Call shifts momentum; Pens falter on home ice
A Penguins player mentioned only 24 hours earlier that, when adversity strikes the Penguins, “we fall apart quickly.”
It took only eight seconds Friday.
The Penguins thought they had taken a 1-0 lead during a dominant opening period, only to have a replay ruling go against them and a short-handed goal go into the back of their net eight seconds later. They ultimately fell 3-1.
“I thought it was a goal,” left wing Chris Kunitz said. “I was surprised.”
It wasn’t particularly surprising the Penguins endured a mental lapse. Early domination followed by mental mistakes has been the norm for this team.
“We were just trying to capitalize on the momentum we had from almost scoring,” Kunitz said.
But the Penguins got sloppy, and the Islanders struck.
According to coach Mike Johnston, the Islanders used a set play, something the Penguins had scouted, to trigger Casey Cizikas’ goal.
Cal Clutterbuck and Nick Leddy combined to collect the puck in Islanders’ territory and send the puck through the center of the ice. The puck went between point men Paul Martin and Evgeni Malkin.
The defenseman and the forward were far apart from one another, leaving Cizikas a surprisingly wide alley down the middle.
“We missed him coming out of the zone,” Martin said. “Me and Geno got, I don’t know, I saw him going toward Geno. But then he came back toward the middle. We both stayed up. They made a good play.”
Cizikas made no mistake, burying a shot over goalie Marc-Andre Fleury’s glove.
This marked the 11th time the Penguins have given up a short-handed goal this season.
The Penguins have used a look with two defensemen on the power play in recent games, but with injured defensemen Derrick Pouliot unable to play — because of his absence, the Penguins will only have five defensemen in uniform Saturday in Buffalo — they’ve returned to a four-forward look on the top unit.
“Anytime you use four forwards,” Johnston said, “there is potential for that to happen.”
There seemed great potential for a Penguins’ win early, when they dominated the Islanders. They outshot the Islanders, 17-5, and appeared to have a goal on the power play.
Hornqvist, who jammed a backhand shot toward an empty cage, celebrated as though he had scored.
A replay on Root Sports picked up the puck through the netting in Halak’s glove, and the puck appeared to be across the goal line.
However, after a review of nearly five minutes, officials made the “no-goal” ruling, which also was the original call on the ice.
“There was some pretty differing of opinions on the replay,” defenseman Ben Lovejoy said.
The Islanders were relieved by the ruling. Halak said the game could have been different had the goal counted because of the Penguins’ momentum.
“I really couldn’t tell either way,” Islanders coach Jack Capuono said.