Pittsburgh took control of their first-round series with the New York Islanders behind a goalie switch, which turned out to be the right move. You’d have to think that the Penguins would continue with the hot hand when they head to Long Island for Game 6 on Saturday night with a chance to clinch. They’re a big favorite on the NHL betting lines but can they finally put the pesky Islanders to bed?
Pittsburgh Penguins @ New York Islanders
Odds: Penguins -170
After a nightmare Game 4 loss in which Marc-Andre Fleury was, quite frankly, terrible, coach Dan Bylsma turned to Tomas Vokoun and the veteran was unstoppable in a 31-save shutout of the Isles as the Pens rolled to a 4-0 victory. The offense got hot in the second period with three goals as Tyler Kennedy, Douglas Murray and Sidney Crosby got on the scoreboard, while Kris Letang put the game away in the final frame with a power-play goal. Crosby and Letang both put up a goal and an assist, but the Pens just looked like a more confident team with Vokoun between the pipes and you would have to believe that he earned at least one more start in Game 6 on the road.
The Islanders were by far the better team in the opening 20 minutes as they managed 14 shots on net, but they couldn’t beat Vokoun and then they lost all their steam in the second period when the Penguins put the pedal to the metal. Vokoun’s counterpart, Evgeni Nabokov, gave up a couple of poor goals and that was basically it for him as he was pulled for backup Kevin Poulin in the third. The Islanders were also pounded 37-21 in the faceoff circle and they didn’t force the turnovers that they did in Game 4. At least the Isles showed a little fight as the game got scrappy in the final two minutes, but they have to channel that intensity into something positive in this crucial Game 6.
The Pens are the favorites to end the series on the road in New York, where the games have been high-scoring as Pittsburgh took Game 3 5-4 in overtime, then the Islanders fought back for a 6-4 win in Game 4 which spelled the end of Fleury in goal for the Penguins. It’ll be very interesting to see what Bylsma does with this situation, although the odds are on Vokoun getting another start while Fleury rides the pine. Even though the defense didn’t do a lot to help Fleury in Game 4 as they gave up a lot of odd-man rushes, he really let in some awful goals.
The Isles are a young team that are just getting their playoff legs. They really have managed to wake up the Penguins, who feature a lot of players that have been here before. While it was a good story and a great learning experience for them, they’re not going to go back to Pittsburgh for a Game 7 – unless the bottom drops out for Vokoun. Take the Pens on the betting lines.