The Islanders were shutout 3-0 in their first half of a home-and-home with the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday night at Nassau Coliseum. However, the score is not indicative of how the team played.
“Everyone worked hard," Islanders forward Matt Martin said. "Everyone was finishing their checks. We outshot them. We outhit them and for the most part, I thought we outplayed them. We just have to limit our turnovers, especially against a team like this.”
The game proved to be completely different than the Islanders recent road trip through the Sunshine State. After the first 20 minutes, the Islanders outshot their division rivals 13-7 and by the end of regulation, the Islanders had put 33 shots on Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury.
Unfortunately, their chances didn’t register on the scoresheet.
“We can’t get frustrated,” Islanders defenseman Mark Eaton said. “We played the right way tonight. We outshot them. We got pucks to the net. If we play that way every night, more often than not, pucks are going to go in the net.”
They may not have earned two points in the standings, but Islanders Head Coach Jack Capuano saw a clear improvement over their last two games and thought his team executed their game plan well.
John Tavares controls the puck in front of Paul Martin and Pascal Dupuis at Nassau Coliseum on October 25, 2011. (Photo by Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images)
“We did a pretty good job of going to the net,” Capuano said. “When our D had the puck up high, we had some extended zone time. I thought structure-wise we were good in the offensive zone. We had net presence. (Fleury) made some pretty good saves. I thought he played extremely well tonight and I thought his team in front of him played well too.”
The Islanders still feel they need to step up their level of play and do a better job of outworking their opponent to earn the W.
For Eaton, the key to victories in games like Tuesday night’s are “Scoring ugly goals, getting everything to the net and getting bodies there. It’s going to be getting pucks off of shin pads, off of butts.”
Though Eaton said the Islanders had the right mentality, he said the contest against his former team should be used as a learning experience.
“We know how they play, we play them six times a year,” Eaton said. “And I played for them, so it’s no surprise what they brought tonight. They’re a team that likes to posses the puck and play in the offensive zone and ware teams down. That’s where we can learn from them a bit, that’s exactly how we need to play.”
Fleury had an impeccable game, stopping all 33 shots he faced. Pascal Dupuis put up a goal at 17:06 of the first period, Richard Park converted 21 seconds into the second stanza and Jordan Staal scored an empty-net goal at the 18-minute mark of the third period to seal the Penguins win.
“Fleury is one of the best goalies in this league,” Martin said. “He’s going to have nights like this. I mean, we have goalies that are fully capable of stealing games for us as well, but sometimes that’s just how it goes. Their first two goals came off our mistakes, so that’s something we have to focus on.”
After dropping two on their first road trip of the season, the loss to the Penguins is the Islanders third straight, falling to 3-4-0. The Islanders will have their chance for a rematch as they face the Penguins at CONSOL Energy Center on Thursday.