they ways of injury or strategic information to escape their room. Dan Bylsma has now led off each of his press conferences with a reminder that injury and lineup information is not a "discussion point." It's frustrating from a media standpoint but it's impressive at the same time in terms of how much everyone has bought into a common goal.
-It appears James Neal and Brooks Orpik will return to the lineup. Both skated in regular line and defensive rushes today. Additionally, Neal took up a role on a power play featuring Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Kris Letang and Chris Kunitz. Coaches don't waste the limited time they have at practices using players who won't play in those roles. Additionally, Beau Bennett skated around with the likes of Dustin Jeffrey and the great Joe Vitale.
-At one point, the Penguins practiced a five-on-three power-play unit with Crosby and Malkin at the the points, Letang deep on the left wing, Kunitz in front of the net and Neal in the right circle. They are the players in black jerseys as illustrated below:
-We're really intrigued with how the Penguins will man their third line. Jussi Jokinen took over as the third line center for Brandon Sutter while Sutter took up some fourth line minutes. In the past two games, Sutter has been really hard to notice. Additionally, he did not participate in the morning skate which was optional.
-It should be noted Jarome Iginla, Douglas Murray, Brenden Morrow and Brandon Sutter each skipped today's optional skate.
-If you haven't seen it, Crosby will be on a regional cover of Sports Illustrated:
The NHL (specifically Sidney Crosby) is on the SI Cover this week. Good to see. twitter.com/si_vault/statu…— Andy Gray (@si_vault) May 7, 2013
-Kris Letang was named a finalist for the Norris Trophy along with the Wild's Ryan Sutter and the Canadiens' P.K. Subban.
Personally we voted for Suter. He was healthier than Letang and he was relied on by the Wild to do a lot more than the Penguins rely on Letang. Letang couldn't even stay on his team's top power-play unit regularly. Suter seemingly never leaves the ice for the Wild. We're not slamming Letang. We put him second on our ballot. We just think Suter was a better player this past regular season.
-Both teams have been extremely complementary of one another in this series. Players and coaches on each side have gone out of their way to be extremely respectful of the other team, at least in what is said through the media. It's a far cry from other series where you have accusations from cheating to not being Canadian to being a walrus flying back and forth.
It's become really apparent how much speed the Islanders have in this series. Even their bottom lines have wheels. It's given the Penguins a bunch of fits this series. It's somewhat reminiscent of what the Flyers did to the Penguins last postseason.
-Presumably, a return of Brooks Orpik will help negate some of that. The Penguins just haven't been able to get much out of Deryk Engelland or Simon Despres in this series. We're not sure how healthy Orpik is or if he'll even return tonight, but the Penguins need all six of their defensemen to contribute. They can't virtually bench one of them, as they did with Despres in the later stages of Game 3, and expect to gas the likes of Letang or Paul Martin.
-Criticisms of Marc-Andre Fleury are fair. We've made them on this platform. One thing you can't criticize him about, presuming accuracy is of some value to you, is his mental toughness. After today's morning skate, he had an informal conversation with a local reporter and a team employee about the ... quaintness ... of the visiting dressing room at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. All three involved were in nearly in tears at one point. Fleury is mentally tough. He just displays it through a carefree sense of humor.
-We're not sure if this barn will be as loud and energetic as it was in Game 3. That was Islanders fans unleashing six years of playoff-less springs out on the Penguins. They might be down a level or two from that impressive display Sunday, but we still expect this building to be an insane atmosphere tonight.
-We've really grown to appreciate what Andrew MacDonald and Travis Hamonic bring as a defensive shutdown pairing. Hamonic will mix it up physically and agitate with his toothless sneer while MacDonald is mostly stoic and plays a very technically-sound game. Together, they have given Sidney Crosby fits over the years. Crosby has scored his fair share of goals against the Islanders as well as MacDonald over the years but it's not always easy.
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-Here is a memo distributed to fans being asked to participate in a ceremony involving the American flag before the game:
-Someone owns this and voluntarily hoisted it over their car:
-Bylsma's press conference:
-If you're wondering, the coaches' press conferences take place in the cavernous area cordoned off by standing drapes:
-Basically, if Skynet wins, you want to be in this area.
