Oftentimes this season, it’s been Tristan Jarry who has been left out to dry by his Penguins’ teammates. On Sunday afternoon, the most important game of the season yet, it was Jarry who left the Pens out to dry.
Starting with a Kyle Palmieri goal and ending with a Palmieri goal, Jarry was beaten four times by the New York Islanders. And each goal was one where Penguins’ fans were left shaking their head, wondering what Jarry was doing so deep in his crease, ducking under shots and allowing a bad angle game-winners up over his short-side shoulder.
The Penguins weren’t perfect, going 0-for-3 on the power play and committing some boneheaded turnovers over the course of the game, but an NHL goaltender saves three of those four goals. And then the Penguins wouldn’t have lost game one of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals 4-3.
Down 1-0 in the series now, after losing an easily winnable game at home, the naysayers are getting louder. However, the Penguins were the better team Sunday and, with NHL-level goaltending Tuesday, should be able to even the series up before heading to Long Island.
However, with Casey DeSmith not skating Sunday, the odds that he’ll be ready for game two aren’t great. It’ll likely be Tristan Jarry back in net Tuesday — for better or worse.
The Islanders’ first two goals came courtesy of shots from another zip code with Jarry’s line of sight unbroken. Two high shots up over Jarry’s glove. The third came with a bit of a screen, Brock Nelson using Kris Letang as a screen upon his release, but it was saveable and somehow made its way through his body.
The fourth — and game-winning goal — came from an awful angle, and while it was a well-aimed shot from Palmieri, if Jarry stands tall and seals the near post, it doesn’t go in.
Jarry simply wasn’t good enough for the Penguins Sunday, and if this is his best, the Pens are in trouble.
Looking on the positive side, Jarry’s epic collapse against the New Jersey Devils on April 20 was followed two days later by a 30 save, one-goal performance.
All the Penguins need is serviceable goaltending. Jarry is capable of excellent goaltending. Let’s pump the breaks a bit before calling this series already.
The fourth-ranked power play must be better
Who would have thought that the Penguins’ power play and not penalty kill would have let them down before Sunday’s game?
Having just taken the lead on a wicked Sidney Crosby deflection, the Penguins were awarded a power play after Kasperi Kapanen was tripped by Adam Pelech. The Pens controlled almost all two minutes of power play time, after an initial clear, but were unable to beat Ilya Sorokin. This came on the heels of Sorokin robbing Crosby’s deflection on a first period power play chance where the Pens controlled the puck the entire power play.
A third and final power play late in the third was far worse than the prior two, with the Islanders generating the better scoring chance.
The Islanders have an excellent penalty killing squad, killing 83.7% of opposing power play chances this season, but the Penguins cannot let the power play dissolve into a non-factor. It must be the game-breaking force used to vanquish a strong defensive team. Missed chance often come back to bite.
The power play has got to be one of the Penguins’ strengths, and it was far from it Sunday.
Third period collapse dooms the Penguins in the end
The Penguins were very good in the first period, very good in most of the second period and awful in the third period.
Holding a 2-1 lead over the Islanders entering the final frame, the Penguins had played a good game aside from a poor Jarry goal and a poor power play showing. The Isles came out in the third period and jumped all over the Pens.
The Penguins entered the final frame with a 26-21 shot advantage and exited with a 34-32 deficit. Aside from Kapanen’s snipe with under four minutes remaining in the game, the Pens didn’t really challenge Sorokin too much either.
Holding and finishing games have been a problem at times for the Penguins this season, and they sat back in the third against the Islanders. The Pens just don’t hold the pedal to the metal, and if not for Kap’s timely goal, the game would have ended 17 minutes sooner — without much of a push back.
After 18 first period shots, the Penguins mustered eight in the second, six in the third and 10 in the overtime period.
Second line strangely non-existent for most of the game
Yes, Kapanen scored a super clutch goal, but he was not noticeable for the majority of the game. Jeff Carter looked slow and old too often, his most notable play being a double-minor high-sticking call. Jared McCann looked like he did last playoff run, not at all like the guy who flew around the rink this season.
It wasn’t the best game for the trio, which wasn’t given much ice time in the regular season, as Kapanen is a new fit with Evgeni Malkin missing game one. Yet for all the talent between the three of them, they weren’t particularly effective either.
Carter fired off four shots, tied for second most Sunday, but Kapanen mustered just two and McCann only one. Just one shot for McCann especially, who played a team-high 4:25 on the power play, is odd.
A team-leading seven power play goals for McCann came largely from his penchant of actually shooting the puck — something the Pens sometimes struggle to do.
With how well the McCann-Carter pairing looked entering the playoffs this season, I wouldn’t look too much into it. It was just an off day for the duo, and unfortunately, it came on a day where the Penguins could have used one more goal.
It wasn’t all bad for the Penguins Sunday though. The Crosby line was pretty solid, Freddy Gaudreau was a stud — Jason Zucker could have been better on his line — and the fourth line was very, very solid.
Letang was very good offensively and defensively, and while the Pens’ defense wasn’t perfect — Brian Dumoulin and Mike Matheson playing uncharacteristically poor games — the defensive corps should rebound.
It’s up to Jarry now to determine whether the Penguins will continue to lose — 10 of the last 11 postseason games — or actually fight back and prove they’re a contender in the east.
Game two is set for Tuesday night in Pittsburgh.
P.S. watching Marc-Andre Fleury absolutely stone the Minnesota Wild is just the icing on the cake.