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Barzal-less Islanders defeat Penguins again to stay in playoff hunt

February 21, 2023, 5:22 PM ET [455 Comments]
Ben Shelley
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The New York Islanders picked up another win over the Pittsburgh Penguins last night, battling back for a 4-2 road victory.

The Islanders were dealt some brutal news ahead of the game, with the team announcing Mathew Barzal would be out indefinitely with a lower-body injury. Barzal exited early in the first period during the Islanders’ loss against the Boston Bruins on Saturday and obviously, him being out for an extended period is a massive blow. New York is desperately trying to battle for a playoff spot and already suffering from a lack of high-end forwards, the team will really miss his ability to transport the puck. As a result of Barzal’s injury, Arnaud Durandeau made his NHL debut.

The Penguins opened the scoring only six minutes in, when Sidney Crosby slid the puck over to Jake Guentzel on a rush, who buried it into the open net. Pittsburgh basically took all momentum after that, spending most of the frame in New York’s end and outshooting them 19-7, but the Islanders managed to escape only down a goal.

In the second frame, the Penguins came within inches of extending the lead on a power play, but Alexander Romanov made a great diving save to sweep the puck off the line. It paid off, and just a little later, Brock Nelson came in on a rush and beat Tristan Jarry with a nice shot, tying the game. However, the Penguins did manage to capitalize on a power play for real later, with Jeff Petry’s point shot hitting the post, but Jason Zucker whacked the rebound off Ilya Sorokin and in, reinstating Pittsburgh’s lead. The Penguins continued pressing, but a ridiculous stick save from Sorokin kept the deficit at one, with a huge scrum ensuing afterwards. It’s not the first time he’s made a paddle save like that, but they certainly aren’t going to get old.

The Islanders were able to tie the game midway through the third period, with Bo Horvat managing to beat Jarry from a bad angle. Then under two minutes later, Jarry gave the puck away behind the net and after it got out front, Matt Martin found Anders Lee at the side of the net, and Lee made a nice move to tuck the puck in, giving the Islanders their first lead of the game. While the Penguins kept pressing afterwards and had a lot of pressure late with the goalie pulled, a big block from Zach Parise sent the puck right to Brock Nelson, who scored on the empty net, as the Islanders earned the 4-2 win.

Once again, it wasn’t pretty. But for the second time in four days, the Islanders battled back from behind to defeat the Pittsburgh Penguins.

It was a similar story to the previous win over Pittsburgh, where New York came out flat and had a rough opening frame. At the same time, even though the Islanders were still outshot by a 46-32 margin when the final horn sounded, they did get going more as the game went on.

Ilya Sorokin obviously played a massive role in the win, stopping 44 of 46 shots and winning the goaltending battle. That said, Anders Lee and Brock Nelson deserve a lot of credit too, especially given Barzal’s absence. The duo combined for three of the four goals and continue to drive a ton of New York’s offense. Over the last 14 games, Lee now has seven goals and 11 points, while Nelson has 11 goals and 18 points over the same stretch.

Arnaud Durandeau also looked really good in his first game. He managed four shots, was drawing penalties, made an impact on the forecheck and was engaged in his own end. Personally, I haven’t been looking at Durandeau as a likely future NHLer to this point, but his performance last night was worth some attention for sure.

So with the win, the Islanders hold their ground in the Eastern Conference playoff race. Taking two games against Pittsburgh is huge as well, as the Penguins' spot as the seventh place team in the conference in points percentage (and future first wildcard spot) is now much less secure.

The Islanders are now down to just 22 games remaining. They’ll be returning home for two games this week, with their next contest coming on Wednesday against the Winnipeg Jets.


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