The Islanders felt as if they did enough to earn two points Friday night. Perhaps they’re trying to stay positive and keep their chins up in the face of mounting frustration and disappointment, but they didn’t play a tied third period like a team gunning for victory.
Kris Letang’s goal at 1:24 of overtime gave the visiting Penguins a 3-2 win at Barclays Center, a game that was a competitive 2-2 after 40 minutes. The Isles snoozed through the first period, then snapped to life early in the second on goals by Brock Nelson and Anthony Beauvillier 43 seconds apart that gave them a 2-1 lead.
But right from the opening faceoff of the final period, the Islanders were on their heels. A stretch pass sent Sidney Crosby in alone and he sent a shot over Jaroslav Halak’s net. A few seconds later, Conor Sheary and Carl Hagelin went in two-on- one. Halak stopped Sheary’s shot and Hagelin missed the net on the rebound.
“They’re obviously a good team and they created some opportunities,” John Tavares said. “We’ve got to find a way to get the momentum back. We’ve got to compete and want it and just execute.”
They were unable to do that in the final period, one in which they gave the Penguins a fifth power play in the game — Andrew Ladd was whistled for a hold on Letang — and played seemingly not to surrender the point they’d be guaranteed by getting to the end of regulation tied.
The shots attempted were 44-37 in the Penguins’ favor through two periods, 20-16 on goal. By the time Letang snapped home Crosby’s feed during the three-on-three session, the Penguins had a 74-47 advantage in shots attempted.
That whopping 30-10 disparity for the third period and the brief OT tells a bigger story than the Islanders’ hopes that the good things they did Friday night can springboard them out of their funk. They are 5-8-4 overall and 1-3-4 in their last eight.
Aside from three thrashings by the Lightning, the Islanders have been tied or led in the third period in 13 of 14 games. They are 5-4-4 in those contests and have found ways to lose points late in regulation or, like Friday night, holding on against Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and company.
Halak made 14 third-period saves, some after ugly giveaways by the Isles in their own end.
“I feel like we’re making good plays, but there are times the puck goes right off our sticks and onto theirs,” Johnny Boychuk said. “We’re not getting any breaks, but you have to work for them. You have to work for every chance you get.”
Nelson’s goal, on the power play at 1:51 of the second, tied the score after Crosby’s power-play marker in a Pittsburgh-dominated first. Beauvillier, the 19-year-old rookie, picked up Letang’s giveaway and made a pretty move to beat Matt Murray at 2:34 for a 2-1 Islanders lead.
Trevor Daley jumped off the bench and into a wide-open space to blast Phil Kessel’s pass behind Halak at 13:55, but the Islanders were in good position entering the third. Until it got going, anyway. “It’s frustrating as a player to play that well and come away with just one point,” Jack Capuano said. “There’s no moral victories in this game.”