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New York Islanders

No New Year’s Revenge For Islanders; Lose To Pens For Second Time This Week



AP Photo/Matt Freed

After getting blown out in a deflating loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on their home ice five days ago, the New York Islanders wanted to bring all the energy they could return the favor when the two teams met on Sunday night at PPG Paints Arena.

But every time the Islanders seemed to have momentum, it swung back the other way. As a result, they lost to their division rival for the second time less than a week by a final of 3-1.

“We played well enough to win the hockey game,” Islander head coach Lane Lambert told reporters in Pittsburgh. “Both goalies played well. We had some really good looks and couldn’t get it by him. That was a difference. It was a game of chances for both ways. We had plenty of opportunities.”

The Islanders’ first opportunity came when Casey Cizikas flew into the attacking zone on a breakaway but was stopped by Penguins goalie Alex Nedjelkovic. As the play turned the other way, Lars Eller capitalized on an odd-man rush, scoring his fifth goal of the season on Pittsburgh’s first shot of the game.

The game was still close, though, and it felt as if the Islanders gained an edge by killing off a five-on-three penalty to start the second period.

That typically ignites a fire under a team, but Noel Acciari came ready with an extinguisher for Pittsburgh.

Despite Scott Mayfield, who played in his first game in over three weeks for the Islanders, having nearly perfect defensive position on the play, Acciari’s deflection of a Drew O’Connor shot was that much better.

Acciari’s goal provided the Penguins with all the offense they needed. Ilya Sorokin made 35 stops on 37 shots for the Islanders, who were stonewalled by the opposing netminder all night.

The Islanders threw almost everything they had at Nedeljkovic. Their 38 shots on goal were tied for the second most in a game for them this season, but only one made its way into the back of the net.

Rookie defenseman Samuel Bolduc made things interesting when he pounced on a loose puck at the left faceoff circle at 13:51 of the third, punching it into the back of the net for his first goal of the season. But that was as close as the Islanders could get.

Eller sealed the victory for Pittsburgh with an empty-net goal.

Bolduc’s goal was also the only success the Islanders had at the dot, with the Penguins winning 62% of the game’s faceoffs.

“We got good centerman on this team, and there are good centermen around the league,” Cizikas said. “Sometimes it goes your way, and sometimes the bounces don’t.”

The loss drops the Islanders’ record to 17-10-9 and brings the Penguins to within three points in the Metropolitan Division standings.

The game in Pittsburgh was the final of 2023 for the Islanders. They’ll begin the New Year in Colorado on Tuesday to continue their four-game road trip.

Notes: Pierre Engvall was a healthy scratch for the second time this season. Hudson Fasching took his place on the second line while Martin filled in on the fourth.

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