Islanders outwork Penguins to sweep back-to-back meetings
UNIONDALE, N.Y. — Many things in hockey are subjective and left open to interpretation.
Here’s one that’s not: You won’t score if you don’t shoot.
The Penguins are aware of this, but in case they forgot, they got a refresher course during Saturday’s 4-1 loss to the New York Islanders at Nassau Coliseum, a defeat that can be attributed to their inability to generate a volume of shots or legitimate scoring chances.
“We have to put more pucks on net, there’s no question,” Brandon Sutter said. “It seems like that’s been our staple the past couple weeks: shooting lots of pucks and outshooting teams. (Saturday) it went the other way on us.”
Coach Mike Johnston’s team entered the game fourth in the NHL in shots per game at 31.8. They finished with 28 against the Islanders. Their opponent had 35.
Many of the Penguins’ shot attempts came from outside the slot or the home-plate shaped area dubbed the red zone.
Defenseman Kris Letang told the Tribune-Review earlier this season that Johnston instructed his players to tally 10 shots on goal before the midway point of the first period.
On Saturday, the Penguins didn’t record 10 shots until well into the second period and needed a late flurry to finish the first period with nine shots on goal.
“As the game went along, they took over in that area,” Johnston said. “They took over getting pucks to the net and also finding those loose rebounds.”
The first time the Penguins played the Islanders, forward Patric Hornqvist recorded 12 shots. He had one attempt Saturday, nothing on goal.
Whether it was the Islanders playing a tight-checking game or clogging lanes or the Penguins being too choosy, Jaroslav Halak was allowed to remain comfortable for much of the night.
The loss snapped the Penguins’ stretch of four consecutive wins at Nassau Coliseum and dropped their road record to 7-2-1.
Islanders forward Anders Lee tipped in a bouncing puck for the winning goal at 2:38 of the third period.
The Penguins’ passivity spilled over into the special-teams battle as they were awarded just one power play. They’ve been on the power play twice over the past three games.
In the third period with the Penguins down 2-1, Steve Downie delivered a blindside hit to Thomas Hickey. He was called for interference and given a 10-minute misconduct.
The Islanders stretched their lead to 3-1 just 46 seconds later when Brock Nelson scored a power-play goal.
John Tavares added another goal for the Islanders (14-6-0), who are tied with the Penguins (13-4-2) atop the Metropolitan Division after winning eight of their past nine games.
Not only did the Islanders rack up a 69-44 advantage in shot attempts, but they also were the more physical team.
Craig Adams tried to hit Johnny Boychuk and Matt Martin and fell down. Travis Hamonic threw a punch — legal or not — at Hornqvist that knocked the Penguins forward backward several feet.
“We didn’t give ourselves a very big push in the third period to give ourselves a chance to get the lead,” center Sidney Crosby said. “They raised their level, and we didn’t.”