We are down to the wire with only two games left in the regular season. The Pittsburgh Penguins will got into their last regular season home game sitting in the second wild card position, only one point separating them from the Ottawa Senators (first wild card) and the Boston Bruins (ninth seed). Tonight, the Penguins face off against the New York Islanders who are currently third in the Metropolitan Division (two ahead of the Penguins). The magic number for them is two! With a win tonight, in regulation, the Penguins can clinch a playoff berth and will be tied with the Islanders for third in the division (also both have 39 regulation plus overtime wins). If the Penguins win in overtime or a shootout, the Islanders will only be a point ahead of them. Now...for losing that would put the Penguins in a valuable position. Let's not think of that just yet...even with a loss the Penguins wouldn't be out, but the best they could finish is the top wild card spot.
In their last 21 games against the Islanders here in Pittsburgh, the Penguins are 17-3-1. Getting on the board early and often will be key for tonight's game, where there is a lot of fire power on both sides. Sidney Crosby is tied for the points lead (83 points) with John Tavares (Islanders), along with Jamie Benn. Tavares is riding a four game point streak in which he has two goals, seven assists and nine points. As for Crosby, he has four goals, five assists and nine points in his last seven games. Another big guy for the Penguins, Evgeni Malkin. Malkin has two goals, four assists (team leader) and six points (team leader) this season against the Islanders. Look for the two-headed monster to get on the board early! Also, Patric Hornqvist has been a key winger on Crosby's line. He is a perfect guy for getting to the blue paint and making the opposition's goalie feel uncomfortable. Hornqvist has six points (three goals and three assists) in three games versus the Islanders this year. For the third time in his career, Hornqvist has achieved 25 goals and 50 points. I hope he can build on that tonight.
Offense isn't everything, defense will be key. Since Kris Letang's injury, every blueliner has been getting their minutes bumped up. One guy who is no stranger to that is Paul Martin. Martin lead the team with 29:33 minutes (time on ice) last Tuesday against the Senators. In his last four of five games, he has played 24-plus minutes. Ian Cole has been stepping up and really bringing it. He has been a great addition to the Penguins' blueline. Cole has six assists since March 29th, which ties time for the NHL lead among defensemen. Marc-Andre Fleury will have to solid and sharp in the net. He is 13-3-3 in career home games against the Islanders.
A little side note, Rob Scuderi and Nick Spaling look to play in their 81st game of the season. They are the only Penguins players to appear in every game this year. Wish there was more names on that list.
As for the team awards:
Fleury - Team MVP and Players' Player Award
Letang - Masterton Nominee and Defensive Player of the Year
Paul Martin - The Edward J. BeBartolo Community Service Award
Derrick Pouliot - Michel Briere Memorial Tropy and Rookie of the Year
The Penguins have been able to come out and get on the board early, in the last few games. However, after that they don't stay consistent. Consistency will be key and make this a memorable game...in a good way! Lets Go Pens!
The Pens lineup is as follows:
Winnik, Crosby, Hornqvist
Kunitz, Malkin, Perron
Bennett, Sutter, Downie
Spaling, Lapierre, Comeau/Adams
Fleury in the net!
Play By Play
Pens 1 Halak 3
Pens 1 Halak 3
0:00- That is it. The Islanders take the 3-1 win over the Pens. It will all come down to Buffalo.
1:35- Empty net for the Pens.
3:40- Grabner Scores. Grabner takes the puck from his own zone and out-skates both Pens defense. He puts it in. 3-1 Islanders
3:55- Time to becoming the enemy of the Pens.
6:27- The Islanders are collapsing on their net and every shot has to go through a lot of bodies. Lots of loose pucks and battles in front.
9:16- The Pens first line works hard down low in the Islanders zone.
9:52- Sutter gets the puck to the Downie in front. Halak makes the pad save. Downie is behaving well in front as Okposo messes with him.
11:46- The Pens are having trouble getting out of their own zone and getting some offensive zone pressure.
13:40- The Islanders have been coming on strong, but Fleury has been holding down the fort.
17:14- Tavares Scores. Strait fires from the point and Fleury makes the pad save. Everyone is busy looking at the puck and Tavares is left alone. He buries it. 2-1 Islanders.
17:32- Fleury with a huge glove save!
17:53- Two great chances for the Pens, but Halak says no.
20:00- The third period is underway! The Pens have to keep attacking and not let up! This is no time to let up! Lets Go Pens!
0:00- Second period ends and this game is tied 1-1.
0:05- SCUDERI SCORES! Crosby outworks and out-skates Tyler Kennedy behind the net! Martin's shot goes wide, Crosby puts it out front and Scuderi slaps one home! Halak can't stop it! 1-1 tie game!
1:02- The good thing for the Pens is their pressure. They haven't stopped.
3:21- The penalty is killed off.
5:21- Downie is called for clipping. I didn't see anything wrong with the hip check. Not a good call.
5:29- Downie goes across the ice to Kunitz, who fans on the shot.
8:13- Lovejoy blasts one from the point, but it's blocked up front.
9:16- Winnik blocks a hard shot and looks to be in some pain. Stays on for the rest of his shift though, then skates off to the bench.
12:14- That is it for the Pens power-play.
13:12- Fleury makes a huge glove save on Hickey as the Islanders get a 2 on 1 chance!
14:14- Power-play for the Pens as Boulton sits for interference. Now is the time to take advantage of a power-play chance!
14:57- The Pens are still outshooting the Islanders, but haven't been able to put any behind Halak yet.
18:34- Crosby is robbed by the pad/glove of Halak! Crosby gives the goalie a death stare after. He will be coming back for more!
20:00- We are back for the second period! The Pens have to keep up the speed and bring the passion! Lets Go Pens!
0:00- First period ends and the Pens are down by one.
0:15- Kunitz gets away and is all alone. He gets the puck and fires from the side, Halak with the pad save.
3:47- The Pens are dominating right now, but not on the scoreboard, which really matters.
5:05- Shots are 15-3 in favor of the Pens.
7:26- The Pens are getting some offensive zone time and pressure. Islanders are just getting the puck out and doing nothing more...at least for now.
10:30- The Pens power-play comes to an end.
12:00- Cizikas Scores. The Islanders go the other way and Cizikas gets behind the Pens all alone. He snaps one past Cizikas. 1-0 Islanders.
12:08- The puck is loose in the blue paint and the Pens crash. Hornqvist whacks at the puck and it looks to cross the goal line. It's called a no goal and then it's reviewed. The call stands.
12:30- Hickey to the box for slashing and the Pens get a power-play chance. Now is the time to make good on the power-play!
13:38- Hornqvist fires one wide!
16:30- Clutterbuck's shot attempt is blocked, during a scrambling situation in front of the Pens' net.
17:49- Both teams come out with speed and some back and forth plays. You can feel the atmosphere of Consol through the TV.
20:00- The puck has dropped at Consol! Hopefully not for the last time...Come on Pens, get those two points! Lets Go Pens!