The Penguins are the Penguins...the cream of the crop, the top of the league, but they played a tough game against the Maple Leafs last night as well, so the teams were on equal footing that way. The lack of skating (which Doug Weight also noted) and turnovers were the hallmarks of the game as the Isles gave up a plethora of odd man rushes, barely engaged physically and generally, just looked bad and out of sync.
The period started off well with the Isles getting a little better of the play early on. Evgeni Nabokov took Sidney Crosby off the ice with matching roughing penalties when the former crashed his crease and they exchanged some gloved punches. Not that it had much effect, but any time you can take Crosby off is a good time. Unfortunately, it seemed to wake a
sleeping partly drowsy giant.
A couple of minutes later, Nabokov gave up an inexplicable goal to Pascal Dupuis from a nearly impossible angle. Nabokov appeared to be cheating off the post anticipating pass and the puck ricocheted off the post, then the goaltender and in.
From that point, the Isles started to look like the slower, more tired team and the Penguins began getting the better of the play.
Then, some ugly calls happened.
Brad Boyes took a tripping call and within 40 seconds, Travis Hamonic was called for roughing after he dodged most of a James Neal hit then pushed him nearly to death. Chris Kunitz put home a Neal cross-crease pass after Boyes' penalty expired, but still during Hamonic's penalty.
About three minutes later, the Islanders took a "delay of game" penalty on this play where Andrew MacDonald ninja-slapped the puck out of play accidentally. Of note, the officials initially tried to give that penalty to Travis Hamonic...so they must have seen it very clearly.
Kunitz scored again on the ensuing power play on some tic-tac-toe passing from Crosby and Neal and the Pens took a 3-0 into the intermission and were dominated and outshot 12-4.
The Isles started to play their way back back into it getting a goal from Brad Boyes off a broken play. Matt Moulson lofted a pass out between the center line and blue line that Casey Cizikas tipped into Simon Despres' chest which somehow felled Despres. Boyes and Cizikas walked in 2 on 1 and Boyes fired a wrister to the top right side of Tomas Vokoun.
The momentum didn't last too long though. Five minutes later, the Pens scored twice in a span of 16 seconds on some atrocious defensive play.
Somehow on the first goal (for a Kunitz hat trick), Matt Moulson was left defending a 3 on 1. Moulson had to try to block Crosby from getting to the net, but he left a drop pass for Kris Letang who fired a shot that created a rebound that Kunitz banged home.
After a stoppage to clean up a ton of promotional items from Kunitz hat trick, somehow, James Neal got behind Andrew MacDonald and Travis Hamonic for a breakaway goal and the rout was on.
And Nabokov was still inexplicably in the net. Not that any of the last four goals was really his fault, but the old "spark the team", "change momentum", or "give the vet a break" reasons would have sufficed. One wonders what Kevin Poulin has to do to get in a game, why he's up here if he isn't going to play, and how sitting for this long between starts affects his development.
Somehow the Isles outshot the Pens 6-5 in the period.
And Poulin was inserted too little too late for the third period, but he got a little taste of the Nabokov treatment anyway. After a faceoff in the Isles zone, Andrew MacDonald had difficulty clearing and the Penguins ended up with a 2 on none with Crosby and Pascal Dupuis that Dupuis finished for his second of the night.
From there, the Isles drew a couple of power plays that couldn't get going. They ended up outshooting the Pens 14-11 in the period, but again, shots were of the non-threatening variety. The Penguins spent the remainder of the game trying to get Dupuis a hat trick also, so at least we don't have to talk about a double hat trick.
- Arthur Staple of Newsday noted that in his career, in 39 games against the Isles, Sidney Crosby is 20-53-73. Let that sink in and consider that nobody scores at that rate since basically the '93-'94 expansion era.
- The Isles had been undefeated at the Consol Energy Center (2-0-0) since the unveiling of the Rich Pilon statue.
- Mark Eaton played 16:04 for the Pens tonight and was a +4 on the evening (led team). Pittsburgh is also 4-0 when Eaton plays.
- When asked why he waited so long to pull Nabokov, Jack Capuano told Peter Ruttgaizer he didn't want to do it with five or six minutes left in the period. Personally, I would have done it before 5-1. (Probably after the first period...or started Poulin.)
- Nabokov only was really poor on the first goal.
- There were bad calls, yes, but Travis Hamonic has to be smarter on that play. The Amac delay of game was awful though and on the night, the power plays were even.
- The Isles were killed in the faceoff dot winning only 19 out of 58.