27 March 2012
With any shot at the playoffs pretty much shot, the New York Islanders are now playing with the role of spoiler and just making the best of what remains of this season. The Pittsburgh Penguins were the victims of this particular night, as the Islanders beat the Pens for the first time in Pittsburgh since December, 2007, and putting a dent in the Penguins’ hopes to obtain first place in the conference over the New York Rangers.
The Islanders would come out flying, and it wouldn’t take them long to get the lead as Dylan Reese would fire a puck off the boards, right onto the stick of Frans Nielsen who shot it right into a practically empty net. The Penguins would buzz throughout the rest of the period, with Evgeni Nabokov having to come up big a couple of times, but it would be the Islanders who would get the next goal. As the period was coming to a close, Frans Nielsen would spring Michael Grabner into the Pittsburgh zone, and Grabner would fire one right past Marc-Andre Fleury and give the Islanders a 2-0 lead into the second period.
The second period started as most would have guessed, the Penguins came out flying and shooting left right and center. A deflection by Tyler Kennedy would cut the lead 2-1, and the game would be tied not too late after that. It’s a commonly known rule that when a defenseman pinches, there needs to be a forward to stay behind to cover for that defenseman, but it seems like the Islanders’ top line forgot that particular rule. As Mark Streit went to pinch to create a 2-on-1, no one stayed back to cover for him leading to a 2-on-1 going the other way with Chris Kunitz and James Neal, which ended in Neal hammering a one timer past Nabokov for 36th of the year.
After surviving the early onslaught, however, the ice seemed to tilt back in the Islanders favor as Kyle Okposo would take advantage of a mistake by Brooks Orpik, and fire a wrister right past Fleury and give the Islanders back their lead. The Islanders weren’t done however, and during a power play, Josh Bailey would make a brilliant play to pass it to a wide open David Ullstrom in front of the net, who made no mistake and shot it home for a PPG. Josh Bailey would do it again less than three minutes later, making a great pass to spring Frans Nielsen on a breakaway, who would deke the puck around a lunging Fleury and easily shoot it into the now empty net.
The Penguins would get one back off yet another one timer by James Neal during a 4 on 3 power play with the goaltender pulled, but it was all too little too late as the Islanders came out with the 5-3 win.
The only negatives of the game came in the third period, when Evgeni Nabokov wasn’t able to return to finish the game, after seemingly aggravating yet again his injured groin. No official word was given other then it was a lower body injury, but looking at the incident leading to the injury, the groin would seem to be a pretty safe bet. David Ullstrom also didn’t play in the third period, suffering from reportedly an upper body injury, and the only thing fans can do is simply hope it isn’t a concussion. Head coach Jack Capuano stated that he doesn’t expect either player to be ready to play in the second part of this home and home series versus the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday night at the Nassau Coliseum.
The question now becomes who will back up Al Montoya, the likely starter, on Thursday night? With Nabokov being likely ruled out by Capuano, and Anders Nilsson still recovering from an injury suffered in Bridgeport, the only goaltender remaining is Kevin Poulin. However, calling Poulin up would put a very large dent in any hopes the Sound Tigers have of making the playoffs. One player to possibly keep an eye on is Rick DiPietro, who’s been practicing for over a week now. If he is close to being game ready, the Islanders shouldn’t hesitate to let him back up Montoya on Thursday night, so as to keep Poulin in Bridgeport and keep their playoff hopes alive. Whether it’s Poulin, DiPietro, or even Bridgeport’s backup, it will certainly be very interesting to see how the Islanders decide to deal with this latest goaltending issue.
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