The Penguins click on all phases in a dominant win over the Islanders

Sidney Crosby #87 and Tristan Jarry #35 of the Pittsburgh Penguins. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)
Sidney Crosby #87 and Tristan Jarry #35 of the Pittsburgh Penguins. (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images) /

The Pittsburgh Penguins’ most complete game of the season shows just what the team is capable of in a 4-1 win over the New York Islanders Thursday night

Tristan Jarry’s finest showing off the season, 31 saves on 32 shots, and goals from three different lines powered the Penguins to a strong team win over the Islanders to keep pace in the competitive East division.

Jarry was the Penguins’ best player on the ice Thursday, his only goal allowed coming off a blown coverage from Kris Letang on a penalty kill late in the third period. With a solid game against the Washington Capitals, despite a loss, on Tuesday, perhaps Jarry is finally turning the corner.

It helped the Penguins played stronger team defense against the Islanders than they have most of the season, but when Jarry was called upon to make a timely save, he showed up. A return to his All-Star level from last season could be further helped by the return of Brian Dumoulin in the days to come.

A top six switch-up also paid dividends for the Penguins, as the Pens swapped Kasperi Kapanen and Bryan Rust in the lineup, matching Kapanen with Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel and Rust with Evgeni Malkin and Jason Zucker.

The Crosby line contributed a goal, the Malkin line contributed two and the third line got involved in the scoring with a goal, too. It was an all-around strong team performance for one of the first times this season.

It was nice to see Zucker finally get into the action, playing one of his strongest games of the season. Zucker will need to pick up his play, as he’s looked out of place on the second line at points this season.

Unfortunately, the power play continued to just look disconnected. The Penguins went 0/4 on the power play, including a 5-on-3 for over a minute. The Pens just can’t figure out their PP woes, despite the amount of work in practice that goes into it.

There is far too much talent on the ice for it to be this bad, but maybe that’s the problem?

First Period – 1-0, Pens

It didn’t take too long for the Penguins to capitalize on the lineup switch.

Guentzel lost a puck from behind the Islanders’ net, his centering pass stolen by Islanders forward Brock Nelson. Kapanen charged in from the slot, knocked Nelson off the puck, spun around and put a shot on net. It appeared that Kapanen was a one man show when the puck snuck past Isles goaltender Semyon Varlamov, but on the replay, it was shown that Crosby got a stick on the puck in midair, deflecting it past Varlamov to open the scoring.

The first period was rather evenly played, with chances on both sides, but that Penguins first line was the difference-maker. Crosby’s skill appears to be a perfect fit with Kapanen’s speed and energy.

The Malkin line appeared a bit more energetic than in recent games with Rust slotted in on the second line wing, too.

The Islanders outshot the Penguins in the first period (14-11), but Tristan Jarry played one of his best periods of the season thus far. The Pens’ top three lines created some chances, and the defense limited the Isles to a lot of shots from the point.

Then Crosby took a hooking penalty at the end of the first period. Give and take, I guess.

Second Period – 2-0, Pens

Mike Matheson has been surprisingly solid since returning to the lineup earlier this month. His defensive game is still streaky, but he’s been a solid offensive contributor for the Penguins this season.

Matheson received a pass from Zach Aston-Reese near the blue line late in the second period, fired a puck off the boards behind the net, retrieved that pass and fired a shot off Varlamov. The rebound bounced out directly to Teddy Blueger, who buried an easy goal in the back of the net to make it a 2-0 game. Incredible play by Matheson to setup Blueger.

He’s certainly a streaky player, but maybe Matheson will be a solid puck-moving defenseman this season after all. It’s clear that Blueger has developed into a solid third line center this season, having scored nine points in 15 games this season while being a constant in the penalty kill.

The Blueger goal was much, much needed after the Penguins’ continued power play struggles in the second period. Islanders skaters Anders Lee and Scott Mayfield took back-to-back penalties midway through the second period, and the Pens were awarded 1:13 of 5-on-3 time.

The Penguins created some excellent looks on the power play, with Crosby hitting the side of the post on an open net again and Rust whiffing on a similar play from the other side of the ice. The 5-on-3 expired and the 5-on-4 passed, too, without a goal.

Not much has changed with the Penguins’ power play this season, as they still look for the pretty plays instead of just putting pucks on net. Once the Pens started shooting, they started creating chances. Don’t know if that’ll ever change with these players though.

Third Period – 4-1, Pens

Matheson continued to excel in the third period, showing off his superior skating and puck-moving abilities, and directly attributed to another Penguins goal. Although he didn’t pick up a point on this one.

He forced a turnover in the Pens’ defensive zone and started the rush through the neutral zone. Malkin won a puck battle along the wall once inside the zone and passed back to Rust behind the net, who fed a cutting Zucker in front of the net. Zucker wristed it past Varlamov to make it a 3-0 game halfway through the period.

It was a bit of atonement for Malkin, whose turnover on an early power play chance in the period led to a two-on-one which was clanked off the crossbar by the Islanders. No harm, no foul, I guess, but a bad play by Geno nonetheless.

Down 3-0 late in the period, the Islanders drew a power play, and Islanders forward Josh Bailey fired a snap pass toward the net, where Nelson had created space from Letang and redirected the puck into a gaping net to make it 3-1. Tough way to end Jarry’s perfect night.

The Islanders pulled Varlamov not long after, and with a penalty called on a high stick that caught Matheson, Malkin lofted a puck over the Islanders’ defense that found Zucker streaking up the ice. Zucker skated in on an empty net and graciously passed across the crease to Rust, who buried the clinching empty netter for a 4-1 win.

The Malkin line combined for six points and the Matheson-John Marino was on the ice for all four Penguins’ goals.

The Penguins and Islanders will meet again on Saturday in what will be Crosby’s 1,000th NHL game. The puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. on AT&T SportsNet.

Read up on Bryan Rust's emergence as a key member of the Penguins' forward corps over the years!. dark. Next

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