The New York Islanders were hoping to build off their recent 5-4 shootout win against the Pittsburgh Penguins and sweep the home-and-home series. Instead, the Islanders were outplayed from the opening puck drop and fell flat in the final matchup against the Penguins, losing 6-3.
The Islanders hit a wall against a great Penguins team that clinched their spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs with a decisive three-goal victory. The Islanders, meanwhile, now have a 34-30-9 record and their playoff chances look all but extinct following the recent loss. The team is looking to finish the season strong and bring hope into next season with great play in the final few games, but the loss exploited some of the weaknesses that have cost them all season.
Crosby & Guentzel Scorch Islanders Defense
One of the best scoring duos in the NHL this season has been the Penguins’ top line, led by Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel. The duo has combined for 66 goals and 92 assists and overwhelms opponents with speed in all three zones to create open shots on the net.
Against the Islanders, Crosby and Guentzel scored three of the Penguins’ six goals with both skaters adding two assists to the offense as well. The duo particularly took advantage of poor puck handling by the Islanders and turned easy turnovers into quick scoring chances, catching goaltender Ilya Sorokin off guard throughout the game. Guentzel also scored twice in the previous game and continued to find open ice near the net as he picked apart the defense.
The Islanders have been led by their defensive unit throughout the season. However, the errors they have made in the defensive zone have hurt the team all season. Moreover, the defensive unit is slower this season, especially in the later pairings, and against potent offenses like the Penguins, it continues to cost them.
Barzal Continuing to Create with Parise
While Oliver Wahlstrom was scratched from the lineup, the Mathew Barzal and Zach Parise pairing remained intact for the game with Kieffer Bellows filling out the trio. The Barzal and Parise connection continued to carry the offense as the duo found the back of the net for the Islanders’ first goal of the game.
Barzal carried the puck on the rush and found Parise open for a shot with Penguins goaltender Tristan Jarry in no position to make the save. The goal echoed the one that was scored in Tuesday’s 5-4 shootout win where Barzal created an open shot and distributed the puck on the rush from the left side of the offensive zone. The connection has allowed Parise to emerge as one of the Islanders’ top scorers and most productive players, scoring 14 goals on the season but the strong play recently has made the case for the two skaters to play together next season as well.
Islanders Hit a Wall in Jarry
The Islanders faced Casey DeSmith in Tuesday’s win and found the back of the net four times in regulation. While the Islanders scored three goals, for the majority of the game on Thursday they met a dialed-in goaltender in Tristan Jarry, who made 36 saves and sealed the victory for the Penguins. After the Penguins took an early 2-0 lead, Jarry faced more than enough pressure but made multiple remarkable saves.
Jarry was well-rested after missing two starts and the Islanders couldn’t even up the score as a result. The 26-year-old goaltender was focused and well-positioned to keep the Islanders, who were playing with a sense of urgency, from finding the back of the net.
The Islanders’ offense has stepped up since the beginning of the season and has helped turn the team’s season around after an awful start. The forward unit had no problem creating scoring chances on Thursday but once again, met a goaltender who was ready for their pressure.
Other Notes from Islanders Loss
In the final minutes of the game, defenseman Zdeno Chara fired a shot from the point that found the back of the net. It was the first goal of the season for the 45-year-old defenseman and his first with the Islanders in over two decades. On a rough night for the team, the game was capped off with a goal from the defensive unit, which has been a rarity for them this season.
The Islanders continue their road trip tonight (April 15) as they travel to Montreal to face the Canadiens. The Canadiens are having one of the worst seasons in their historic franchise’s history and the Islanders hope to take advantage and return to the win column.
Mike Fink joined The Hockey Writers in November 2020 and covers the New York Islanders. In addition to covering the Islanders, Fink writes about the NHL at large and contributes as a weekly guest to The Hockey Writers Podcast. Follow Mike on Twitter @Finks_thoughts for more Islanders and general hockey insights.