Pens regain their edge, series control in Game 5
Tyler Kennedy breathed life into the Penguins — and their nervous fans — on Thursday.
His breakaway goal sparked a second-period surge that proved pivotal in a 4-0 win over the New York Islanders at Consol Energy Center.
The Penguins can end this Eastern Conference quarterfinal playoff series with a win in Game 6 at Nassau Coliseum beginning at 7 p.m. Saturday.
“I want to win. I'm a positive guy,” said Kennedy, who had been a postseason healthy scratch — a first in his seven-year career with the Penguins — before rejoining the lineup Thursday. “Obviously it (stunk). But I'm a team player.”
Kennedy's team may play in the second round for the first time since 2010 because of his potentially series-changing goal.
Captain Sidney Crosby, who scored a beauty of his own in Game 5, called it “huge.”
Defenseman Kris Letang, who sprung Kennedy with a heads-up and spot-on stretch pass from deep in the defensive zone, said players “were a little bit on our heels.”
“It provided a spark,” Letang said of Kennedy's goal.
The goal broke a scoreless tie.
The goal was the first of three in about seven minutes.
The goal transformed a quiet arena into the Frenzy on Fifth Avenue.
Members of the 281st consecutive sellout crowd (18,636) rose as one, roaring to deafening levels while twirling white towels.
Those fans had been waiting for something to feel good about.
The previous palpable feel — nervousness boarding on anxiety — stemmed from the series having been tied, 2-2, and the recent history of three straight postseason losses to lower-seeded opponents.
Teams that win Game 5 of a best-of-seven series tied, 2-2, have won 80 percent of those series.
A strong second half to the first period by the Islanders had not helped matters. They outshot the Penguins, 14-2, over the final 11 minutes.
However, the Penguins found their form to open the second.
They won races to pucks, battles along the boards and positioning in the defensive zone.
Bylsma made the adjustments for which so many pundits had begged — Jarome Iginla to the right of Crosby, Chris Kunitz to the left of Evgeni Malkin — but the biggest change for the Penguins was their structure.
Forwards tracked deeper defensively to help defensemen, with centers — especially Malkin — veering below the hashes to clog space.
The Islanders had made a living by skating pucks into the slot, if not the crease, the three previous games.
That was not going to happen in Game 5.
“We knew we needed to get better and in all areas of the ice,” Kunitz said.
The Penguins won 64 percent of faceoffs, committed only eight giveaways and blocked 14 shots.
In fact, it was fine defensive work by center Brandon Sutter that contributed to Kennedy's goal.
Sutter won a defensive-zone battle of his own before shuffling the puck to Letang, who coolly observed an opening in the neutral zone, where Kennedy was waiting beyond the center-red line, behind the Islanders' defense.
Letang had struggled since Game 1.
His reads appeared off. His pass attempts were low-percentage. His decisions in the offensive zone were questionable.
Of course, he has set an elite standard, having been recognized this week as a finalist for the Norris Trophy, awarded annually to the NHL's top defenseman.
Letang looked the part on his pass to Kennedy.
“I had to put it in the air,” Letang said. “I saw him tapping his stick on the ice. He looked like he wanted it.”
Kennedy did want the puck.
What he did with it helped the Penguins get a win they needed.
Rob Rossi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @RobRossi_Trib.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Steelers rookie says Sam, his former roommate, has changed
- Fire victim’s ex-boyfriend jumps from Tarentum Bridge
- Steelers aim to create more turnovers this year with speedier defense
- Locke gets rocked as Pirates are knocked off by Diamondbacks
- Two cars strike horse near Fayette fair
- Steelers notebook: Shoulder pads get technological boost for Ravens game
- Rossi: Buying trust is a must for Pirates
- Fraud case reopens old wound
- McKeesport convenience store sells winning ticket
- Sewickley Township fraud case reopens old wound for New Stanton woman
- Roundup: Huntington Bancshares to cut 200 jobs; Kennametal posts drop in 1Q profit; more