-Tonight's towels are blue:
-Oddly enough, the Rangers are using "believe" as a theme as well for the postseason:
-Even the root sports broadcasters are jammed into the press box:
-Crosby has some "fans" on hand:
-A poor, lost Ryan Callahan Rangers fan:
-There are a few Penguins fans here. Chris Koooonitz:
-Marc-Andre Fleury and Sidney Crosby:
-T-Shirt of the Night: A 1993 Islanders playoff shirt:
-A few former Penguins/Islanders. Miroslav Satan:
-Jersey of the Night: Darius Kasparaitis:
-The game starts in roughtly 15 minutes or so and this building is still filling up. There's not nearly as much energy tonight as there was prior to Game 3 to this point.
-Neal and Orpik each participated in the warm up and will return to the lineup.
-The Penguins' starters are Sidney Crosby, Pascal Dupuis, Chris Kunitz, Kris Letang, Paul Martin and Marc-Andre Fleury.
-Their scratches are Beau Bennett, Robert Bortuzzo, Simon Despres, Deryk Engelland, Dustin Jeffrey, Tyler Kennedy and the great Joe Vitale.
-The Islanders' starters are Matt Moulson, Frans Nielsen, Kyle Okposo, Travis Hamonic, Andrew MacDonald and Evgeni Nabokov.
-Their scratches are Eric Boulton, Calvin de Haan, Matt Donovan, Joe Finley, Thomas Hickey, Jesse Joensuu, Anders Lee, Brock Nelson, Aaron Ness, Anders Nilsson, Radek Martinek, John Persson, Marty Reasoner, Ryan Strome, Johan Sundstrom, .
19:50: From the start, Islanders fans offer "FLEERRRRR.....EEEEEEE....." sing-song chants. Those transition to "LET'S GO IS-LAN-DERS"
18:34: Another bad start for the Penguins. John Tavares pushes the puck into the offensive zone and is hooked by a backchecking Malkin at the blue line. That's two minutes for hooking. Craig Adams, Jokinen, Letang and Paul Martin take the ice. Before the ensuing faceoff. Letang and Nielsen exchange shoves along the right wing wall. Nielsen falls down. Nothing comes of it.
18:23: Nielsen has a point-blank chance in the right cirlcle but is stripped on a WONDERFUL play by Adams. Adams takes the puck and skates it out of danger.
17:12: From the left wing corner, Boyes whips a feed to the slot. Murray mislplay it. Moulson is there to sweep it on net with a backhander.
16:48: WOW?1 Visnovsky hammers one-timer from the left point. It hits a body or two in front. Okpos is positioned in front and jabs the puck juuuustttt wide to the left of the cage.
16:09: Carkner tees up a slapper from the left point wide on the near side.
15:18: Paul Martin goes in deep on the right wing, fends off Mark Streit an pushes a shot wide to the far side.
14:50: Crosby settles a puck in the neutral zone gains the offensive zone, suses Lubmir Visnovsky as a screen and snaps off a wrister which Nabokov fights off.
14:26: Bailey pounds a slapper from the center point on net. Fleury fights it off.
13:16: A thunderous "LET'S GO ISLANDERS" chant rattles the building.
12:59: Off a give and go with Michael Grabner, Keith Aucoin tries to jam in a forehand shot from the left side of the cage. Fleury holds it out. Grabner gives Orpik a shove into the side of the cage. Orpik doesn't care for that and gives the business back to Grabner. A scrum ensues. Officials break it up. Orpik is nabbed for roughing. Not a disciplined play for a veteran. Adams, Dupuis, Letang and Paul Martin take the ice.
10:57: Off some good puck movement, MacDonald gets a pass in the left circle and has a wide open look at hte net. As a defender slides down, he lifts a wrister over the cage. Orpik's penalty expires.
10:34: Nielsen sneaks behind Letang and has a chance in tight on his backhand but loses the puck as Fleury challenges with a poke check.
