The Islanders have had their fair share of third period comebacks against the Pittsburgh Penguins, and Friday afternoon was no different.
John Tavares scored the game-winning goal with 6:12 remaining in the third period to give the Islanders a 3-2 win over the Penguins on a post-Thanksgiving matinee in front of 15,262 fans at the Nassau Coliseum.
With the Penguins holding a one-goal lead to start the third period, Sean Bergneheim would tie things up at 2-2 for the Islanders just 1:24 into the final frame. The play started as Frans Nielsen led an odd-man rush into the Pittsburgh zone with Bergenheim flanking the left side. Nielsen sent a cross ice pass to Bergneheim, who laced a perfect slapshot in the top left hand corner over Pittsburgh goaltender Brent Johnson's glove hand for his fourth goal of the season.
"We just did the right things out there. We didn’t force anything," Tavares said. "Obviously we knew we needed to get one and it was a great shot by Bergie early on to tie it up. It was a solid period, and one of our best for the year."
Tavares would then score the game-winning goal following - his tenth of the year.
The Islanders number one pick ended up finding the puck right at his feet following a Freddy Meyer shot. As Meyer's shot went up high on Johnson, the Pittsburgh netminder had trouble handling it and it fell right on Tavares' stick for the easy put-in and an Islanders 3-2 lead, and eventually the win.
The Islanders fired 18 shots in the third period on Friday. It's a stark contrast to Wednesday night's performance against Philadelphia where they were only able to manage one shot on net in the final 20 minutes.
Islanders Head Coach Scott Gordon thought it was one of the Islanders best periods of the year.
"It goes without saying," Gordon said. "They pushed the pace, I have to commend the guys on their effort on not just the third period, but we generated chances tonight in all periods."
The Islanders would also be the first ones to score first.
Josh Bailey started off the scoring for the Islanders midway through the first period to give the Islanders a 1-0 lead. Mark Streit started the play off by skating into the Penguins zone and firing a slapshot towards Johnson.
The Islanders, however, had plenty of bodies in front of the the Penguins usual backup netminder. Streit's shot fell right in front of the Penguins crease, and Bailey was right there to pound home the rebound for his seventh goal of the season.
Prior to Bailey's goal, things got started off with a bang real quick just 13 seconds into the game as Tim Jackman and Penguins defenseman Deryk Engelland dropped the gloves by the Islanders blue line. Jackman, who leads the Islanders in penalty minutes now with 56, and Engelland both exchanged heavy blows for about 40 seconds before both men tired each other out as the linesmen stepped in.
Evgeni Malkin answered back for Pittsburgh with 2:38 left in the first period to tie the score up 1-1 with his seventh goal of the season. Malkin retrieved an Eric Godard dump in and skated hard towards the Islanders net.
The dynamic Pittsburgh center drove deep into the Islanders zone and sent a backhand shot in the direction of Islanders goaltender Dwayne Roloson. However, the puck found a small slot between Roloson's pads and the post to even things up at one goal apiece.
Matt Cooke gave Pittsburgh a 2-1 lead 7:12 into the second period with his fifth goal of the season. Cooke happened to be in the right spot at the right time, and immediately pounced on a rebound from a Jordan Staal slapshot. Just as the puck was kicked aside, Cooke one-timed it past the right leg pad of Roloson for the one-goal Penguins lead.
The Islanders best chance of the second period came on the penalty kill with 4:30 left. With the Islanders killing off a 5-on-3 disadvantage, Jack Hillen came storming out of the box just as his penalty expired as the Islanders dumped the puck. The Islanders defenseman broke in on Johnson all alone, but was denied by a diving Johnson poke-check.
However, Frans Nielsen was trailing the play and immediately corralled the puck off the rebound. As Johnson was getting back up to his skates, Nielsen just missed on a sharp angle shot which could have tied the game up.
The penalty kill would end up being the turning point of the game in the Islanders eyes.
"It was huge. We gave up two shots from the top of the circle that were one-timers that Rollie was able to stop, but other than that I think that was all we gave up," Gordon said.
"I think we were playing pretty well up to those penalties. It would've been a huge turnaround if they were able to score, but we kept it a one-goal game."
Three Stars of the Game:
1. John Tavares, NYI: Scored game winning goal
2. Dwayne Roloson, NYI: 19 saves for the win.
3. Brent Johnson, PIT: Stopped 34 out of 37 shots.
Slapshots: Islanders outshot Pittsburgh, 37-21...Mark Streit led all Islanders with 24:44 of ice time...Kyle Okposo led all Islanders in shots on goal with 5...Islanders held the advantage in takeaways, 23-11...Blake Comeau and Rob Schremp were the Islanders scratches (both healthy)...This was the second meeting this season against the Penguins, with their previous meeting coming on October 3 (4-3 shootout loss)...Islanders now hold an all-time record of 93-84-30 against Pittsburgh...The Penguins will not return to the Coliseum until the Islanders last game of the season on April 11, 2010.
Roads at Home: The Islanders have grown quite comfy in their "road" white jerseys, as they’ve suited up in them seven out of their last eight games. So why not wear them again before the Isles head out for another long five-game road trip? Actually, Pittsburgh had brought their "baby blue" third jerseys for Friday’s game, so the Islanders accommodated the Penguins request and wore their familiar white sweaters on the Coliseum ice.
26 Matt Moulson - 91 John Tavares - 7 Trent Hunter
20 Sean Bergenheim - 51 Frans Nielsen - 21 Kyle Okposo
15 Jeff Tambellini - 12 Josh Bailey - 16 Jon Sim
28 Tim Jackman - 11 Nate Thompson - 10 Richard Park
2 Mark Streit - 8 Bruno Gervais
32 Brendan Witt - 44 Freddy Meyer
25 Andy Sutton - 38 Jack Hillen
30 Dwayne Roloson
43 Martin Biron
25 Maxime Talbot - 87 Sidney Crosby - 13 Bill Guerin
26 Ruslan Fedotenko - 71 Evgeni Malkin - 9 Pascal Dupuis
24 Matt Cooke - 11 Jordan Staal - 12 Christopher Bourque
27 Craig Adams - 17 Michael Rupp - 28 Eric Godard
55 Sergei Gonchar - 44 Broos Orpik
5 Deryk Engelland - 7 Mark Eaton
41 Martin Skoula - 6 Ben Lovejoy
1 Brent Johnson
29 Marc-Andre Fleury
1 - 0 NYI
1 - 1 Tie
2 - 1 PIT
2 - 2 Tie
3 - 2 NYI
Hi stick - double minor