Perfect night for an extra hour of sleep for free Saturday, gave me some more time to do the game recap in a separate thread after devoting last night's blog to Al Arbour.
I was wrong about the Pens going into this game. They did not look confident and seemed to have less killer instinct than Tampa after losing a game in Colorado and they did look like a one line team despite a rare soft goal let in by DiPietro on a short side screen. Call it travel from Denver to the East coach or a lot of things but they did not look very good.
Forgetting the pressure of Al Arbour night the Islanders did not play a great game despite the shot disparity and it did seem like the ghosts got the Islanders two points in this game. Sidney Crosby may have hit the wrong spot on the board but his play to Hunter for the first goal was better than any Islander setup for two periods. It's been a long time since I have seen a shot go wide at the Nassau Coliseum to a wide open forward on the other side for an easy open net goal and Satan made a perfect shot on the game winner.
Islanders best shift in the first period came from Ben Walter, Chris Simon and Aaron Johnson who cycled very well before Walter just missed tipping one in and looked good every time they were on the ice. Comrie almost finished a rare giveaway by Pittsburgh.
The power play set up on the perimeter and did not press a defense with Mark Eaton, Rob Scuderi and former Sound Tiger Alain Nasredine among others or a team with Ryan Whitney out of the lineup. They forced the Pens into few mistakes and gave struggling Marc Andre Fleury confidence with a lot of low percentage shots and he made a few very strong saves as well, the Pens defense blocked a few that easily could have gone in so they deserve some credit too.
Defensively Andy Sutton and Marc Andre Bergeron had their best games as Islanders this season. Radek Martinek had a very poor decision that almost cost the club skating out in front of his own net and again it seemed like the ghosts were again present when a puck bounced over his stick and the whistle stopped play as a Pens penalty broke up a sure two on one break. Brendan Witt had an absurd call made on him for a clean open ice hit in the first period. Campoli and Gervais were solid, Hunter for his shots did not get into the high quality area's but worked very hard. Hilbert did not finish but his work ethic was noticeable again as was Richard Park's.
Team defense got in the passing lanes and when they did not DiPietro made a few big saves, Dubie had to be sharp and was with again the ghosts stopping Crosby who hit a crossbar after the Islanders tied the game on their best setup of the night with Satan finishing an excellent play where you have to wonder if the ghosts knocked down Vasicek so he was behind the play and was in position to make that pass.
Pittsburgh seemed very willing to trade chances with the Islanders at times with their firepower and it did remind me of last year's games for a few stetches.
Overall Islanders are 7-4 and have won three of their last four games. It's not close to perfect and this club seems to need a period plus of being outworked and out skated before they get into the trenches and start creating quality chances but they are finding ways to compete and get points and take the game from the opposition when it's in the balance.
Islanders can do without DiPietro for a short stretch because Dubie can handle the work but for now everyone has to hold their collective breath as to the extent of his eye injury. Martinek got Crosby's stick and lifted it so to blame him here for something intentional just does not appear to be the case. I was worried DiPietro got another concussion when I saw the play and it says a lot he was in the building through the ceremonies but did not go onto the ice.
The trapping Rangers come to Nassau Coliseum Tuesday in a game that already seems anti-climatic after last night.