Isles Show Heart In Game Three But Fall To Pens In Overtime

The New York Islanders were hosting a playoff game on Nassau Coliseum ice for the first time in six years in front of a sold out crowd that was salivating for the puck to finally drop. Unfortunately for the Isles, they fell to the Penguins in overtime by a score of 5-4 on a power play goal that came from forward Chris Kunitz just 8:44 into the extra frame.

Special teams would ultimately play the deciding factor in the game, as the Islanders penalty kill only went 2-5, surrendering two additional power play goals in the first period that allowed the Penguins to get into the hockey game.

The Isles came out of the gates with energy and intensity, racking up hits, shots and goals immediately. Within the first two minutes of the game, Matt Moulson would slam home a rebound after Kyle Okposo would get the first few initial chances. Lubomir Visnovsky would be credited with the second assist.

A little under four minutes later, the relentless fore-check of Michael Grabner, who utilized his speed in several key ways throughout the game, stole the puck off of the Penguins defenseman and fed Casey Cizikas for a one-timer as he came flying up the slot. His first of the post-season gave the Islanders a 2-0 lead just 5:41 into the hockey game.

But undisciplined play would allow the Penguins to quiet an overwhelming Islanders fan base. Mark Streit would take a hooking penalty along the boards, followed by a tripping penalty to Travis Hamonic just 30 second later. Jaromie Iginla would redirect a shot from Kris Letang that was fed to him at the point by Sidney Crosby to bring the Pens within one.

Just 19 seconds later, Kunitz would be found behind the Islanders defensemen for a breakaway that beat Evgeni Nabokov (20 saves on the night) over his glove side. Malkin and Letang recorded the assists on the goal.

Crosby would make sure that the Pens would take the lead despite it appearing that the period would have both teams entering their respective dressing rooms in a tie. Number 87 flew through the neutral zone and beat Visnovsky wide, going untouched along the wall. He quickly fed a pass to Pascal Dupuis as he was driving to the net, bursting by John Tavares. He tipped the puck by Nabokov at the 19-minute mark and the Pens took over a 3-2 lead.

The Isles and Pens would each get eight shots a piece in the second period, but the home team appeared to get the better of the scoring chances. In the end, it would not matter, as Pens d-man Doug Murray rpped a shot from the blue line that beat Nabokov for his first of the post-season. Malkin and Paul Martin were credited with the assists.

The third period started much like the previous two with the Islanders storming out with tons of energy. But Brian Strait would get called for a hooking minor that would send the Penguins back on the power play, and the fans in the building for another tense moment.

However, Kyle Okposo, who has thus far been the Islanders best player in the post-season, would receive a feed from Frans Nielsen after a poor pass was made by Brendan Morrow. Okposo corralled the puck through his legs at the Pens blue line and skated in on Marc-Andre Fleury for a breakaway, beating him down low for a shorthanded goal that brought the Islanders within one.

Five minutes later, John Tavares, who had several previous chances denied by Fleury, who would finally break through when his team needed him most. Using a Pens defenseman as a screen, Tavares snapped a shot past Fleury on the far side of the net to tie the game with 9:12 left in the third period. Josh Bailey, who has played well on the top unit with Tavares and Brad Boyes, had the only assist on the play.

The rest of the period saw hard hitting action and a few shots off the Islanders crossbar, but neither team was able to find the back of the net.

Off to overtime we went. Crosby would drive to the net and get taken down by Strait in what was called a holding penalty at the 8:11 mark of the extra period. A marginal call at best, but nevertheless enough for the Pens to earn the victory. Martin would feed Crosby down low, who held onto the puck just an extra second long enough to draw Andrew MacDonald down to his knees, allowing him to find Kunitz in the slot.

With a quick wrist shot, Kunitz fired the puck just under the crossbar and over Nabokov's glove to end the game and give the Penguins a 2-1 lead in the series.

Without question, the Islanders played their hearts out in one of the most exciting games of the season. But they need to be more disciplined in their zone against a powerful Penguins team that has numerous offensive weapons.  

Game four is on Tuesday night at Nassau Coliseum as the Islanders look to even the series before heading back to Pittsburgh.

-Rob McGowan
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