With no win at UBS Arena, the Islanders are empty of penguins


The last time the Islanders faced the Penguins, they ended Pittsburgh’s 2020-21 season with a Game 6 win in the first round playoff series. A lot has changed since that night in May.

The key to those changes: The Islanders, who took seven games in the Stanley Cup semifinals last season, look less and less like a playoff contender with each passing day. After a 1-0 loss to the Penguins on Friday night, the Islanders (5-10-2) are now defeated in eight straight games and face a 17-point rise to return to the postseason.

“It’s one of the biggest challenges I’ve faced in 20-some years,” head coach Barry Trotz said, referring to the injury and illness that plagued the Islanders. “And I started with the expansion team.”

The Islanders have looked more accommodating since early Friday. The Penguins led 10 of the first 12 shots of the game, and Island goaltender Ilya Sorokin was the only reason the final score wasn’t ugly.

Kaspari Kapaneen scored behind Ilya Sorokin.
Robert Sabo

With nine regulars still missing due to the COVID-19 protocol and injuries, the Islanders need a big show by Sorokin to stay competitive. He got it as the Russian goalie stopped 29 of 30 shots, but it wasn’t enough.

Then, Anthony Beauvillier sat down, looking straight down on the stage.

“That kept us in the game,” he said of Sorokin’s effort. “We couldn’t get him a goal.”

The islanders’ forecheck was canceled against the penguins who passed quickly. This resulted in frequent breakouts from Pittsburgh, which put the Islanders’ defense on its heels. Although the Islanders seem to have found a few steps after that rough start, it was not enough.

Pittsburgh finally broke through with 3:19 to go in the second period, when Kaspari Kapenen buried a wrist shot from an odd-man rush, assisted by Sidney Crosby.

Just minutes ago, the Islanders drew their first penalty of the game after the Penguins were called in to cut Jake Guentzel. It provided the Islanders with the opportunity to open their first lead in Tampa Bay from November 15. But the Islanders failed to get anything after a listless power play that struggled to enter the Pittsburgh zone, with boos down from the rafters at UBS Arena.

“In the last two games, the other team has gained momentum from our power play,” Trotz said. “We need to change that.”

Islanders winger Kyle Palmieri tried to tie the match in the closing seconds.
Islanders winger Kyle Palmieri tried to tie the match in the closing seconds.
Robert Sabo

For five weeks, the Islanders, who started the season with 13 straight road games, were looking forward to this homestand.

Now, it’s over. And they have yet to record their first win at UBS Arena.

Both Trotz and Beauvillier suggested that the islanders played tight on man-advantage. He created some chances on his second attempts, but failed to score and is now 1-29 on the power play in November.

“It’s tough to get opportunities nowadays,” Beauvillier said. “Right now we have to catch our stick a little bit more.”

After the fourth line change, some energy returned to the building in the third period, creating a series of opportunities and three different scrum flares simultaneously. This resulted in four penalties – two for each team – but despite creating some good chances, the Islanders were unable to capture the momentum.

Sorokin stopped the Jason Zucker breakaway with seven minutes to play and Crosby returned to the breakaway at the two-minute mark. But Tristan Jarry of the Penguins, who played an error-free game on the net, stopped all 25 shots he faced, as the Islanders closed for the second time in their previous three games.

When Otto Koivula rebounded in the crease, the Islanders had a golden opportunity to tie the score in just two minutes, but Jarry was there to stop his shot.

The Islanders
Cal Clutterbuck (15) battles Marcus Peterson (28) in the third period.
Robert Sabo

“The goalie reaches out with his finger. We hit his toe,” Trotz said. “Basically if you miss that toe, it’s on the net. It is moving. ”

While the Islanders still have games in hand, the series of defeats have reached the stage in which each passing loss feels like the team is falling into a deep hole. The Islanders will soon be able to recover some players stuck in the COVID-19 protocol – Josh Bailey may make his first return on Sunday against the Rangers – but by the time everyone returns, it may be too late.

Trotz likened the situation to an unexpected accident. The bottom line, however, remains the same.

“We’re in the business of winning, and we’re not doing that,” he said.

.

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