The Penguins are still looking for their first win on home ice as the New York Islanders defeated them soundly on Wednesday night at CONSOL Energy Center, earning a 4-1 win over Pittsburgh.
Matt Moulson finished with a goal and an assist while John Tavares, Michael Grabner and Casey Cizikas also scored for the Islanders. Pascal Dupuis scored the Penguins’ only goal with 1:09 left to play in the game.
The Islanders connected on their only two power plays in a span of 1:53 minutes late in the second period to take a 4-0 lead into the second intermission. Tavares connected first when he one-timed an absolute bullet into the far top corner off a perfect pass from Moulson. Moulson then scored a goal of his own after stuffing home a no-look pass from Brad Boyes.
But it was after the Islanders’ second goal – a breakaway score from Grabner 6:46 minutes into the middle frame – that Penguins head coach Bylsma didn’t like the way his team responded.
“After that, I thought we didn’t play with a lot of emotion,” Bylsma said. “We didn’t bounce back from that. We didn’t execute very well after that. The way we played, our attitude and our emotion, dropped as a result of that.”
Penguins defenseman Ben Lovejoy left the game late in the second period after absorbing a dangerous hit from behind from Islanders forward Colin McDonald as they raced for a puck behind Pittsburgh’s net. Lovejoy returned to the game a few minutes into the third period. McDonald received a five-minute major and a game misconduct on the play.
The Penguins were not able to capitalize on the five-minute man-advantage and finished 0-for-3 on the night (their other two opportunities both came in the first period).
The Penguins’ first unit contains some of the NHL's best players in Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, James Neal, Chris Kunitz and Kris Letang. They know they must figure out how to get the power play going and make it a factor in games, especially with the talent and skill they possess.
“There’s no real excuse,” Crosby said. “We’re not executing well. At least it’s got to get momentum for us. If we’re not going to score, we’ve got to at least get momentum. We weren’t able to do that.”
Neal pointed out their entries into the zone as an area where they need to improve.
“When we get a clean setup, we can work from there,” he said. “We definitely make it tough on ourselves when we don’t have a good entry and we’re chasing the puck around; then they’re getting easy clears on us and we’re going to have to keep going back for it. We’ve got to have a better mindset. We need to execute our routes and execute the plays that we know to make. When things aren’t going our way, we can’t hang our heads. We’ve got to stay upbeat and keep pushing. But tonight was obviously a tough one. When the bounces weren’t going our way, we kind of looked the other way.”
Penguins forward Dustin Jeffrey was in the lineup for the first time since playing in the season opener, a 3-1 win over Philadelphia. Jeffrey’s play was a bright spot for Pittsburgh. He skated 13:20 minutes and had two shots in 1:57 of power-play time.
Penguins defenseman Simon Despres also returned to the lineup after sitting out the previous two games. He played in the top four alongside Kris Letang and skated 19:12 minutes, almost double his previous high of 10:41.
“I was trying to keep it simple and I was ready to go,” Despres said. “I wanted to play well to prove I could stay in the lineup. My legs were going. I was in it. I got the chance to play more and played better when I played more.”
Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury played the first two periods for Pittsburgh and Tomas Vokoun replaced him to start the third. Vokoun stopped all seven shots he faced in the period, including a beautiful pad save on a wide-open Frans Nielsen at the side of the net.
Author: Michelle Crechiolo