Pens/Islanders Recap: Pittsburgh fended off by Sorokin…again


The Penguins get Tristan Jarry back in net for the first time in nearly a month, and also flip the bottom left wing line — because, hey, what does that even mean at this point?

First period

The Penguins are off to a good start, which considering they did it on Friday against this team also makes it feel a little hollow, but what can you do? Chad Ruhwedel of all people gets the game’s first really good scoring chance up front, but Ilya Sorokin keeps the puck out. But a little later, Sidney Crosby’s pass flips over to Jumpin’ Jake Guentzel who has an easy tap-in 6:12 into the night to put Pittsburgh up 1-0.

With the first line on the board, it’s as if the second line took it as a personal challenge to step up and try to get theirs as well. Bryan Rust had a nice backhand shot, but Sorokin denied it. Then Sorokin did even better to rob Evgeni Malkin on a 2-on-1 after a very slick pass from Jason Zucker.

Guentzel takes a stick to the chops and Pittsburgh gets the first power play as a result. Nothing good comes of it, but on the plus side – nothing bad either!

Back in the evening, there are always pens in the first. They play with the defenders and have control of the puck. Only the familiar foe in Sorokin showing his brilliance keeps NYI in this game (feels acutely like deja vu considering this happened 72 hours ago).

Shot ends at 19-7 pens. The only bad part is that the lead is only one, despite an awful lot of dominance out there.

Second period

The Islanders recover from the first period and start better (not a high bar to clear, considering they showed early), but Hudson Fasching took an offensive zone-stripping penalty to give Pittsburgh back some momentum. On the power play, Malkin feeds Jeff Carter in front, but he doesn’t get quite enough mustard on the shot, and Alexander Romanov manages to pull out and pull the slow-moving puck away from the goal.

It turns out to hurt, the islands take over and get a 2-on-1. It’s just the right guy for them in the form of Brock Nelson, who sees off the pass and fires a shot past Jarry and into the net. 1-1 match.

Drew O’Connor gets a breakout, but he can’t solve Sorokin.

A little later, Malkin is tripped and the Pens are on a third power play. Crosby misses a quick bounce from near the front, NYI takes it the other way, but Jarry keeps out a Kyle Palmieri chance and we’re on. The second group is out and Jeff Petry’s hard glance iron. Zucker is there for two chances on the rebound and manages to get the puck past Sorokin and over the line. 2-1 pens with 7:32 left in the period.

On the very next shift, Jarry has to stop Zach Parise on a clean breakaway. He does.

After a 3-0 edge in power plays, the refs shockingly find a way to get NYI on the power play and Brock McGinn gets caught on not much of a hooking call to send the Islanders to their first PP of the night.

Sorokin made an incredible diving stick save on Kris Letang. I mean look at this spell.

And then it all breaks loose (well, as much as it does in 2023 anyway) with Matt Martin trying to get to Zucker, Ross Johnston trying to attack anyone in a Penguin jersey. Malkin and Letang also get tangled up, trading punches through the chaos of the poor referees trying to separate six different angry players.

As a result, four Islanders and four Penguins end up in their respective penalty boxes, as well as Johnston and Zucker being sent to the locker rooms.

The Islanders earn another power play as McGinn takes another o-zone penalty. NYI gets some good looks in the closing seconds of the period, but the Pens hang on and nurse a one-goal lead into halftime.

It is another period with a very high event, shots in the second alone are 18-16 for PIT and 37-23 overall. But once again thanks to the hard work of Sorokin, the Islanders are able to stay within striking distance.

Third period

New York has a transferable power play to start the period, but it’s the Pens who get the best chance. Rust springs Teddy Blueger for a breakaway, but Sorokin isn’t having it.

More shenanigans with Guentzel and Scott Mayfield getting tied up and not skating away from each other, so they’re both boxed. It is Mayfield who gets two extra minutes that puts the Pens back on the power play.

Not a good one for the Pens, Bo Horvat welcomes Jarry back with a wrister that snaps the goalie in the neck, but the goalie pays the price for keeping the puck out of the net.

The islanders’ ability to hang around pays off. PO Joseph is unable to clear the zone and Horvat gets another crack at it. His poor angled shot finds space between Jarry and the post and slides in. 2-2 game with 11:26 left in regulation.

Then disaster strikes with a Jarry handout that brings back memories of the 2021 playoffs. Blueger can’t stop Anders Lee from taking it in. 3-2 lead for NYI with 9:44 left.

Letang heads to the box for a penalty on the next shift to make the mountain the Pens face even steeper. Pittsburgh shuts it down, but is down with seven minutes left.

Pittsburgh goes into desperation mode and pulls Jarry with two minutes left. They get an electric push with 6v5, but a scrum in front of the net and a lot of puck movement doesn’t beat Sorokin. NYI closes it out with a long-distance tom of nights. 4-2 final.

Some thoughts

  • With regular penalty killer McGinn in the box in the second period, O’Connor picked up a PK’ing shift in his place. Nice place to work in a younger guy. Mike Sullivan can’t be blamed if he didn’t like what he saw though – O’Connor couldn’t get the puck deep when he wasn’t pressured and the puck went the other way for some chances against. Could be a learning lesson, could also be a reminder of why it’s so hard for young players to earn trust when they can’t play properly.
  • It will be nice not to see Sorokin again for a while. Then again, the final Pens/Isles game is right around the corner in 16 days, so that’s already something not to look forward to.
  • Jarry looked good on his return – until the puck snapped him in the neck. A red well was immediately visible and after that, quite understandably, he lost much of his sharpness and gave up two goals soon after. Both of these goals were situations he didn’t get in (the giveaway) or let in (the Horvat shot) earlier in the game.
  • Up 2-1, Sorokin robbed Letang, then shut down Blueger on a breakaway. Failing to convert such golden chances left the Islanders too close to hanging around and doing what they do – finding a way to get back in. The frustration is clear, but beyond performing better there isn’t much else to do.
  • According to Moneypuck on Friday and tonight, the Pens generated 5 expected goals in each game. They scored a total of six on Sorokin. And while those numbers compile slowly, Sorokin singlehandedly taking four goals off the board can be considered a low, conservative estimate. Fantastic performance by him. All you can do is shake your head and laugh at this point.

Another infuriatingly ridiculous loss for Pittsburgh. They now fall two points behind NYI in the Wild Card race, but the Pens have four extra games in hand. At this rate, they may need them, and not see Sorokin to make up the gap.

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