Islanders left wing Anthony Beauvillier celebrates his goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 2 on April 12, 2019, at Nassau Coliseum.

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Graziano: Different Game, Same Result As Islanders Take Game 2

Not A Lot To Dislike About NY's Effort In Win Over Penguins

Andy Graziano
April 13, 2019 - 11:41 am
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After his team’s stirring 4-3 overtime victory in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup playoffs, Barry Trotz downplayed momentum, saying that “each game is different and its own animal. There is no such thing.” The coach turned out to be prophetic as his Islanders clamped down defensively and slowed the high-powered Pittsburgh Penguins in a 3-1 Game 2 win Friday night at Nassau Coliseum.

Behind goals by Anthony Beauvillier, Jordan Eberle and Josh Bailey, New York maintains its grip on home ice and sits two victories away from advancing to the second round, where home games would shift to Barclays Center in Brooklyn. In playing Trotz’s defensive system to near perfection, the Islanders have held Sidney Crosby without a point through two games. Pittsburgh’s only goal came from defenseman Erik Gudbranson on a screened slapper from the point.

After finishing the regular season with their highest point total in 35 years, the Islanders now have won the first two games of a playoff series for the first time in 36 years. They are 15-1 all-time in series when they’ve grabbed the first two games. With things shifting back to Pittsburgh for Sunday's Game 3, Islanders defenseman Johnny Boychuk knows better than to rely on records.

"You have to forget about the last two games," he said. "They're going to be coming hard in their building, and we have to be ready for them."

This, so far, has been a series that has the Penguins talking in circles. Evgeni Malkin, so easy to frustrate and throw off his game, commented after the loss, “I hope at home we have better ice.” Last I checked, the Islanders weren’t playing at their practice facility all by themselves. They shared the ice surface he speaks of, just commanded it better.

It’s all about effort. Dogged determination. And will. The Islanders have had more of that over the first two games than the Penguins. Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan is smart to remind his team that two games do not win a playoff series. He’s right. They don't. However, can the mainstream hockey media, the “experts,” see the Penguins beating the Islanders, this Islanders team, four out of the next five games?

WHAT WENT RIGHT

• Isles goalie Robin Lehner continued his remarkable turnaround season, making another 32 saves, including 15 in the third period. His rebound control was superb, and his defense is allowing him to see most attempts. Trotz has found his No. 1, I believe.

• You could say that Josh Bailey has been "lucky" on his two goals, both coming in huge spots, but Bailey must smartly put himself in that position to even have the puck bounce his way. He’s been good as part of a second unit with Brock Nelson and Tom Kuhnhackl.

• Three's the magic number. Bailey’s power-play goal gave the Islanders their first two-goal lead of the series and some breathing room late. It also is their lucky number, with the team now 40-2-2 this year when hitting that mark.

• I don’t know if he will be an Islander next season, but Jordan Eberle is taking advantage of this opportunity to lead offensively. His deft move to the net and sneaky backhand was pretty. Eberle has shown up at the right moment.

WHAT NEEDS TO IMPROVE

• How can the power play not be listed first here? It’s been a thorn in the team’s side all season, and Friday night was no exception. There is a silver lining, though. Yes, the Islanders went 0-for-their-first-5. But, in a column I wrote late in the season, I said in the playoffs, even if you went 1-for-6, that one could be a difference maker. Just like Bailey’s late tally Friday. Still, you have to hope, at some point, the feebleness of the man advantage doesn’t catch up to them. It’s that bad.

It doesn’t matter whether you think I’m a “homer,” writing this from a purely Islanders angle. That’s the only negative I can take out of Game 2 for New York. If you don’t believe me, go back and watch it again. Or, if you’re a Penguins fan, think of excuses, outside of your team’s own play and the opposition against it, why you lost.

Fans too loud? Too "crazy"? Ice was bad? Pretzels not soft enough? Beer too expensive? Traffic? The moon wasn’t properly aligned? Hey, just trying to help the media out with their narrative here.

Game 3: Sunday at noon at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh. 

Follow Andy on Twitter at @AndyGraz_WFAN