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Islanders' winning streak snapped after squandering three-goal lead in OT loss to Penguins

Brock Nelson #29 of the Islanders skates off

Brock Nelson #29 of the Islanders skates off the ice as the Pittsburgh Penguins celebrate their overtime victory at Barclays Center on Thursday, Nov. 7, 2019. Credit: Jim McIsaac

The Penguins did it to the Islanders again, all these years later.

And the end to the Islanders’ 10-game winning streak, the second-longest in franchise history, was excruciating.

The Islanders held a three-goal lead entering the third period, but uncharacteristically passive play resulted in a 4-3 overtime loss to the Penguins on Thursday night before a crowd of 12,613 at Barclays Center.

It marked the first time the teams have met since the Islanders swept the Penguins in the first round of the playoffs.

“We just didn’t do a good job of staying aggressive, especially with a three-goal lead,” said defenseman Adam Pelech, who had a goal and an assist in a season-high 25:57 as he and partner Ryan Pulock (26:02) got the bulk of the matchups against Sidney Crosby’s top line. “We were putting something special together. It’s tough to see it end.”

The franchise record remains a 15-game winning streak from Jan. 21 to Feb. 20, 1982 — and the Penguins snapped that with a 4-3 win on Feb. 21, 1982.

This time the Penguins scored three third-period goals within seven minutes, 10 seconds and Bryan Rust notched the winner at 3:25 of overtime with his second goal of the game. He scored on a wraparound after taking the puck away from Brock Nelson behind the net. The Islanders had been 9-0-0 when holding a lead after two periods.

“We didn’t continue playing the way we were in the first 40 minutes and the way we were in the streak,” Anders Lee said. “Tonight, in a division game, it cost us a game. It’s surprising in the fact it was uncharacteristic of us. They pop one in, it’s fine. But we didn’t have a response. We’ve got to find a way to grind it out and get that momentum back.”

Semyon Varlamov made 35 saves for the Islanders (11-3-1) as coach Barry Trotz stuck to his strict goalie rotation. Matt Murray stopped 20 shots for the Penguins (9-6-1).

Varlamov’s bid for a second straight shutout after making 27 saves in a 1-0 win at Buffalo on Saturday night ended at 1:38 of the third period as Jared McCann beat him through a screen to cut the Islanders’ lead to 3-1. That snapped Varlamov’s shutout streak at 104:34.

Rust brought the Penguins within 3-2 at 6:16 off the rush seconds after Murray sprawled to rob Anthony Beauvillier at the right post.

“We score there, it’s probably game, set, match,” Trotz said. “From our standpoint, we weren’t smart when we had the lead. We didn’t raise our battle level when we had to in the third. That’s not like us.”

Evgeni Malkin tied it at 3-3 as he muscled his way into position to backhand in the rebound of defenseman Juuso Riikola’s shot off the crossbar at 8:48.

Casey Cizikas and Cal Clutterbuck each scored for the second straight game, but the Islanders got an inconsistent performance from their top lines. “We didn’t have enough guys going up front today,” Trotz said. “We only had a couple of lines tonight.”

Clutterbuck took a pass from Cizikas — who had beaten Crosby on the faceoff to start a Pittsburgh power play — and beat Murray through his pads for a 2-0 lead at 6:28 of the second period. The Islanders also scored shorthanded in Tuesday’s 4-1 win over the Senators and have three shorthanded goals this season.

Pelech connected on a slap shot from the blue line that deflected off the skate of Penguins defenseman Jack Johnson to make it 3-0 at 9:26 of the second period. Cizikas gave the Islanders a 1-0 lead 19 seconds into the first period, the fastest goal the team has scored this season.   

  

  

  

  

  

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