Islanders lose to Pittsburgh Penguins in first-round opener
PITTSBURGH -- The Islanders got to the playoffs by working harder than their opponents.
Once they got to the postseason last night, however, they made it very easy for the Penguins to take control of this series.
The Islanders fell behind early, chased pucks and lost battles all over the ice in a 5-0 loss to the Penguins to open this Eastern Conference quarterfinal. Evgeni Nabokov was pulled after allowing four goals on 15 shots through 21:51, John Tavares was pushed around and held without a shot and there was very, very little to take out of the Islanders' first playoff game since 2007.
"It's got to hurt to play, and this was too easy," Nabokov said. "We have to come back for the next game and be ready, be more physical and just make it harder on them on every inch of the ice. It's the only way we can play with that team."
The Penguins were without Sidney Crosby, still not fully healed from a broken jaw, but that hardly mattered the way the rest of his team ran roughshod over the seemingly jittery Islanders, who had 11 players making their playoff debuts.
Brian Strait took an early penalty for knocking down Matt Cooke away from the play and, after Andrew MacDonald's clearing pass deflected off linesman Greg Devorski's leg instead of going the length of the ice, Penguins rookie Beau Bennett roofed a shot over Nabokov just 3:30 in to open the scoring.
The Isles settled themselves and got a few shots on Marc-Andre Fleury, but not enough quality chances. Pascal Dupuis scored the first of his two goals later in the first period off a scramble in front of Nabokov for a two-goal hole.
The Pens chased Nabokov with two goals in 32 seconds early in the second, the first a power-play goal by Kris Letang.
That power play came about when Mark Streit, another of the Islanders who looked a bit overwhelmed by the occasion, was caught flat-footed on a clearing pass and grabbed a hold of Brandon Sutter to prevent another scoring chance in the final minute of the first. Then Marty Reasoner took a tripping penalty on Evgeni Malkin in the opening minute of the second, and the deadly Penguins had a 23-second, two-man advantage.
Letang rifled a shot over Nabokov's shoulder just as Streit's penalty expired.
Dupuis scored his second in the slot after he beat Lubomir Visnovsky for position in front of Nabokov.
Kevin Poulin came on and allowed a softie by Tanner Glass from the side boards at 13:07 of the second, but the game was over by then.
Fleury made 26 saves for the shutout as the Penguins gained a full head of steam from this opener, going 2-for-4 on the power play and outworking the Islanders. The visitors went 0-for-4 with the man advantage, just another area where they failed.
"I'm not really sure what it was," said Matt Martin, who recorded 10 hits. "We got away from the game plan. They're one of the Cup favorites -- when you make it easy on them, they're going to light you up."
It was the Islanders' worst playoff loss since consecutive 6-0 defeats by the Rangers in Games 1 and 2 of the Atlantic Division semifinals in 1994.
The Penguins had Brenden Morrow, Cooke and Douglas Murray out on the ice most time against Tavares, who tried to give as good as he got but often ended up on his fanny. It was an unpleasant playoff debut for Tavares, to say the least.
"We're going to need to [forget it quickly]," he said. "We don't have much time. These series are long, but sometimes they can be quick, too."
Jack Capuano said there may be some lineup changes, but he simply needs more from everyone for Game 2 here tomorrow.
"We lost battles," he said. "We've just got to work harder. We'll see when the puck drops on Friday night."