The New York Islanders followed up a playoff clinch with a rousing win over an archrival, downing the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-1 at CONSOL Energy Center Friday night.
Casey Cizikas, John Tavares and Michael Grabner scored, as the Islanders put the Penguins playoff hopes in jeopardy and assured themselves a first-round date with the Washington Capitals. In the process, the Islanders reached the 100-point plateau for the first time since 1983-84 and skated to their fourth win in five games against the Penguins this season.
“It was a good road game,” Cal Clutterbuck said. “Jaro kept us in it in the first period. There are some areas we can improve on, but given the situation, getting down a defenseman pretty early in the game and having a couple of guys out, I thought we did a good job.”
Jaroslav Halak was spectacular Friday, stopping 37-of-38 shots in the win. Halak was busy early, stopping 17 shots in the first period, ultimately allowing the Islanders to get out to a 1-0 lead.
“Jaro came up big for us, especially in the first. He made three or four tremendous saves to keep the score what it was,” Head Coach Jack Capuano said.
The Penguins almost hit the board on an early power play, as Patric Hornqvist attempted to tuck in a wraparound on his backhand, but Halak trapped the puck and swept it off the goal line. The play was reviewed, as Halak’s glove appeared to cross the line, but the no-goal call on the ice was upheald.
In a dramatic turn of events, the Islanders scored eight seconds after the video review. Clutterbuck made a long-range pass from the Islanders goal line, springing Cizikas on a shorthanded breakaway. Cizikas made no mistake, beating Marc-Andre Fleury high glove.
“It was good for us that it didn’t go in,” Halak said. “It could have been a different game. Scoring right away and getting the first goal, the momentum would have been on their side.”
The Penguins pressed right to the end of the first period, but Halak stood tall. Chris Kunitz was alone in the slot with 15 seconds to play in the first period, but Halak challenged, holding the rebound and the 1-0 lead intact.
The Islanders nearly got out of the second period with the one-goal lead, but Rob Scuderi scored with six seconds to play, notching the game 1-1. Sidney Crosby picked up an assist on Scuderi’s goal to briefly take sole possession of the NHL scoring lead, but Tavares evened things up 2:46 in the third period. Kyle Okposo tipped a Brian Strait point shot on net, with the rebound landing on Tavares’ stick at the side of the net. Tavares tapped in the rebound for his 37th of the season and his 84th point – both career highs.
Grabner added an insurance marker late in the third period. Grabner used his dynamic speed, beating Ian Cole to generate a one-on-one chance before beating Fleury high glove side.
“We played smart and beared down and tried to not give up any odd-man rushes,” Grabner said. “We knew they had a lot of desperation in their game today, you could see that in the amount of shots they had. A lot of times we limited their shots to the outside and cleared out the second and third chances.”
The Islanders were shorthanded for most of the contest, as Travis Hamonic left the game with an undisclosed injury in the first period after taking a hit from Scuderi.
“We lost Travis early in the game, we go down to five defense against a team like that,” Capuano said. “I give our D and our goalie a lot of credit.”
The Islanders still have a chance at home ice advantage, as they currently trail the Capitals by one point with both teams skating Saturday. The Capitals play the New York Rangers at 12:30 p.m., while the Islanders host the Columbus Blue Jackets in the final regular season home game at Nassau Coliseum.
Puck drop is at 7 p.m.