The referees played a big factor in the Penguins 3-2 overtime victory over the Islanders, including on the penalty call on Milan Jurcina that led to the winning goal. Jurcina was called for hooking, but if there was any Islander guilty of that it was Mike Mottau, and about 10 feet to the right. Regardless, the Isles walked away with a point they worked very hard for.
The Isles were down 2-0 in the game when Blake Comeau took a pretty hard hit and went down to the ice. The hit was shoulder to shoulder, and clean - the refs saw otherwise. They called Kris Letang for the hit to the head, and the Isles got a five minute powerplay as a result. They cashed in on that once, with Josh Bailey corralling a Comeau shot and putting it past Brent Jonhson. Shortly after that, Comeau factored into the 2nd Islander goal by making a pass from behind the net to the slot that was intended for Zenon Konopka. Konopka missed, but Radek Martinek was there for a quick shot that got passed Jonhson to tie the game up at two.
Special teams got a ton of work in the game, with Pittsburgh getting eight powerplays while the Islanders had six. Each team cashed in one time. The Islanders haven't had as much creativity in this area in these two road games, and that is where having James Wisniewski back from his suspension is a good thing. The Isles only had five shots on the powerplay, and if you don't throw pucks at the net, you aren't going to have a great deal of success. The Isles have a number of guys who thrive down low, and trying to get rebounds is going to be key.
Rick DiPietro got the start, and looked very strong. His reactions were very quick. He did get beat up a lot though, mostly by tough guy Matt Cooke. His antics were a bit interesting in this one, and the refs really didn't put up with them very much. On two occasions, within minutes of each other, Cooke was thrown in the box for actions related to DiPietro tumbling to the ice and being slow to get up.
Each one of the Pittsburgh goals weren't DiPietro's fault. You could make the argument for the first one, which came from Mike Rupp, as DiPietro blocked it to the side but not out of reach of Rupp. He ended up backhanding the puck in with DiPietro lunging to try and stop it. It was a good effort though. Good to see him be able to move that quickly to try and make the save.
The usual suspects looked very good tonight - Josh Bailey, Comeau and Doug Weight all had strong games. Mottau has been good on defense, and hasn't made as many glaring mistakes as some of the others. I felt tonight was one of his better games here so far, and he really had the poke check working. He's going to be relied on a lot to provide 22+ minutes a night, and so far, generally he has been up to the challenge.
Michael Grabner looked really good Wednesday night against the Capitals, but not so much for this game. Yes, it's only three games into his Islanders career but he made a number of errant passes from what I saw. That is going to have to be improved upon as time goes on here. I would imagine he's trying to get out some of the jitters of playing with a new team, in a new system. He was thrust into his role when John Tavares went down with his injury. Tavares is expected to be back tonight against the Avs, so we'll see who sits now. I would really like to see Grabner and Tavares together.
Two of the penalties the Islanders took tonight were for too many men on the ice. This is a very young and talented team, but one that is obviously still doing some learning on the fly. The sloppiness in some of the line changes is very visible. I've seen defensemen come onto the ice and immediately have to scramble into position to prevent an odd man rush because the forward changes were a bit sloppy. This is something that is almost certainly going to have to improve, and it will over time. This is a problem that is usually worked out during training camp - a normal one, not one that was shortened.
There seems to be some miscommunication on the penalty kill as well. Fortunately, it hasn't decimated the team yet, but there have been numerous times where it seems two players are going to the same area, leaving one guy having to cover a large area. It's usually one forward having to watch both point men for a little bit. It seems at times that this is what the Islanders play calls far, and while I'm not a big proponent of that it hasn't killed them too much just yet. But that's something that will have to be worked on as well.
Jack Hillen only had nine minutes of ice time, and I would imagine that means Gordon hasn't seen enough of him yet to prove that he isn't over-thinking and still feels he is trying to do too much. I'd expect to see him out of the lineup for Wisniewski.
With Tavares coming back, don't be surprised to see Grabner stay in and Trevor Gillies the odd man out here and there. Gillies played a grand total of nine seconds tonight, and got into a fight with Eric Godard. Not every team has a guy for Gillies to go with that Konopka can't handle himself. The Islanders would sacrifice that every so often to get more speed and hockey sense in there. It could happen as early as tonight.
More to come later with a little preview of the game vs. the Avs. This is the first game that we'll be represented in the press box. I'm very excited to get my chance to go up there and bring you guys some good coverage. I haven't completely figured out what I'll do yet, but I'll know more in a bit and of course let you guys know whats going on. For now, make sure you are following us on Twitter and Facebook.