The Islanders overwhelm the Penguins in a shutout victory

Casey DeSmith #1 of the Pittsburgh Penguins. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)
Casey DeSmith #1 of the Pittsburgh Penguins. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images) /

The Pittsburgh Penguins dropped the second half of a back-to-back, 2-0, to the New York Islanders on the back of a rather uninspired team performance

The Islanders scored a power play goal in the first and second periods, the Penguins didn’t show up for two periods, and it was rather easy for the Isles to pick up the second half of the Pens/Isles back-to-back this weekend.

The shot deficit was only 30-20 in favor of the Islanders, but with just two shots in the first and only a handful midway through the second, the Penguins were barely able to challenge the Isles’ rookie netminder who hadn’t played in nearly two weeks.

It was a low-energy, low-effort performance from the Penguins, who could string together consistent offensive pressure until the third period. With little action through the first 30 minutes of game time, many fans surely tuned out and planned to check in later.

Although it didn’t get much better later.

While Casey DeSmith played well in his first start since Feb. 11, the team around him offered very little help. Sidney Crosby was unusually animated in the later stages of the game yet his play drove the team; Evgeni Malkin looked disengaged, disinterested and turned the puck over too often.

Malkin has been incredibly inconsistent this season, but his play has turned down sharply over the past few games. I don’t envy Mike Sullivan’s dilemma of how to handle Geno going forward this season.

Sullivan was understandably frustrated after the game and Jesse Marshall of The Athletic provided a peek via Twitter into the post-game press conference. Sullivan’s answers were abrupt and his body language was worse.

The Penguins have played some poor games this season, but this may have been the worst.

First Period – 1-0, Islanders

The Penguins have been averse to shooting at points this season, but the first period against the Islanders was a breaking point. The Isles peppered Casey DeSmith with shots all period, dominating attack time while the Pens registered two shots on net—first coming with 4:09 left in the period.

Not exactly the recipe for success.

The Islanders were awarded the only power of the period, off a hook from Marcus Pettersson. The Pens could not pressure the Isles’ power play unit, and Isles forward Josh Bailey fed a pass to teammate Oliver Wahlstrom, who absolutely ripped a one-timer over DeSmith’s glove to open the scoring.

Wahlstrom, a 20-year-old rookie, has looked extremely good for the Isles in these past two games, with three points through five periods of play. His shot is wicked, shades of Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin out there…

The Penguins and Islanders didn’t really create many chances through the early part of the period, but as the game wore on, the Isles started to wear down the Pens. With just two shots, the Pens didn’t do much to fight back either.

Second Period – 2-0, Islanders

Crosby fired a puck on net in the first 30 seconds of the period to nearly match the first period totals, but it was downhill from there.

The Penguins did not learn anything from a poor first period. Despite DeSmith standing on his head for most of the first and second periods, stopping 23 of 25 shots, the Pens still did not show up.

Even with the Penguins gaining some momentum from killing off an early Islanders’ power play, the Isles continued to dominate the pace of play, overwhelming the Pens in shots and scoring opportunities. The Pens put eight shots on net in the period, but half of those came in the waning seconds of the period.

Officiating hasn’t helped the Pens, and while officiating is definitely not to blame for the loss, a cross-check that sent Jake Gunetzel’s head into the boards was missed and a missed hook on Guentzel was missed leading to a hooking call on Guentzel himself. Which, of course, led to the Isles’ second goal of the game.

On the power play, the Islanders’ PP unit (which is scoring goals at over a 40% clip in February) basically passed around the Penguins’ penalty kill at will, and Isles forward Jean Gabriel Pageau slotted a puck past Bryan Rust’s outstretched stick through DeSmith’s five-hole to double the lead.

When the Penguins finally picked up a power play, a cross-check from Islanders forward Anthony Beauvillier on Crosby, the Pens couldn’t capitalize. Malkin couldn’t even keep the puck in the zone, turning the puck over to Isles forward Casey Cizikas, who was stoned by DeSmith on a breakaway chance.

Shockingly, the Penguins’ power play, which has made no changes this season, still stinks.

Third Period – 2-0, Islanders

The Penguins and Islanders traded power plays in the first half of the third period, and while the Pens’ power play created some chances, they couldn’t cash in. The Isles picked up a questionable power play from a Jared McCann goaltender interference call where he was pushed into Isles goaltender Ilya Sorokin but couldn’t score either.

Crosby and Beauvillier carried their beef from the second period over into the third, with Sid and Beauvillier getting into a shoving match late in the period, shortly before Rust knocked Beauvillier down in the slot after the puck took an unfortunate bounce away from where they were playing to pick up another Penguins’ penalty.

The Penguins were able to kill off the penalty, but with just a few ticks over two minutes remaining, the Pens weren’t able to do enough to make their 11th comeback of the season.

It’s a game the Penguins just need to shake off, and quickly as the Philadelphia Flyers come to town for a three-game series next. An easier schedule will eventually come, but the Pens need to pick up points to stay afloat in the competitive East division.

Next. Read up on how Tristan Jarry has been able to bounce back recently. dark

The Penguins will be back in action against the Flyers on Tuesday for the first time since their Jan. 15 contest. Puck drop is scheduled for 7:00 p.m., and the game will be broadcast nationally on NBCSN and locally on AT&T SportsNet.