What will sting worse for the New York Islanders?
The ugly effort in the first 20 minutes of Game 2 against the Pittsburgh Penguins, the fluky goal Semyon Varlamov gave up less than four minutes into the game or a missed opportunity in the closing minutes of the game to capitalize on a power play. In the end, it all added up to the same result which was a 2-1 loss to Pittsburgh.
The loss evened the series 1-1 as it shifts to Long Island for Game 3 and Game 4.
It was the first-period effort that sunk the Islanders, who were outshot 19-13 in the opening 20 minutes, and whipped away what would have been an impressive outing for Varlamov in his first game back in net. The veteran goaltender made 43 saves Tuesday night in the loss, including a number of critical stops in the second and third periods, but that was overshadowed by the easy goal he gave up 3:22 into the game.
That was compounded by another saveable shot that got by later in the period.
“He just missed the puck,” New York Islanders head coach Barry Trotz said. “I thought he was excellent after the first goal. I thought he was moving well, he was crisp. We just wanted the first goal back.”
Varlamov didn’t receive much from the players in front of him either during the first period. The Islanders turned the puck over at the Pittsburgh blue line allowing them to break out and eventually find Jeff Carter for their second goal of the night.
A neutral zone turnover by Ryan Pulock allowed Bryan Rust the opportunity to fling a puck on net that snuck by Varlamov for the opening goal of the night. While the Islanders did get a goal back late in the second period, the early lead allowed Pittsburgh to clamp down the rest of the game.
“It’s tough out there, it’s tough to get some chances,” Anthony Beauvillier said. “They did a good job defending their lead. There’s room for improvement to have a push.”
Tuesday marked the second straight game that the Islanders have started off the game slow. On Sunday, they suffered a similar circumstance, but rookie netminder Ilya Sorokin only allowed one goal in the first period.
“We just have to come out better,” Trotz said. “THere’s no magic pill and say ‘take this’ and we’ll have a good start. They have to simplify things and be ready to go. They can’t ease into the game, they have to be ready to go right off the bat.”
The decision to start Varlamov came as a surprise on Tuesday after Trotz was coy with who his starter would be. Sorokin was seen practicing in his own net during the morning skate leading many to believe that he would get the start.
Game 3 takes place on Thursday at the Nassau, where Josh Bailey, who scored the Islanders’ lone goal on Tuesday, said they must now turn their focus to.
“We just move forward,” Bailey said. “This can always be a bit of a chess match switching things here and there. We got one win, we would’ve liked two, but we move forward and get ready for a big game on our ice.”