“We didn’t expect it to be easy,” said Jarome Iginla.
But despite knowing what was coming, the Penguins couldn’t find their groove that brought them success in Game 1, and they allowed mistakes to dominate; mistakes that the Islanders capitalized on in order to even the series as they prepare for Game 3 on Sunday on Long Island.
The Islanders put just 26 shots on Marc-Andre Fleury in Game 1. They improved on that in Game 2, firing 42 his way. It was a matter of strategy: Get the puck on net and hope for a deflection, rebound or fortunate bounce.
“As soon as they got over the blueline they got within the top of the circles they were just throwing pucks at the net,” said Iginla. “We also gave away more pucks than we have been. That helped lead to more shots for them, more chances."
As Iginla said, the Penguins aided in the Islanders’ success.
Pittsburgh was credited with 11 giveaways compared to two by the Islanders. Poor puck management in all three zones allowed New York their opportunities and to create the bounces that led to two of their four goals. Those goals had some speculating how long until Bylsma would turn to Tomas Vokoun, but that’s a question that can easily be answered with a strong showing in Game 3.
“At the end of the day it’s just one game and you have to be able to learn from it and be ready for the next one,” said Fleury, who’s learned over his nine NHL seasons to develop a short memory.
“That’s something you learn quickly. It serves you well. It’s the best mentality to have in the playoffs.”
Game 3 will feature an incredibly lively Nassau Coliseum crowd. Islander fans haven’t watched playoff hockey inside their own building in six years. The last time they did, Jason Blake and Viktor Kozlov were two of their offensive leaders. Now, you can say they’re a little better off for the future led by John Tavares and Matt Moulson.
“Our players have not seen this building the way it’s going to be [Sunday],” said Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma.
Bylsma knows a thing or two about what his team can expect from the crowd on Sunday. He was witness to a boisterous Coliseum when he was an Islanders assistant in 2005-06 during their matchups against the New York Rangers, which always filled the building.
The pressure in this series is all on the Penguins' side. As opposed to allowing any home-ice nerves to affect them negatively on Game 3, the Islanders can feed off the energy from their orange towel-waving fans. To counter that, the veteran-heavy Penguins need to have that short memory Fleury talked about.
“Regardless of the score, it was a type of game we want to avoid and learn from," said Bylsma.
Follow Sean Leahy on Twitter at @Sean_Leahy
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