Brock Nelson notched his fourth goal of the year in the third period Thursday, but it was the one he didn’t score earlier that might have changed the whole game.
With the New York Islanders down a goal in the second period, Nelson had a few opportunities to score near the crease. One came on a redirection and the other on a wraparound try. Both were stuffed by Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry.
It was his third Grade-A chance of the period that loomed large in the end in a 4-1 loss, though.
“I thought we got off to an OK start,” Nelson said after the game. “Played a pretty good first half, killed off a big 5-on-3, had a couple of looks, just weren’t able to get one and get some momentum and feed off that. And then we find ourselves in a hole and couldn’t get out.”
With 2:40 left in the middle period, Kieffer Bellows went back into the Islanders’ defensive zone and chipped a pass of the nearside wall that ended up at the opposite blue line.
Pittsburgh defenseman Kris Letang whiffed on the puck and Jordan Eberle corralled it just as he was straddling and crossing the blue line. Streaking right beside Eberle was Nelson, who snuck past three Pittsburgh skaters.
Eberle fed a wide-open Nelson who ended up on a mini-breakaway against Jarry. But instead of getting the puck on net, it rolled on Nelson a bit and it went wide of goal.
Less than a minute later with many of the Islanders still out on the ice, defenseman Mike Matheson intentionally shot one wide of goal, got his own rebound, banked a shot off Semyon Varlamov and all but set up a tap-in chance for Teddy Blueger on the weak side to put Pittsburgh up two goals.
“To me, the second goal took a lot out of us,” Barry Trotz said. “Wasn’t our night around their net. I don’t think we got to the net well enough tonight. But we didn’t execute on some of our chances to create a little bit more offense. I thought the second goal sorta took a little bit out of us.”
This two-goal swing ultimately sealed the Islanders’ fate and ended their eight-game point streak. By the time Nelson struck in the third period, the Islanders were already down 3-0 and had little time to mount a significant comeback.
It was a game in which the Islanders had nine skaters hold above a 50 percent Corsi For at 5-on-5 play, Nelson being one of them at 60 percent. This was arguably his best game of the season, especially when factoring in the goal.
This night overall was filled with missed opportunities for the Islanders, who had four high danger chances in the first period but didn’t score on a single one. Especially against a struggling goalie like Tristan Jarry who carries a .899 even strength save percentage, there were chances abound to score more.
But like Nelson’s partial break, things just didn’t bounce the right way for the Islanders.