Good luck trying to make sense of that third period.
Thursday night, inside Nassau Coliseum, the Isles Faithful packed (while abiding by COVID-19 protocols) the arena and yet, in spite of that, the Islanders fell 5-4 to the Penguins and saw Pittsburgh go up 2-1 in this best-of-seven series. For the first 40-minutes this was a fairly standard hockey game and then all hell broke loose in the third period as the Isles scored three times and then watched Semyon Varlamov give it back each and every time.
Right off the bat, Game 3 felt and sounded different; for both sides. For the Penguins, they welcomed Evgeni Malkin back to the lineup for the first time this series; which lengthened Pittsburgh’s lineup. For the Islanders, the electricity of 6,250 fans had The Old Barn rocking early.
Unfortunately, those good feelings were swiftly silenced as Kris Letang sent a seemingly innocent wrist-shot towards Semyon Varlamov. The puck darted past Ryan Pulock, appeared to deflect off somebody or something and sped through Varlamov for the early 1-0 Penguins lead at 2:01 of the first period.
34-seconds later, Kyle Palmieri, who was experiencing a homecoming of sorts, was sent to the penalty box for a questionable goalie interference penalty; which had the potential to really hurt the Islanders. Thankfully, the Nassaumen’s penalty-kill remained perfect in the series by killing off the penalty to improve to 6-for-6 through two-plus games.
Moments after returning to 5-on-5 play, Mathew Barzal was sprung for an odd-man rush and even though Tristan Jarry made the save, the ensuing offensive pressure created by the Boys from Long Island got the crowd back into the game and forced Pittsburgh’s netminder to make three significant saves.
That flurry seemed to wake the Isles up somewhat as the team tried to throw everything, including the kitchen sink at Jarry, but the Penguins skaters blocked attempt after attempt in an effort to keep their neminder safe from harm.
Eventually, the Boys from Long Island started to put things together in the second-half of the period and even managed to draw a power-play with 20-seconds left in the period. Teddy Blueger was sent to the box for slashing Brock Nelson and when the horn sounded to end the first period, the Isles still had 1:40 of power-play time left to use at the start of the second period.
Sadly, even with 1:40 of power-play time to start the second period, the Isles were unable to generate even a single shot on goal as they remained down 1-0 and scoreless on the power-play this series.
Anthony Beauvillier attempted to put the team on his back moments later as he was sprung for a breakaway, but he shot the puck wide of the net. Then, a couple shifts later, the Penguins were called for too many men on the ice; which sent the Islanders back to the power-play.
On the ensuing power-play the Islanders again failed to generate anything to sink to 0-for-5 on the man-advantage in this series. That’s a lot of wasted opportunities in a series like this.
One thing the Isles failed power-play didn’t do was sap the team of momentum; which is a good thing. The Nassaumen were pushing the pace and coming on strong and almost four-minutes after the end of the power-play, Scott Mayfield ripped a wrist-shot from the top of the right face-off circle high over Jarry’s glove to tie the game at 1-1. (11:03 of the second period).
Unfortunately, continuing a trend from the first two games of the series, Pittsburgh came right back 2:31 later and retook the lead on Jeff Carter’s second goal of the series. Carter raced past Bailey down the right side and fired a blast that beat Varlamov to give the Penguins the 2-1 lead.
That goal snuffed out some of the life the Islanders had created and then, with 1:57 left in the second period, Jason Zucker took advantage of some sloppy play by the Islanders in their own zone. The puck ping-ponged around and Zucker, from the slot, fired the puck top-shelf past Varlamov for the 3-1 Penguins lead. While all the Isles on the ice bore at least some responsibility for Zucker’s goal, it was Nick Leddy, who’s had a rough series defensively, who lost his man and led to the goal being scored.
That goal quieted The Coliseum crowd as the second period came to a close with just 20-minutes remaining in regulation and the Islanders trailing the Penguins 3-1.
The Islanders came out with good energy to start the third period and after Penguins’ D-man John Marino lost his helmet and had to leave the ice, several Isles did their best to get shots towards Jarry. Jarry stopped Scott Mayfield but the puck was loose and found by Cal Clutterbuck. Clutterbuck cleaned things up and banged home the puck to bring the Islanders within 3-2 with 16:14 remaining in the third.