8:25: Tavares races into the offensive zone, gains the blue line and leaves a drop pass for Tavares at the right point. McDonald pounds a slapper wide to the far side.
7:50: As "Princess Crosby" chants begin, Crosby takes a deflected shot near his protective cage and is hunched over pain. The chants turn to cheers. Nothing but class here in Uniondale.
5:31: Grabner smacks Sutter into the right wing boards at the New York blue line.
5:55: Brian Strait's revenge. After some strong offensive zone possession, the former Penguins defenseman controls a puck at the left point and floats a wobbly wrister to the far side which sneaks through traffic and flutters by Fleury's glove hand on the far side. Visnovsky and Cizikas get assists. Islanders 1-0.
5:10: The Penguins respond right back. Welcome back James Neal. Iginla pushes the puck up the left wing, pulls a bit and deals to Malkin trailing the slot. Malkin takes the pass and deals to Niskane deep on the right wing. Neal grips and rips a wrister from a tough angle by the glove hand of an out-of-place Nabokov. What a shot! A healthy gathering of Penguins fans cheer. Malkin and Iginla get assists. Islanders 1, Penguins 1.
2:39: Matt Martin slams Matt Niskanen into the door leading to the Penguins room.
2:10: Crosby tries to battle for a puck along the left wing wall of the New York zone but is shoved to the ice by Hamonic. That is greeted with roaring approval.
1:06: Okposo has the making of a two-one with Nielsen. He tries to feed a pass from the right circle to Nielsen on the left side of the crease but Mark Eaton slides down to block it.
0:25: This period will end for the Penguins as it started. With a penalty. Cooke barrels through Nielsen near the New York net and is called for interference. Iginla appeared to get away with a trip against Okposo but that will not be penalized. Both coaches are screaming at the officials. Adams, Cooke, Paul Martin and Letang take the ice.
0:00: End of period. Islanders 1, Penguins 1.
-All things considered, the Penguins are lucky to take a tie to the intermission. They were undisciplined. They took some bad penalties and allowed the Islanders to dictate the pace. This was a rotten start.
-Neal looked pretty sharp. That goal was simply electric. He has 3:28 of ice time on six shifts.
-Other than his penalty, it would be a stretch to say Orpik was noticeable. And that might be a good thing. At the very least, he offers a more confidence presence than Deryk Engelland or Simon Despres. Orpik had 6:37 of ice time on 10 shifts.
-Fleury was sharp and he had to be. If not for a puck which snuck through a big screen, he has a shutout here.
-The Islanders have a 10-7 lead in shots.
-Bailey and Okposo each lead the game with two shots.
-The Islanders control faceoffs, 7-3 (70 percent).
-Crosby is 1 for 4 (25 percent).
-Okposo and Nielsen are each 2 for 2 (100 percent).
-MacDonald and Streit each lead the game with two blocked shots.
20:00: The Penguins will have 1:35 of power-play time to kill on fresh ice. Dupuis, Adams, Martin and Orpik take the ice.
18:58: The Islanders' mishandle a puck int he slot and Dupuis is able to chop it down ice.
18:25: As Nabokov pounds his stick on the ice emphatically, Cooke's minor expires.
17:13: More "Princess Crosby" chants.
16:50: Off a give and go passing play Neal snaps off a wrister from the right circle which sneaks through Nabokov's gear and deflects wide to the far side.
16:34: The Penguins get their first power play of the game Streit brings the shaft of his stick into Malkin's face in the right wing corner of the New York zone. That's two minutes for high sticking. Crosby, Paul Martin, Malkin, Kunitz and Iginla take the ice. On the ensuing faceoff, Malkin and Hamonic had to be given a warning for some pre-whistle feuding.
15:32: With a few Islanders defenders falling hte the slot, Kunitz, Crosby and Iginla each get denied in tight.
15:13: Crosby hammers a one-timer from the right cirlce wid eon the near side.
15:01: A one-timer by Martin from the center point is turned away by Nabokov.
