by Tony on 10/04/09 at 01:13 AM ET
It’s safe to say the New York Islanders are happy with John Tavares’ NHL debut tonight against the Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins.
After all, a goal and an assist in your first NHL game is nothing to sneeze at.
But in the end, it was the Penguins who got the last laugh, scoring a late third period goal to tie the game, and eventually winning it on Sidney Crosby’s shootout goal for a final score of 4-3.
It was the second of season-opening back-to-back games for the Penguins, and it surely showed. The inspired Islanders, in their home opener with the celebrated debut of Tavares, were the quicker and more aggressive team just about all night long. The Penguins didn’t step up the intensity until the last half of the third period.
That said, it was the Penguins who drew first blood, as Crosby was the recipient of a nice banked pass off the wall from Ruslan Fedotenko and got behind the Isles’ defense to squirt a shot through the five hole of Isles’ goalie Dwayne Roloson at the 8:50 mark of the first peroid to give the Pens a 1-0 lead.
After that though, the Penguins stuck up for their teammate, and it cost them. Fedotenko shot a puck into the Isles zone and was blasted (cleanly, at least I think) by Pens’ nemesis Brendan Witt. Evgeni Malkin and Pascal Dupuis responded with shoves to Witt, which got Malkin two minutes for interference, but Jay McKee continued and dropped the gloves with Witt, and that cost him a 2/5/10 for instigating. That gave the Isles a 5-on-3 powerplay for two minutes, and they capitalized on it on a slapper from the right point by Mark Streit that deflected off the skate of Mark Eaton to tie the game up at 1-1 at 12:40.
The Islanders took advantage of another Penguins penalty to give them the lead in the second period. After an Eaton hooking penalty, Trent Hunter shot the puck towards the net but bounced loosely. After former Penguins Matt Moulson barely got his stick on the puck, Tavares gathered in the loose puck and lofted a backhander that eluded Marc-Andre Fleury into the net to give the Isles a 2-1 lead.
It stayed that way until the seven minute mark of the third period when Mark Eaton fired a harmless-looking wrister from the left point that may have deflected off a player and got past Roloson to tie the game at two goals apiece. However, only 17 seconds later, Hunter took a centering pass from Josh Bailey in the slot and fired it past Fleury to quickly give the Isles the lead again at 3-2 at 7:36.
As noted, the Penguins turned up the heat after that, but it hadn’t resulted in any more goals on the scoreboard. That changed with 3:49 to go in the game when a loose puck around the net resulted in bodies from both teams strewn on the ice. Fedotenko corralled the loose puck and fired the puck towards the goal, where it deflected off and Islanders defender and into the net to tie the game at 3-3.
After an overtime period that didn’t solve anything, the shootout saw Jeff Tambellini begin by hitting the crossbar. Kris Letang then put on a few of his numerous moves and decided on a forehand wrister that trickled through the five hole of Roloson and into the net. After Tavares then shot wide over Fleury’s glove side, Crosby then finished it off by repeating Letang’s attempt, scoring five hole to win the game for the Penguins:
- Tavares didn’t look out of place at all. I wouldn’t say it was anything spectacular, but he’ll only get better.
- For whatever reason, even though the Penguins have a great record vs. the Islanders in recent years, it’s never an easy game.
- Crosby got an assist on Eaton’s goal for his 400th NHL point. It’s the 6th fastest anyone in the NHL has ever gotten to 400 points.
- The Penguins were 0-for-3 on the powerplay, and quite frankly, didn’t look very good doing it. A lot of overpassing again, looking for the perfect shot.
- Crosby was 17-for-26 on faceoffs tonight. Penguins won 58% overall.
- Eaton had 7 blocked shots.
- Brooks Orpik and Sergei Gonchar both had 4 hits to lead the Pens. Gonchar played one of the more physical games I’ve seen him play in a while.
The Penguins now get a few days off before the troubled Phoenix Coyotes visit the Igloo on Wednesday night.
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Originally at Blogspot, then at MVN, TheConfluence has over 1500 articles reporting Penguins news as well as jumping on my soapbox to opine constructive Penguins criticism.
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