Last week was a turbulent one for the Pittsburgh Penguins. They started their week by not only beating, but shutting out the team with the most points in the NHL, the Montreal Canadiens and they did so on the road against Carey Price. There is probably no better way to start your hockey week than that. And then came the home and home series with the blazing Islanders who had only lost twice in November and were chasing the Penguins for the top spot in the Metropolitan Division. For the Penguins this was the opportunity to pull the curtain up on these Islanders and assert their dominance as the top dog of the Metro Division.
The Penguins seemed poised to do just that when Brandon Sutter scored just one minute and thirteen seconds into the first period. Then the barrage happened. The Islanders scored three goals in one minute and thirty seven seconds in the middle of the first. Pittsburgh showed their resolve though as they fought back to tie the game at four in the third and the game went to overtime and then a shootout. Now, if you have not seen it yet, do so now, as the game ended when Islanders RW Kyle Okposo pulled out one of the best shootout goals so far this year to seal the victory for New York.
Despite the loss, the Penguins fought hard and at least got a point out of the game so the damage remained at a minimum, for now, as they headed off for New York.
Here again Pittsburgh had the opportunity to solidify their top role in the Metro Division and once again the Penguins took the early lead again when Evgeni Malkin netted one near the end of the first. Both teams played tough through the next period and the Islanders were able to pot a loose puck tying the game at one with under two minutes left in the second. Then the barrage happened, again. Three goals in the third and not only did the Islanders win the home and home, but they also tied Pittsburgh for the lead in the division and they did so in pretty convincing fashion. The Islanders not only outshot Pittsburgh 70 to 58 over the weekend, they also only gave the dangerous Pittsburgh powerplay unit only one opportunity and were able to successfully kill that off. Maybe more importantly though, the Islanders held Sidney Crosby and Malkin to just five shots over the two games.
The biggest question for Pittsburgh fans was how would the Penguins bounce back from this weekend? They didn’t have to wait long for an answer as the Penguins were back in action on Monday night against Boston. This game was significant because if the Penguins lost, not only would it be their third straight loss, but it might’ve raised larger questions concerning the significance of their earlier success and the disappearance of their stars (like article below by Brady Smith). A loss might also have dropped them out of the lead in the Metro Division as the Islanders were also back in action on Monday against the mediocre Flyers. But, Pittsburgh’s stars showed up when needed to right the ship before it got too far off course. Crosby scored early in the first on an amazing spinning backhand. Then the barrage happened, NOT AGAIN! Boston scored two in the top of the second and it looked like a replay of the weekend. However, the ever dangerous powerplay unit stepped on the ice and Malkin drove one home tying the game at two. The game went to overtime and the Penguins stars wasted no time, Letang to Crosby to Malkin ending the game 32 seconds into overtime
Yes, it’s only November and yes three points from three games doesn’t sound that bad. However, it could have easily been zero points in three games if not for the comeback on Friday night and if one of two disallowed Boston goals on Monday counted. The fact that Pittsburgh got these three points not only shows their resolve, but bouncing back against Boston shows their resiliency. More importantly, it’s a reminder that Crosby and Malkin are still there and rebound when needed combining for a fifty percent shooting percentage on Monday night. Therefore when Pittsburgh takes the ice Wednesday against Toronto they will do so fighting to maintain their slim lead in the division, but without the cloud of a three game losing streak and their stars answering questions about their disappearance over the last couple games. Monday’s win brought more than two points for the Penguins, it brought silence. And any team that can silence the skeptics before their roar becomes deafening will maintain stability and success making the quest for the division title just a little bit easier.