That’s when things got…interesting.
First, Jarry was forced to make a stick save on Adam Pelech. Then J.G. Pageau created all sorts of havoc by circling Pittsburgh’s zone and repeatedly firing the puck towards the net.
At some point, the puck was loose and Jarry was forced into his net — the whereabouts of the puck were unknown — and the pile up of bodies led to a fracas.
Players were being escorted off the ice towards the penalty boxes and on the way there more extracurriculars took place.
Pageau, Leddy, Kyle Palmieri, Scott Mayfield and Oliver Wahlstrom were all sent to the Isles penalty box while Letang, Sidney Crosby, Jake Guentzel, Brian Dumoulin and Bryan Rust were sent to Pittsburgh’s penalty box.
With all the penalties assigned, which, it didn’t even seem like the officials were able to keep track of all them, the Islanders were given a power-play. And 18-seconds into the power-play, Anthony Beauvillier scored to tie the game 3-3 and give the Isles their first power-play goal of the series.
Less than a minute later, Cal Clutterbuck fell on top of Jarry and was sent to the overcrowded penalty box for goalie interference. Of course, another scrum broke out behind Jarry’s net and things needed to be settled down by the Referees again.
On Pittsburgh’s power-play, Jeff Carter scored his second goal of the game to put the Penguins back in front 4-3. It was yet another example of Pittsburgh answering an Islanders goal quickly and in a season in which Semyon Varlamov has been so consistently excellent, it was jarring to see him be so leaky. (By the way, Carter’s goal ended the Isles penalty-kill perfection).
Moments later, the boxes finally emptied, although Guentzel was sent back in because the Refs hadn’t properly totaled his penalty time. Even the broadcasters seemed confused as to who should still be in and who should be out of the boxes.
Anyway, Pittsburgh rushed down the ice and a shot trickled through Varlamov, but Noah Dobson raced over to bat the puck out of danger at the last second and was then sent face-first into the crossbar by Jared McCann in what could only be viewed as a cheap shot.
Pageau again created pressure towards the end of the power-play and forced Jarry into a nifty save, which led to yet another pile up of bodies with all the players fighting for the puck in the crease; except for Jarry who had been expelled from the paint.
Once the power-play was over, without a goal being scored, more extracurriculars took place as Matt Martin found himself fending off two Penguins in Sidney Crosby and John Marino. Martin and Marino were each sent to their respective boxes for roughing to force a 4-on-4 situation.
Then, after all the penalties had been resolved, with 5:43 to go in the third period, Scott Mayfield sent a shot towards Jarry that deflected off the body of Cal Clutterbuck and into the net for Clutterbuck’s second goal of the game; tying the game at 4-4.
Talk about craziness!
Unfortunately, just 2:07 after Clutterbuck’s tying goal, Brandon Tanev batted the puck out of thin air, waist-high and past Varlamov to put the Penguins up 5-4 with 3:36 remaining in the third period.
The Isles tried desperately to tie the game and even had a glorious chance turned aside by Sidney Crosby when Pittsburgh’s Captain got a stick on Brock Nelson’s shot towards the Penguins’ net. Had Crosby not been there, that’s a goal as Jarry was way out of position. But those are the breaks.
That was sort of the last gasp for the Islanders as time expired and the scoreboard read Penguins 5, Islanders 4. Now the Islanders face a must-win situation in Game 4 as they are down 2-1 in the series. And there has to be some thought to making a goalie change from Varlamov back to Ilya Sorokin, who was excellent in Game 1.
Only time will tell.
The Isles went 1-for-5 on the power-play to go to 1-for-8 in the series and 1-for-2 on the penalty-kill to go to 6-for-7 in the series…Mathew Barzal collected his first two points of the series…Scott Mayfield had a three-point night.
Game 4 — Saturday May 22nd Islanders vs Penguins at Nassau Coliseum at 3:00pm(EST).
TV: NBC, TVAS, SN
Radio: 88.7FM WRHU