14:45: Iginla booms a one-timer from the left circle wide on the near side.
14:34: Play returns to five-on-five.
14:26: Crosby taps a feed from the right circle to Malkin the left circle. Malkin jabs it o nt wide.
14:19: Paul Martin chops a one-timer from center point. Nabokov knocks it down and covers after a long stretch of puck possession in the New York zone by the Penguins. Islanders fans offer "NABBY!" chants.
14:12: Another penalty for the Penguins. This one is just stupid. Battling for positioning with Streit, Cooke bumps into Nabokov. Nabokov sells the penalty. Cooke gets two minutes for interference. Embellishment or not, Cooke has to know to avoid those situations.
13:41: Orpik tries to play a puck away from his own crease but ends up chips it right to Streit. As Orpik falls, the puck slides to Streit at the left point. Streit pretty much one-times it by Fleury. What an ugly goal all around. Tavares and Hamonic get assists. Islanders 2, Penguins 1.
12:43: And the Penguins get it right back again. Malkin chucks up the right wing on a two-one-on with Neal against Hamonic. Hamonic holds the slot and allows the shot to Malkin. Malkin takes it and snaps off a wrister by the blocker of Nabokov on the far side. What a shot! Iginla and Fleury get assists. That's Fleury's second assist this series. Fleury had an assist earlier this series taken away on a scoring change. Islanders 2, Penguins 2.
9:55: Crosby swats a loose puck from the left wing on net. Nabokov fights it off.
8:57: The maligned No. 3 center for the Penguins gives his team the lead. Racing for a dump in against Carkner, Cooke levels him into the end boards with a shoulder on shoulder check. He's able to deal the puck to Morrow on the right half wall. Morrow deals to Sutter in the left circle. Sutter is able to snap off a wrister by Nabkov's glove hand on the far side. That's big-time retribution for Sutter who has been demoted for parts of two games. What a tremendous play by Cooke (5-foot-11, 205 pounds) to knock over the much larger Carkner (6-foot-4, 227 pounds) and gain possession of the puck. Morrow and Cooke get assists. Penguins 3-2.
7:00: Murray pounds a slapper from the left point which MacDonald blocks.
6:54: On a delayed penalty, Makin lifts a wrister from the left circle. Nabokov eats it up. MacDonald, who is smarting from that shot by Murray is given two minutes for holding Adams while he took that shot. MacDonald is injured and heads to the dressing room. Keith Aucoin will serve his minor. Malkin, Crosby, Iginla, Kunitz and Letang take the ice.
4:52: As the MacDonald minor expires, Matt Niskanen fires a slapper from the right point on net through traffic. Nabokov hangs on to the puck as the world comes crashing down around him.
3:22: Off a pass by Bailey behind the net, David Ullstrom has a chance in the left cicle but Niskanen pokes the puck away with a stick on puck.
2:15: Off a two-on-two rush into the New York zone, Iginla rips a wrister from the right circle to the far side. Naboov is able to trap it against his chest and freeze play.
1:24: Another iffy goal. Off some good puck movement, Hamonic flings a wrister from the right point .Fleury maes the intials and tries to poke the rebound away. Opos barges in and and ics the puc to the end boards. As Orpik applies light pressure, Okposo plays itnot the legs of Fleury who allows it to deflect into the cage. Inexcusable. Fleury can't allow that. Hamonci and Streit get assists. Islanders 3, Penguins 3.
0:00: End of period. Fans send Fleury off with more "FLERRRR....EEEEEE....." chants. A small skirmish at center is is quickly broken up. Islanders 3, Penguins 3.
-Play leveled off a bit that period. It wasn't quite as one-sided. It was definitely back and forth however. Neither team could really managed to maintain any momentum.
-The goal by Okposo was simply inexcusable. It's embarrassing actually. Fleury can not allow that at all.
-Neal continues to look very comfortable for someone who appeared to suffer some sort of leg injury in Game 1. He's skating very well.
-Orpik continues to solid. That said, he could have defended Okposo better on that play.
