Dan Bylsma would not say who will start in goal for the Penguins in Game 5 Thursday, but he sounded very much like a man who had made his decision.
Speaking after a 6-4 Islanders win in Game 4 Tuesday night that featured some ugly goals allowed by Marc-Andre Fleury, the coach noted that one of the reasons the Penguins traded for backup goalie Tomas Vokoun last offseason was just for situations like this.
"Certainly Tomas Vokoun is a guy who can step in and play," Bylsma said. "We're going to regroup and come back for Game 5 with a refocus."
And maybe a re-goalie.
Fleury appears to be in the midst of his second consecutive first-round playoff meltdown. After allowing 26 goals in six games against the Flyers in last year's playoffs, he has now allowed 14 to the Islanders in the last three games of this series (a shutout in Game 1 was his lone shining reprieve). What's worse is his sloppy mishandling of the puck is leading to Islanders goals. Fleury's shaky play has been the most glaring weak spot for the top-seeded team and one of the biggest reasons the Islanders have tied the series at two games each.
"We've scored plenty of goals in this series," Bylsma said. "It's about minimizing opportunities for the other side . . . with how we manage the puck or with a timely save."
Fleury's most untimely non-save came late in the second period. He saved a shot by Travis Hamonic but the rebound went behind the goal. Kyle Okposo was able to pick the puck off the boards and tried to center it. Fleury deflected that attempt, but the puck ricocheted off his stick and over the goal line. That allowed the Islanders to tie the score at 3 with 1:24 left in the period at a time when the Penguins looked to be taking control.
"That was not a good goal," Bylsma said. "That one hurt. We would have gone into the end of the period with a 3-2 lead."
"It just went off my stick and bounced in," a morose Fleury said. "I'm not happy, that's for sure."
It was the second time this series that Fleury scored for the Islanders. In Game 2 last week, a shot by Okposo banged off the boards and Fleury tried to control it with his pad. Instead, he knocked it behind himself and into the goal with his leg.
The Islanders' last two goals also came on plays that Fleury could have stopped. John Tavares scored the winner midway through the third on a rebound off Fleury's skate. Then, in the final minutes, Casey Cizikas sealed the win when he slid an innocuous shot under Fleury's stick hand.
After that goal, Fleury came off for an extra skater. And maybe for the rest of the series.