The Islanders have evened their first-round Stanley Cup playoff series and, in doing so, they might have gotten inside a few Penguins' heads.
Their 6-4 win Tuesday night in Game 4 at the Coliseum featured yet another comeback after they were down a goal early in the third. It also featured some ugly goaltending on both sides, but most notably by the Penguins' Marc-Andre Fleury, who allowed all six goals on just 24 shots.
"We know how he played last year," said Kyle Okposo, who tossed a shot from below the goal line that banked off Fleury's pad, stick and in with 1:24 left in the second period to tie the game 3-3. "We just want to get traffic in front of him, get shots on him. We peppered him in the third and tried to get in his kitchen a little bit."
It certainly worked. Chris Kunitz's shot banked off Pascal Dupuis' pants leg and past Evgeni Nabokov just 41 seconds into the third, giving the Penguins a 4-3 lead. But Mark Streit caromed a shot off Douglas Murray's skate and past Fleury at 4:30 to tie Game 4 for a fourth time. Then John Tavares, with help from Evgeni Malkin's bad turnover and a pass from Brad Boyes (three assists), scored off his own rebound with 9:49 to go to put the Isles in front.
Casey Cizikas capped a three-point night with a one-handed shot off Fleury's stick and in with 1:16 to play, leaving the Penguins flustered and frustrated from the goaltender on out.
Even with Malkin and Sidney Crosby on the ice at the final horn, the Penguins ignited a melee and Malkin fought Travis Hamonic, leaving the distinct impression that the Penguins were feeling a bit rattled after blowing a lead for the third straight game.
"I don't think we would be denied," Matt Moulson said. "Time will tell [if we're in their heads]. Our game is just to keep coming. We've been doing it all year against a lot of different teams."
The Islanders will have to make a serious adjustment, though. Andrew MacDonald, their ice-time leader, suffered a broken hand in the second period, according to a source, and will likely miss the remainder of the postseason.
"We bent, but we wouldn't go away," said Hamonic, who had two assists. "You'd have to go and ask them [if they thought we'd go away]. Let them think what they want to think. We'll worry about ourselves."
Streit had two goals and an assist and Brian Strait scored his first NHL playoff goal to open the scoring in the first.
Still, as there were in the previous two games, the Islanders have plenty to shore up. Nabokov made 27 saves, but he's allowed 17 goals in the four games. The Isles' power play had two early chances to get on the scoreboard but failed.
And despite that, they are even at 2-2, headed back to Pittsburgh for Thursday's Game 5 with the top-seeded Penguins feeling all the pressure.
"I just keep going back to the resiliency of this squad," Strait said. "All season long, to be part of it, to see our composure when we get knocked back, it's impressive."