PREVIEW: Pittsburgh Penguins look to continue success against Islanders

By Field Level Media
Feb 25, 2021; Washington, District of Columbia, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins left wing Jake Guentzel (59) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal against the Washington Capitals in the third period at Capital One Arena. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Islanders and Pittsburgh Penguins, already heavily familiar with each other, will get cozier this weekend with games just 22 hours apart, beginning with Saturday’s matchup on Long Island.

The fellow East Division teams have already faced each other four times, all this month. The Penguins are 3-1, including a shootout win. Three of the four games have been decided by one goal.

Since they last met, a 3-2 Pittsburgh win last Saturday, each team is 1-1.

New York slapped Boston with five third-period goals Thursday in a 7-2 win. It marked a season-high goal output for the Islanders, who are now 6-0-1 at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum — the one blemish being the Penguins’ 4-3 shootout win Feb. 11.

The Islanders — and Pittsburgh — are also in a clump of five East teams that have created some separation and are vying for four playoff spots.

“It’s just a big mess of teams that are very equal in terms of talent and in terms of the standings,” New York coach Barry Trotz said. “It’s going to be a battle right to the end.”

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An offensive outburst such as the Islanders got Thursday helps.

Center Mathew Barzal had a goal and an assist to run his team-leading points total to 17. Winger Anthony Beauvillier, expected to be a significant part of the offense after notching nine goals and 14 points in 22 playoff games last summer in the postseason, picked up his first regular-season goal since Feb. 17, 2020 and just his third point this season.

“Love seeing his smile,” Barzal said of Beauvillier, who missed nearly a month because of an injury. “He loves scoring, so whenever he gets one or a guy like that that hasn’t had one yet, that’s definitely a big boost.”

While New York is continuing its homestand, the Penguins are continuing a road trip. They are coming off a 5-2 loss at Washington on Thursday.

One of Pittsburgh’s prime concerns heading into the weekend is to keep from sliding into another extended power-play drought.

The Penguins endured an 0-for-21 skid with a man-advantage earlier this season, leading to extended practice time devoted to special teams. Thursday against the Capitals they were 0-for-4 with just four total shots after going 2-for-3 over their previous two games.

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“I think we’ve just got to keep moving out there and start shooting the puck, just crash the net,” Pittsburgh winger Jake Guentzel said.

“I thought we had a lot of (offensive) zone time. It’s not that. It’s not the work ethic getting the puck back. It’s just maybe sometimes we’re looking to pass instead of just throwing it on net and breaking down (opposing penalty killers’) coverage.”

Cutting back on the fancy passing and shooting more is a message Penguins coaches have been preaching to their high-end offensive players.

“Usually, when we put more pucks in play, we create off of it,” Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan said.

Both teams could be getting a player back from injury this weekend — Islanders winger Michael Dal Colle and Pittsburgh winger Jared McCann.

–Field Level Media