It was a game of constant momentum changes. But ultimately what won the game for the Pittsburgh Penguins is the ability to adjust on the fly. To do what was necessary. After the Islanders rallied to tie the game at 4, they met the moment that may have saved the series.
A flip pass flew through mid air to an in stride McDonald but Murray deflected the pass and Letang knocked it away into the crowd. The duel deflections kept a breakaway opportunity from possibly leading to a winning goal and a 1-2 deficit. The Penguins followed by tightening their defense in the overtime and smothering Kyle Okposo throughout the last two minutes of the third and the overtime.
Finally Chris Kunitz received a pass from Sidney Crosby in the slot and popped it into the upper right hand corner of the net past Nabokov to win the game 5-4 and move the Penguins to s 2-1 lead in the series while regaining home ice advantage.
The game started extremely well for the Islanders as their big game two victory in Pittsburgh translated to a amazing first six minutes in Nassau Coliseum. The noon starting time seemed to favor the Isles as they came out skating fast and overall looked sharp in all areas keeping the pressure on the Penguins.
The Penguins looked sluggish and it showed on the scoreboard as Matt Moulsen popped in a puck after Okposo failed twice after he received a pass from Visnovsky from the to make it 1-0. Shortly thereafter Michael Grabner, hustling behind the Penguins goal, picked up a loose puck and fed it to the front where Casey Cizikas one timed it in to make it 2-0 Islanders.
But despite all the histronics, the Islanders failed on two power plays in the same period. ”You always talk about special teams being a big factor, and that was the difference.”, explained coach Capuano. The Penguins, stunned briefly, regained their championship poise. They also took advantage of Islander mistakes.
Through the power play they drove right back into the game. Streit got called for a hooking penalty. Almost immediately Harmonic got called for tripping which put the Isles down on a 5 on 3. The Penguins Kris LeTang and Sidney Crosby set up Jarome Iginla in front where he poked through to make it 2-1. Nineteen seconds later Evgeni Malkin cross ice pass split two Islander defenders and Kunitz left alone to even matters.
The Islanders never regained thier touch. Pascual Dupuis one timed it to the upper right hand area past Nabokov after being set up by Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz. The 3-2 lead reestablished Penguin control going into the second.” There is lot of emotion, unpredictability in the playoffs. Iginla explained “You have to learn to control that.”
In the second period Pittsburgh was setting the pace while the Islanders got their second wind in the second half of the period to force single shot opportunities, the best of which was John Tavares, who picked up an over extended pass to break straight to goal from the right but the net was unlodged as Tavares was knocked off the puck.
The period ended with a penalty as Cooke flinched as he went towards the Islander bench with Carkner’s stick hanging out. It caused a penalty on each as the game went to 4 on 4. This led to another goal as Malkin and Martin set up Douglas Murray who came up and one timed it over Nabakov to make it 4-2. The Islanders at this point looked tired.
The third period was the beginning of the renassance as Kyle Okposo caught a pass from Nielsen and broke away and scored between Fuery’ legs to cut it to 4-3 on a shorthanded goal. Luck played a role as Pittsburgh had moments where Nabakov ventured slightly out too far and almost got clipped twice as the Penguins hit the post twice.
John Tavares then evened the game as he moved down the right side and smacked a left handed wrist shot on a angle that beat Fuery into the exposed left side as it exploded into the net. At 4-4 both teams had their moments but overtime called.
The penalty that set up the winning goal was called on Streit who was called for dragging down Crosby, who had a dominant effect on the game with three assists as he facilitated the attack. More amazing is that fact that this was Crosby’s second game back after being out for a month with a broken jaw which happened against the Islanders.
Game four will be at Nassau Coliseum as the Isles try to even up matters or Pittsburgh will take a dominating 3-1 lead in the series.