-Matt Cooke had a very up and down period. He took a bad penalty then made up for it with a great forecheck which set up Sutter's goal.
-MacDonald has not recorded a shift since he was penalized and blocked that Murray shot. If he's lost, that's a killer for the Islanders.
-The Penguins have a 19-17 edge in shots.
-Okposo and Bailey each lead the game with three shots.
-Neal, Letang, Malkin and Crosby each led the Penguins with two shots.
-Hamonic lead the game with 18:34 of ice time.
-Paul Martin leads the Penguins with 16:31.
-The Penguins have a 19-15 lead in faceoffs (56 percent).
-Sutter is 7 for 8 (88 percent).
-Okposo is 4 for 4 (100 percent).
-Streit leads the game with four blocked shots.
-Niskanen leads the game with two blocked shots.
19:55: More "Flerrrr....Eeeee...." chants.
19:19: The Penguins rgein the lead. wow. Crosby pushes the puck up the left wingand leaves a drop pass for unitz at the left point. Kunitz take the puck and snaps off a wrister which appers to glance off the left arm of Dupuis as he drives the cage. the puck deflects by Nabokov and hits twine. A nice center drive. Kunitz and Crosby get assists. Penguins 4-3.
18:23: A wrister by Ignla is off the mark.
18:07: Dump. Just dumb. Malkin circles around the offensive zone with the puck and is kncoked over on a pedestrian check by Colin McDonald. McDonald picks up the puck and tries to skate it out of hte zone but Malkin reaches out with one hand and grabs him. McDonald falls to the ice. Play is halted. Malkin is called for holding while McDonald is called for embellishment. What a selfish penalty by Malkin. That "A" on his chest stands for something right?
17:36: Okposo rips a wrister from the lslot which Jokinen slides down to block.
15:30: This game is out of control. Cizikas controls the puck down low below the goal line. And deals it to the slot. It hits off Iginla's stick and deflects to Streit at the left point. Streit drives a slapper which appears to be going wide to the far side but it strikes off the skate of Murray and deflects by the left leg of Fleury. Nothing Fleury could do on that one. Cizikas and Boyes get assists. Islanders 4, Penguins 4.
13:15: Some awful news for the Islanders:
Andrew MacDonald (upper body) will not return tonight, #Isles say.— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) May 8, 2013
12:44: HUGE save! Off a three-on-two rush into the offensive zone, Fleury denies Moulson on a point-blank backhander in the crease. Wow!
11:10: Malkin dances in off the left wing and dleas a pass to Dupuis in the right circle. Dupuis whips it on net. Nabokov fights it off. Malkin has a chance at the rbound but cant' get a clean shot off.
9:49: A turnover kills the puck. Malkin makes a poor play in his own zone which leads to a turnover. Boyes takes the puck and moves in off the left wing. He moves a puck to the slot for Tavares. Tavares snaps off a wrister which Fleury kicks out. As Malkin falls onto Fleury, Tavares is able to tuck the puck by his left skate. What an awful play by Malkin. Horrendous. Boyes gets the only assist. Malkin could make a case for two. Islanders 5-4.
8:40: Cooke, Morrow and Matt Martin a separated at the benches by officials and Morrow and Cooke try to bulldoze Martin into their bench.
5:50: Off another turnover by Letang in the defensive zone, The Islanders have three shots blocked in tight.
5:01: Grabner chips a puck in onff the left wing which Fleury collects. Cizikas skates towards the cage and is knocked down by Niskanen who directs him into the net.
4:13: Okposo pushes a puck up the left wing and is tripped up by Oprik. No call.
3:09: Cizikas and Martin play a puck into the left wing corner and pin it against the boards for a few seconds to chew up clock.
2:19: After an icing, the Islanders call timeout to get a breather.
1:33: Malkin has cance on the left wing but loses the puck without any pressure.
1:16: Game. Set. Match. Ciizkas puches the puck up the left wing one-on-one with Matt Nisanen and pushes a backhander towards the cage. Fleury is hugging the near post and tries a poke check. The puck sneaks under the stick of Fleury and into the cage. Another brutal goal for him to allow. Grabner and McDonald get assists. Islanders 6, Penguins 4.
