There’s just a different energy in the old barn, which is now 2-for-2 in sellouts since the Islanders returned home.
But the other common denominator of the Islanders’ two regular-season games at cozy NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum is that they’ve been tense, well-played, evenly-matched contests with just the right amount of physicality that lead to engaged, loud crowds.
The Penguins won Monday night’s nailbiter, 2-1, in a five-round shootout before 13,917 fans, leaving the Islanders frustrated at getting just one of the two available points.
Jake Guentzel scored the deciding shootout goal after the Islanders’ Josh Bailey kept his team alive in the third round. The Islanders lost forwards Cal Clutterbuck and Jordan Eberle to undisclosed issues in the third period, Clutterbuck exiting at 12:29 and Eberle with 1:05 left in regulation.
“It’s a big game,” Anthony Beauvillier said. “That’s a four-point game. It’s frustrating the way we lost.”
“The point is big, for sure,” defenseman Ryan Pulock added. “But we want to win every night. It’s frustrating when you can’t get that done. I thought we did a pretty good job most of the night.”
Robin Lehner made 23 saves for the Islanders (14-11-4), who could not convert on an overtime power play. During that man advantage, Penguins goaltender Casey DeSmith (25 saves) played a good chunk of the time without his stick.
Pulock lined up five slap shots from high in the slot on the four-on-three advantage. Three were blocked – the Penguins (13-10-6) blocked 24 shots overall – and only one made it to DeSmith.
“It’s frustrating, I’m just trying to get them loaded there a little bit so it opened up some space,” said Pulock, before being asked about DeSmith not having his stick. “It’s tough. I thought maybe we could’ve done a little better job to use that to our advantage.”
Monday marked the second of 21 home games the Islanders will play at the Coliseum, which served as their home from 1972-2015. They made a triumphant and emotional return to the venerable arena with a 3-2 win over the Blue Jackets on Dec. 1 before a raucous crowd.
“It’s great,” Islanders coach Barry Trotz said. “It’s so fun to play here. The fans were great and loud for a Monday night. They didn’t have the extra time to tailgate and have the extra fun that gets them loud on a Saturday night. It was a great atmosphere. It really helps us.”
Lehner stopped the first 19 shots he faced before Derick Brassard tied the score at 1 at 2:13 of the third period off a scramble at the Islanders’ crease after Mathew Barzal could not control defenseman Adam Pelech’s ill-advised drop pass along the left boards in the offensive zone.
Lehner made his first start since stopping 35 shots in a 2-1 shootout loss at Boston on Nov. 29. He served as Thomas Greiss’ backup in Saturday night’s 3-2 win at Detroit but was unable to dress the previous two games because of a non-specified tweak.
The Islanders lost, 6-2, at Pittsburgh on Thursday in a game in which they lacked intensity and were substandard in every phase. But the Islanders’ performance was clearly a carry-over of Saturday’s gritty 3-2 win at Detroit, not Thursday’s dud.
The Islanders took a 1-0 lead at 6:32 of a very strong second period for them as Barzal grabbed the puck at the Penguins’ blue line off Brassard’s turnover and started a tic-tac-toe sequence. Bailey, in the left circle, found Beauvillier open in the right circle for the one-timer just off a lunging DeSmith’s glove.