Isles have chances, come up short in Game 6
UNIONDALE, N.Y.— The task at hand for the Islanders was brutal in its simplicity:
Win a game.
But even though the Islanders had the better of play for much of the game, they wake up Sunday knowing that their season has ended.
“It's going to take awhile—weeks—to digest this,” Travis Hamonic said after the Islanders' 4-3 overtime loss to the Penguins in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinal Saturday night at Nassau Coliseum.
The Islanders are now 3-1 all-time in Stanley Cup Playoff series against the Pens, including Game 7 wins in the 1975 quarterfinals and the 1993 Patrick Division final.
This will be a loss that resonates because the Islanders did everything they had to do in order to win the win-or-go-home game.
New York implemented a multi-faceted attack which had the Penguins on their heels from the opening puck drop.
The Islanders finished with a 38-21 advantage in shots on goal.
“They're going to be in the playoffs for a long time,” Sidney Crosby said of the Islanders.
As they had in Games 2 through 4, the Islanders used their speed and physicality to wear on the Penguins. Even though the stat sheet showed the Islanders had a marginal edge in hits (19-17), they were clearly the aggressors, led by Matt Martin's game-high 11 hits.
The hitting paid off on the Islanders' second goal of the game. Fourth liners Keith Aucoin and Michael Grabner forced a turnover behind Pens goalie Tomas Vokoun, and Colin McDonald slammed a backhander into the net that gave New York a 2-1 lead.
Aucoin and Grabner combined on the go-ahead goal 2:21 into third, using a combination of a strategic adjustment made by coach Jack Capuano and their speed.
Although the Islanders spent the majority of the game attacking, they clogged the neutral zone in an attempt to eliminate the Pens' stretch pass, which was so effective in the 4-0 win in Game 5. The trap mostly took away passing lanes and forced the Penguins to skate the puck the length of the ice.
“We played a good hockey game,” Martin said.
When the Pens tried to pass against the trap, it resulted in turnovers, none more critical than Norris Trophy finalist Kris Letang's clearing attempt 2:20 into the third that Aucoin intercepted at the blue line. The New York center took several strides towards the slot, faked a slap shot and feathered a pass to Grabner, standing in the right faceoff circle, for a one-timer that Vokoun never saw.
But even though the Islanders never trailed, they were unable to extend their leads. New York had leads of 1-0, 2-1, and 3-2, but the Penguins were able to score tying goals.
“We just couldn't get that second goal lead,” Hamonic said. “Overtime and they get a lucky shot. It really (ticks) you off. It really does.
“I think that we played really well. We could've won the series. Should've, in my opinion. It leaves a bitter, sour taste for the rest of the summer.”