Crosby, Penguins Spoil Islanders Long-Awaited Home Playoff Game
A day after Brooklyn fans booed the Nets in the same arena where the Islanders will begin playing in a couple of years, the fans at Nassau erupted in support for their Islanders as Kyle Okposo and John Tavares rallied to force overtime and almost stun the top-seeded Penguins. However, future Hall of Famer Sidney Crosby would have none of it, and he led the Penguins to a 5-4 victory in game three of the series to give Pittsburgh a 2-1 lead.
Playoff hockey returned to Nassau for the first time in six years with the Islanders stunning the Penguins with two goals in the first six minutes to go up 2-0, then rallying from 4-2 down with two more third period goals to tie the game 4-4 and carry the momentum into a dominant first eight minutes of overtime. It was a fitting game for fans who remembered the dynasty of Hall of Famers that put the Island on the map, but the future Hall of Famer Sunday was the Penguins Crosby who played through his broken jaw to single-handedly save the Penguins.
Eight minutes into overtime, Brian Strait appeared to play perfect defense, staying on Crosby’s back near the boards to the left of the Islanders’ goal. Crosby reversed himself to keep his body between Strait and the puck and moved toward the goal. Strait could not get around him, and finally had to hold on for dear life as Crosby shuffled the puck on goal but was pulled back by Strait.
Strait went to the penalty box with 11:49 to go in the overtime period, and after one successful icing by the Islanders, Crosby had the puck again, this time to the goalies right of the net. With the short-handed Islanders attention on him, he put a perfect centering pass on the stick of Chris Kunitz, who scored the game winner to give the Penguins the 5-4 win and 2-1 edge in the series against the lowest seed in the East.
It did not appear the heroics would be needed until early in the third period when a sloppy pass from the Penguins Brenden Morrow gave the Islanders the puck. Frans Nielsen spun with the puck and fired across the ice in anticipation of where Okposo would be. Okposo was in perfect stride, and took the puck just before the blue line and put a wrist shot into the net as Matt Niskanen tried to pull him down from behind to stop the breakaway.
A few minutes later, Brad Boyes used a great check to free the puck, and a pass ahead to John Tavares, the league’s third leading scorer who the Penguins had successfully focused on for much of the series. Tavares came into the goalies right, slowed to line up Penguin defender Mark Eaton between himself and the goalie, and used the blind spot to fire the puck into the net as Nassau erupted with a 4-4 tie.
The Islanders entered the overtime period with a historic league-best 29-11 record in NHL overtime games, but many of those games were with Denis Potvin, Mike Bossy and other future Hall of Famers.
However, they kept the momentum going from the third period and had four chances to end it in overtime before Crosby’s heroics.
Okposo continued his relentless pressure and almost ended it in overtime when he split two defenders and put a shot on goal less than a minute into the overtime.
Brad Boyes took a seemingly harmless slap shot from outside the blue line near the boards, but blasted it on goal. It was deflected up into the stands.
Matt Moulson almost put a perfect centering pass in front of the net, then came back around the net and almost got the return pass on goal.
Finally the Islanders almost had a breakaway, but Kris Latang took the puck out of the air to deflect it away and save his goalie Marc-Andre Fleury from having to make a 1-on-1 save shortly before Crosby worked his magic.