The Islanders entered the playoffs knowing they almost certainly needed to do better on the power play than they had in the regular season. Particularly since the Penguins’ lethal first unit was expected to be a key factor in the first-round series.
So far, so good as the Islanders went 1-for-2 with five shots on the power play in their 4-3 overtime win in Game 1 on Wednesday night at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum.
“We get one early on the first one and then generate some chances,” said right wing Jordan Eberle, who gave the Islanders a 1-0 lead with his power-play goal at 1:40 of the first period. “You’re not going to score every time on the power play but you want to create some momentum and we did that tonight. If we can continue, that’s going to be a huge upside in the playoffs.”
The Islanders finished 29th in the NHL on the power play at 14.5 percent and were just 3-for-50 (6.0 percent) over the final 22 games. The Penguins, with a first unit that includes Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, Patric Hornqvist and Kris Letang, were fifth in the league at 24.6 percent and were 3-for-14 (21.4 percent) in four games against the Islanders.
Malkin’s power-play goal at 13:41 of the second period tied it at 2-2.
Eight of the NHL’s top 10 power-play teams qualified for the playoffs. Yet, four of the league’s bottom seven teams – the Golden Knights (25th), Blue Jackets (28th), Islanders and Predators (31st) are also in the 16-team field.
The Islanders’ did kill off an an atrocious boarding call on captain Anders Lee after his skates got tangled with Erik Gudbranson’s at 8:34 of the third period and the defenseman went hard into the end boards in the Penguins’ zone before being helped to the dressing room.
Dal Colle is Plan B
Ex-Penguin Tom Kuhnhackl, who won two Stanley Cups in his three seasons in Pittsburgh, logged 17:42 with one shot and had two potential goals nullified on video reviews. He got the Game 1 nod on second-line center Brock Nelson’s right wing over rookie Michael Dal Colle.
Kuhnhackl had four goals and five assists in 36 games while Dal Colle had three goals and four assists in 28 games.
“The penalty kill and experience is in Tommy’s favor, no question,” Trotz said. “Probably a little bit of size and maybe a little offense goes to Dal Colle. We’ve weighed it out. It’s close. But I think we have a plan going in a certain way and we have a pretty good option on the other side of it.”
Right wing Phil Kessel had a goal and an assist…Left wing Zach Aston-Reese logged 8:43 as he returned to the Penguins lineup after missing 13 games with a lower-body injury and defenseman Brian Dumoulin played 19:40 after a three-game absence because of a lower-body injury. Dumoulin missed some shifts in the first period after a hard check from Brock Nelson.