0:25: "WE WANT THE CUP!" chants.
0:00: Matt Martin chips the puck in deep on the left wing. A few Penguins cash inot him. The clocks expires. A line brawl breaks out. End of game. Islanders 6, Penguins 4.
-At this morning's media availability, Islanders coach Jack Capuano said, "If we make one mistake, it's in the back of our net. If they make three or four mistakes, we might not score." Looking at this game, he could not have been more wrong. The Islanders feasted on the Penguins' mistakes tonight.
-The Penguins experienced a team-wide meltdown tonight. You can't blame this on any one player. You can pick and choose players who were bigger culprits, but pinning this on one player is idiotic.
-First, Marc-Andre Fleury. He's always going to be the biggest target due to the nature of his position. He did not play well at all. The goal he allowed to Kyle Okposo was a disgrace.
-But you know what else was a disgrace? The fact he had to try and stop a goal after a turnover by Evgeni Malkin in the defensive zone which was followed up by Malkin falling on him. We can't recall Evgeni Malkin playing a worse game in his career. He may still be dealing with a shoulder injury, but that doesn't excuse him from being as careless with the puck as he was tonight. And the penalty he took against Colin McDonald was beyond selfish. The "A" on his chest never looked more out of place.
-Matt Cooke was a penalty machine tonight. He just took stupid, needless penalties. Yes, he had the wonderful play to set up Brent Sutter's goal but that was nullified in a lot of ways by the two interference penalties he took.
-You want another telling quote? Evgeni Malkin was asked if he's surprised how wide open this series has been, especially since playoff hockey is traditionally tight and defensive. With a quizzicle look, he retorted, "You remember last year their (Penguins) series?"
-The Islanders have a limite amount of weapons in their arsenal in comparison to the Penguins. One of their weapons is speed. They have tons of it and they're taking full advtange of it. Instead of trying to slow them down or even bog the game down, the Penguins are engaging them in a full-out run and gun affair and there doesn't seem to be anything which suggests they want to slow down after this game.
-We've defended Fleury quite a bit over the years. And we still don't think he can be blamed soley for this mess tonight. But at the same time, after this game, we can't really construct a reasonable arguement why you can't turn to Tomas Vokoun. Vokoun was brought in partially to push Fleury. This isn't Brent Johnson or Dany Sabourin. This is a former all-star goaltender.
-The Islanders did a much better job tonight in terms of discipline. They only allowed the Penguins to have two power plays and killed them both. Additonally, they went 1 for 4 on their power plays. They won the special teams battle for once.
-If there's one bit of good news for the Penguins, and we feel bad for suggesting anything like this as "good," its that Islanders defenseman Andrew MacDonald suffered a broken hand and is expected to miss the rest of the postseason according to Arthur Staple of Newsday. He's a major part of New York's defense.
-The Islanders got a lot of lucky bounces. Don't discount that. Mark Streit got a deflection off the skate of Douglas Murray. And the Okposo goal, while inexcusable on Fleury's part, was a little fluky.
-Casey Cizikas doesn't get a lot of playing time, but he makes the most of it. He has four points in this series.
-In a game this wide open, how does Jussi Jokinen only get 7:29 of ice time?
-James Neal looked good for the most part. His skating was sharp. He had 16:19 of ice time on 24 shifts.
-Brooks Orpik looked a little sluggish in his return. He had 18:44 of ice time on 25 shifts.
-The Penguins led in shots, 31-24.
-Pascal Dupuis led the game with four shots.
-Josh Bailey, Kyle Okposo and John Tavares each led the game with three shots.
-Travis Hamonic led the game with 28:42 of ice time.
-Kris Letang led the Penguins with 26:17.
-The Islanders had a 29-25 lead in faceoffs (54 percent).
-Frans Nielsen was 9 for 14 (64 percent).
-Jokinen ws 6 for 6 (100 percent).
-Streit led the game with five blocked shots.
-Letang led the Penguins with three.