Pittsburgh Penguins: 3 Questions Stemming from Their Game 2 Collapse
OK, that’s a simple, borderline, shallow question to pose in response to the Pittsburgh Penguins blowing a 3-1 lead en route to a 4-3 setback in Game 2 of their first-round series with the New York Islanders.
Nonetheless, it is well worth asking, if only for the fact that it breaks off the plastic and allows us to dig for deeper questions as to how they let this one get away.
After all, they were coming off a convincing 5-0 victory in Game 1 against a vastly unripe playoff opponent. They did that without captain Sidney Crosby, who, upon returning to action Friday, merely pumped in two goals to help sculpt 2-0 and 3-1 advantages by the first intermission.
But in the 40 minutes of action since that display, the Pens have suddenly been outclassed by the ostensibly plebeian Islanders, who have usurped home-ice advantage as the series prepares to shuffle over to Nassau Coliseum.
As the ice chips settle on this surprise, here are the questions worth pondering as Pittsburgh partisans look for answers as to what happened on Friday.
Stats are courtesy of NHL.com, unless noted otherwise.
Is Defense Still An Issue?
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Although the New York Islanders’ period-by-period shot count exponentially lessened, they mustered a whopping 42 on the night, including 20 within the first 20 minutes.
The game was only six minutes old when New York had already logged seven shots on goal. Four of those came from intimate distances ranging between 12 and 16 feet, and, perhaps more importantly, all came after Evgeni Malkin drew first blood for the Pittsburgh Penguins at the 43-second mark.
All of those factors point to a degree of laxity on the home front, which may have carried over from the Game 1 breeze and unwisely allowed to swell when Malkin made it an aggregate 6-0 romp at the 60:43 mark of the series.
Was There Too Much Emphasis On The Crosby Show?
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The aftermath of a Colin McDonald goal that brought the New York Islanders’ deficit down to 3-2 did not, at first, seem too worrisome for the Pittsburgh Penguins. After all, they drew themselves a power play at 6:50 of the second period, less than two minutes after McDonald struck.
But during that power play, Sidney Crosby took two hits from New York penalty killers, including defenseman Brian Strait at the 8:11 mark of the stanza.
Exactly five seconds after that, Pittsburgh’s Jarome Iginla was cited for boarding Strait, an act doubtlessly committed out of frustration at the site of the recently injured and healed Crosby being bumped along the boards.
Iginla’s indiscretion wiped out the last 34 seconds of that power play and afforded the Islanders a subsequent 86-second man advantage.
As it happened, while the Isles did not convert, they did have enough of a rhythm to nab the 3-3 equalizer 21 seconds after Iginla’s release.
In spite of what Crosby has been through of late, he was initially on a path to the most delectable form of redemption by pacing the Pens on a victorious path. But Iginla's emotions may have contributed to the spillage of the winning formula Crosby had stirred one period prior.
Should Tomas Vokoun Start Game 3?
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As will often be the case when a team goes from hot to cold, the starting goaltender is one of the personifications.
That certainly goes for Pittsburgh’s Marc-Andre Fleury, who went from blanking the New York Islanders throughout Game 1 to allowing at least one goal per period in Game 2, whiffing on four out of 42 total shots faced.
This is the same Fleury who, 12-plus months ago, authorized 26 goals on 157 shots en route to a six-game, first-round meltdown.
Granted, this year’s Islanders (seventh in the NHL with 2.81 goals per night) are not quite as prolific as last year’s Flyers (tied for second with 3.17 goals per night). Still, given the way Fleury handled the lead and the homeward-bound Islander shots on Friday, utilizing the netminding safety net of veteran Tomas Vokoun may need to be placed on the table.
If anything, such a swap could provide a needed wake-up call to the praetorian guards in front of the goalie.