Islanders' speed dictates victory over Penguins
By Rob Rossi
Published: Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013, 10:16 p.m.
Dan Bylsma can't coach speed.
His Penguins players, however, must quickly do a better job of defending against it.
Improving upon “emotion and spirit” would help, Bylsma said Tuesday night after a 4-1 loss to the New York Islanders that kept the Penguins without a point after two games at Consol Energy Center.
With only 24 home games in the truncated NHL season, that trend must change fast.
The Penguins (3-3-0, 6 points) have fizzled after a fast start with road wins over the Flyers and Rangers.
This loss looked a lot like the one at Winnipeg on Friday and against Toronto in the home opener a week ago.
“I would say our speed gave them problems,” Islanders center Frans Nielsen said after recording two assists in his club's victory.
Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury was replaced for the third period by Tomas Vokoun. Fleury made just 13 saves.
Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik said that neither he nor his teammates did anything well against the Islanders. In fact, only a late goal by right winger Pascal Dupuis prevented the Islanders from their first shutout in Pittsburgh since 1985 or anywhere against the Penguins dating to 1986.
Sidney Crosby was born in 1987. He is not entirely convinced the Penguins are playing slower than in past seasons.
“I don't know if I've analyzed it that hard,” Crosby said. “We try to play a quick game, transition fast. With (virtually) no (training) camp, maybe we aren't. But it hasn't been something I've noticed.”
Aggressive forechecking (center Casey Cizikas) and breakaway skill (right winger Michael Grabner) helped the Islanders take a 2-0 lead. Pinpoint power-play passing led to goals by center John Tavares and left winger Matt Moulson.
The Penguins went 0 for 3 on the power play and are in a 1-for-14 funk.
They rarely challenged against the Islanders and failed miserably on two first-period advantages. They did not win battles for puck possession and zone entry. They also did not make sharp reads.
The Islanders began Tuesday with the NHL's third-best penalty kill, having allowed only one goal on 17 chances. Still, the Penguins generated only two shots — both by forward Dustin Jeffrey, a healthy scratch the previous four games — on nearly four full minutes of power-play time to open the third period, the result of a boarding major for Islanders right winger Colin McDonald, who crunched defenseman Ben Lovejoy late in the second.
The Penguins looked slow when not proving powerless on the advantage.
Defensemen were forced to play pucks deep in the offensive zone, and Islanders forwards quickly closed off passing lanes and took away the walls. Islanders defensemen were faster to loose pucks in their own zone, and they were aided by Penguins forwards who settled for high-risk pretty plays such as low-percentage passes.
“We didn't make it easy for them,” Tavares said. “That was a focus of ours. I think we frustrated them.”
Rob Rossi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @RobRossi_Trib.
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