Penguins make good in shootout for road win over Islanders
UNIONDALE, N.Y. — Casey DeSmith loves being in net when his teammates are scoring goal after goal at the other end of the ice. What goalie wouldn’t?
There’s something more satisfying, though, about savoring a victory that was harder to scratch out, and that’s the kind of win DeSmith came away with Monday night.
Derick Brassard scored to tie things up in the third period, Jake Guentzel notched the decisive goal in the fifth round of the shootout and DeSmith made 25 saves to lead the Pittsburgh Penguins to a 2-1 victory over the New York Islanders.
It was the first time this season the Penguins won a game while scoring fewer than three goals. It also broke a streak of four consecutive losses in games decided past regulation.
“It’s easy to win a game 6-1 at home,” DeSmith said. “It’s a lot harder to win a game 2-1 on the road in a building with a lot of energy, a lot of penalties, stuff like that. It’s all stuff that goes into making a game challenging. I thought we did a great job kind of battling off that.”
The Penguins weren’t as dominant in the area of puck possession as they were in a 2-1 overtime loss at Ottawa on Saturday, but they generated more than a handful of scoring chances in the first two periods. Islanders goalie Robin Lehner didn’t crack, though, and the Penguins were the first team to blink.
Mathew Barzal stole a puck off the stick of Olli Maatta an instant after he received a pass from Brassard at the defensive blue line and set in motion a tic-tac-toe passing play that ended with an Anthony Beavillier goal about six minutes into the second.
Down 1-0 and looking for a spark, coach Mike Sullivan shook up his lines to start the third period.
The loaded-up top line of Sidney Crosby centering Guentzel and Phil Kessel was scrapped. Brassard joined Crosby and Guentzel on the top line. Kessel moved back with Evgeni Malkin and Tanner Pearson.
It paid dividends almost immediately. On its second shift, the new top line kept a puck alive at the goal mouth and Brassard lifted it past Lehner from the right post to tie the score 1-1 about two minutes into the period.
“I thought it gave (Brassard) some juice,” Sullivan said. “We didn’t think we were getting much. We actually talked about Plan B before the game. We had those line combinations in mind in the event that it didn’t go the way we wanted.”
The work the Penguins did to forge the 1-1 tie nearly went up in smoke on an overtime penalty for the second straight game when Brassard was caught tripping Valtteri Filppula.
The Penguins responded with a signature four-on-three penalty kill, with Jack Johnson, Zach Aston-Reese and Bryan Rust, among others, getting in passing lanes and DeSmith standing his ground.
“One of the hardest parts is being able to recognize real quick what kind of formation they’re getting into and establishing your responsibilities,” Johnson said. “We had it all planned out. If they did this, we were going to do this. If they did that, we were going to do that. We were well prepared.”
Guentzel’s attempt in the shootout, which was tied 1-1 after four rounds, was the first of his career. He slipped a backhand shot between Lehner’s pads to give the Penguins their third win in four games.
“It’s what we needed to get going and to come back in the third,” Guentzel said. “Huge PK there in overtime. It shows we’re going in the right direction.”
Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jonathan at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @BombulieTrib.