PITTSBURGH — Barry Trotz lists the Islanders’ ability to play four lines consistently as one of the team’s strengths.
But it doesn’t hurt to have a top-end offensive talent such as top-line right wing Jordan Eberle put together a goal streak. His tying goal in the first period in the Isles’ 4-1 win over the Penguins in Game 3 of their first-round series Sunday afternoon at PPG Paints Arena gave him three in three games.
Eberle snapped in a sharp-angle shot from the left at 13:22. “A lot of times, you just get it and try and release it as quick as you can,” he said. “You know the goalie is coming across. I was lucky enough to beat him up there.”
Eberle, an impending unrestricted free agent as he comes to the end of a six-year, $36 million deal, had five goals in the last seven regular-season games.
“We need contributions right through the lineup,” Trotz said. “But if you get some of those high-end skill guys getting hot at the right time, your whole group can get a little breathing room. Jordan has been really good through this series. I can’t think of a player that has not. Our strength is our group.”
Eberle had two assists in 13 games with the Oilers in 2017 in his only previous NHL playoff experience. That lack of production was one of the reasons the Oilers opted to trade him to the Islanders.
Now he’s the first Islander since Ray Ferraro in 1993 with goals in each of the team’s first three playoff games.
Penguins coach Mike Sullivan tried some gamesmanship in the pregame warm-ups, having Evgeni Malkin center Zach Aston-Reese and Phil Kessel during line drills while Teddy Bleuger skated on fourth-line center Matt Cullen’s left wing.
Jared McCann, considered a game-time decision with an upper-body injury, did not participate in the line rushes.
However, McCann started the game on Malkin’s line with Patric Hornqvist. Bleuger was a healthy scratch.
When Eberle and Brock Nelson scored in a span of 62 seconds in the first period, it was the least amount of time between Islanders goals in a playoff game since Kip Miller and Mariusz Czerkawski scored 38 seconds apart in Game 6 against Toronto in 2002, according to team statistician Eric Hornick . . . Johnny Boychuk played in his 100th playoff game. He is the 360th player in NHL history to reach that milestone . . . Valtteri Filppula had two assists . . . Mathew Barzal had one assist, giving him four in the series and at least one in each game.
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