The New York Islanders took a 2-0 lead in their first-round NHL Eastern Conference playoff series over the Pittsburgh Penguins by winning 3-1 in Friday night's Game 2 at their home Nassau Veterans Coliseum.
Following a scoreless first period, Penguins defenseman Erik Gudbranson got the scoring started at the 10:36 mark in the second period with a screamer from well away from the goal.
Gudbranson didn't have much time to celebrate his first career playoff goal as Islanders winger Anthony Beauvillier evened it at 1-1 with a goal almost exactly three minutes later. While Penguins goaltender Matt Murray was able to deny Mathew Barzal's initial shot, Beauvillier came streaking through to clean up.
That would conclude anything worth celebrating for the Penguins as right winger Jordan Eberle maneuvered a backhanded shot into the back of the net at 7:54 in the third period. During an ensuing power play, left winger Josh Bailey put one home to seal a 2-0 series lead for the Islanders.
Penguins' Comeback Hinges on Puck Management, Faceoff Circle
During the regular season, the Islanders had the third-worst faceoff win percentage (47.4) in the NHL.
On Friday night, the Islanders won 57.9 percent of faceoffs—33 to the Penguins' 24.
While that may seem like a one-game outlier, the same was true in the Islanders' Game 1 overtime victory as they claimed 54.7 percent of faceoffs. An even more concerning trend for the Penguins has followed them from the regular season into this series: poor puck management.
Back in December, head coach Mike Sullivan told Dan Kingerski of Pittsburgh Hockey Now that puck management was an issue the team talked about "almost daily."
"You know it's not always about trying to score or make a play," Sullivan continued. "Sometimes it's about making sure you don't feed your opponent's transition game because you become high risk.”
The Penguins have been feeding the Islanders' attack at the blue line throughout the first two games of this series.
Following the Game 2 loss, Sullivan told media members that it was the eight penalties that disrupted his team and prevented them from getting going. It's also worth noting that captain Sidney Crosby has managed three shots all series.
What Pittsburgh does have on its side is recent experience. The last time New York held a 2-0 lead in a playoff series was the 1983 Stanley Cup Final. That Stanley Cup also marks the last time the Islanders won a playoff series.
Meanwhile, the Penguins won back-to-back Stanley Cups in 2016 and 2017.
The Penguins will take over hosting duties for Games 3 and 4, looking to mount a comeback on home ice. Game 3 is set for Sunday afternoon at 12 p.m. ET at PPG Paints Arena.