Bryan Rust leads Penguins to OT win, snapping Islanders’ 10-game winning streak
NEW YORK — For the second consecutive game, the Pittsburgh Penguins ventured into an opponent’s venue and spotted the home team, already in the midst of a winning streak, a three-goal lead.
And for the second contest in a row, the Penguins overcame that deficit, scoring three unanswered goals to force a tie.
The only difference is Thursday, they won.
A reconfigured second line of Evgeni Malkin, Jared McCann and Bryan Rust sparked the Penguins’ furious 4-3 overtime comeback victory at Barclays Center against the rival New York Islanders, who entered the contest having won 10 consecutive.
The victory snapped a two-game losing streak, including a 6-4 road loss to the Bruins — giving Boston its six straight win — Monday in which the Penguins overcame a three-goal deficit to claim a lead, only to lose it in the third period.
This time, the Penguins’ fourth goal, and second from Rust, won the game.
Trailing 3-0 after two periods, the Penguins switched up their top three lines, but the McCann-Malkin-Rust trio was the one that did the heavy lifting offensively.
“It’s not a great mood, but we understand it’s not over,” Malkin said of his team’s mindset after two periods. “We understand the game is 60 minutes. We’re professional here. We sit here in the locker room with our support here. Coach come in and said, ‘It’s not over. Let’s go, guys.’ You see right now in the NHL, you can (be losing) 4-0, and you can come back in the game. You need just to fight every shift. Twenty minutes is (a) long time. It’s a great win, for sure.
“Tonight, we’re a little bit lucky and we win the game.”
Good fortune evaded the Penguins almost from the opening faceoff.
The Islanders needed all of 13 seconds to claim the first lead when forward Casey Cizikas, from the right of the cage, corralled a rebound behind the net, dragging it with his forehand to the near post and lifted a quick backhander past the blocker of goaltender Matt Murray.
A short-handed goal by Islanders forward Cal Clutterbuck at 6:28 of the second made it a 2-0 contest. That was followed up a mere 1:58 later by an even-strength score from defenseman Adam Pelech.
Entering the third period, the Penguins had a simple pursuit in mind.
“Our goal was to just come out on the first shift in the third and try to slowly get one,” Rust said. “To get that quick one was huge. Then we kind of just built off of that.”
That first one came only 1:38 into the third. Off a pass from defenseman John Marino, McCann fired an off-balance wrister from above the right circle through goaltender Semyon Varlamov’s five hole.
They pulled within one at6:16 of the third, but not without a key play at their own net.
Off a frantic goalmouth scramble, Murray absolutely purloined a backhander from Islanders forward Anthony Beauvillier by raising his left leg, seemingly solely on instinct and not technique.
Marino swatted the rebound off that save from the slot to the left wing wall of the defensive zone. Malkin collected it and centered a pass to McCann. Turning up ice, McCann fed a pass up the right wing for Rust, who pushed the puck into the offensive zone. From the right circle, Rust lifted a wrister past Varlamov’s glove hand on the near side.
“(Murray’s) save (gave) us more energy,” Malkin said “We scored right away. Rust, his next shift, he scored. It changed the (momentum) for sure in the game. If they score, probably they win.”
The Penguins put themselves into position to win only 2:32 later when defenseman Juuso Riikola fluttered a wrister towards the cage from center point. The puck glanced off of Varlamov’s blocker and deflected off the crossbar. As the puck bounced to the right circle, Malkin fought off Islanders defenseman Johnny Boychuk and swatted a backhander past Varlamov’s left skate.
At3:25 of overtime, Rust hounded Islanders forward Brock Nelson into a turnover behind the New York net and tucked in a wraparound from the left of the cage to give the Penguins a much-needed victory.
“I give our players a lot of credit,” Sullivan said. “Their resilience and just their ‘stick-to-it-ness’ to keep fighting and keep pushing in that third period I just think is an indication of the character that we have in our room.”
Seth Rorabaugh is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Seth by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .