The Islanders are bailed out by poor goaltending on the part of the Penguins to get a big win in game one.
The best time of year is upon us. The 2021 NHL playoffs are here, and the New York Islanders will be playing postseason hockey for the third consecutive year. They’ll have their work cut out for them immediately.
The Islanders will be taking on the Pittsburgh Penguins, who won the East Division and have home-ice advantage.
As we mentioned in our series preview, the Islanders will be going up against one of the most dangerous offenses in the league, but have enough strengths to match up well against them.
The defense and penalty killing must continue to be some of the best in the league and the offense must step up.
The Islanders were greeted with some good and bad news before puck drop. The good news? Future Hall of Famer Evgeni Malkin, as well as back up goaltender Casey DeSmith, would not be available for the Penguins.
However, Islanders goalie Semyon Varlamov would not able to go, as he is seemingly still dealing with a lower-body injury. The rookie Ilya Sorokin has been thrown into the fire several times this season, but this would be his biggest moment yet.
The Penguins have had time to rest- they hadn’t played in a week- but the Islanders would hope that would mean they’d be rusty. So, how did game one of this important series go?
1st period: What a period
This was quite the period. The Islanders looked very concerning offensively and had to rely on Sorokin for the first few minutes, but the rookie stood tall in his first taste of playoff hockey.
However, New York picked up offensively and proved it with a huge goal from Kyle Palmieri that Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry wants back.
Unfortunately, a few minutes later, the Islanders gave up the game-tying goal. The Islanders were outshot in this period, but the fact that they were able to score a goal and come out of the first tied was a bit of a miracle.
2nd period: Not looking great
Both the Islanders and the Penguins had eight shots in the second, but this wasn’t a good period for New York.
They were outscored 1-0 and although they didn’t concede any goals while short-handed, they did commit two penalties and were unable to score on their own power play.
The fact that they were shorthanded twice prevented them from getting a groove going and building momentum. The Penguins would take a one-goal lead into the third and the Islanders would have to play catch-up in order to take the series lead.
3rd period: Too many emotions
This was another wild period. The Islanders were, by far, the more dominant team and were disciplined, which allowed them to score two goals.
Unfortunately, however, their lead didn’t last long. They gave up the game-tying goal once again that resulted in overtime.
The good news was that the offense really showed up this period and proved that it’s capable of getting the job done. Would they be able to add to their goal total for the win in overtime?
Overtime #1: Terrible goaltending for the win!
Jarry had come up with some fantastic saves throughout the game, but he was at fault in one way or another for every goal the Islanders scored. Their game-winner in overtime was no different.
Did the Islanders deserve to win this game? Not necessarily. They were even outscored 10-7 in OT. However, sometimes, teams catch lucky breaks and the Islanders were fortunate enough to go up against a goaltender who wasn’t nearly on top of his game.
The Islanders could have been better defensively. There’s no argument there. They weren’t perfect, but some players came up big for them and they caught some truly lucky breaks.
We’ve mentioned that guys like Palmieri, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Scott Mayfield, Brock Nelson, and Oliver Wahlstrom were going to be x-factors for the Islanders in this series and in the playoffs, in general.
All of these guys stepped up in massive ways in a massive game. Taking game one, especially in Pittsburgh, is huge and the Islanders will look to build momentum off this win.
Key Moment: Missed chance for the Penguins
After the Penguins tied the game for the second time in the third, they had the chance to take the lead. The Islanders defended well and were able to get the puck out of their zone.
That allowed the game to remain tied at three and the Islanders to go on to win the game.
Player of the game: Jean-Gabriel Pageau
Palmieri did score two goals, both of which were huge, but Pageau was the Islanders’ player of the game. Pageau was on the ice for all but one of the Islanders’ goals and was even decent defensively.
He is a player to watch in this series and already had a huge impact in game one.
Pageau’s stats: 21:13 TOI, 1 G, 1 A, 61.29 CF%, 0.32 iXG, 0.62 xGF, 0.55 xGA, 3.12 GF, 0.92 GA, 3.17 Game Score, 0.1 defensive rating, 1.48 offensive rating, and 1.63 individual rating.
Stats are courtesy of Hockey Stat Cards and Natural Stat Trick.