Islanders fall to Penguins as series is even at a game apiece

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The Islanders faltered early and never stabilized.

A two-goal first period from the Penguins was all it took to rattle the Isles, who were uncharacteristically careless with the puck to start the game and ultimately fell 2-1 Tuesday night at PPG Paints Arena.

By the time the Islanders settled down and began generating scoring chances, the Penguins were already in a bend-don’t-break mentality that helped them fend off anything that was thrown their way.

Even when they were gifted their first power play of the game with less than two minutes left in regulation, after Penguins forward Bryan Rust was called for closing his hand on the puck, the Islanders couldn’t capitalize on the six-on-four opportunity.

Pittsburgh, as it had in Game 1, led 2-1 at the start of the third. This time around, they kept the Islanders out of their zone and maintained pressure for a majority of the final frame. Jordan Eberle nearly tied it up early in the period, but Penguins netminder Tristan Jarry got in front of it despite a screen from Leo Komarov.

The Islanders managed to tighten up their game in the second period, almost pulling even with Pittsburgh in shot attempts. Josh Bailey made it a one-goal game after cutting to the slot and backhanding the puck in over Jarry’s left shoulder at 14:44.

The equalizer never came, so the series is tied 1-1 heading to Long Island.

In his series debut, Semyon Varlamov put on a clinic in the third period after struggling to get his bearings in the first, which put the Islanders in a 2-0 hole. But the rest of the team didn’t make it easy on him through the first 20 minutes.

Matt Martin fights with the the Penguins' Zach Aston-Reese during the Islanders' 2-1 Game 2 loss.
Matt Martin fights with the the Penguins’ Zach Aston-Reese during the Islanders’ 2-1 Game 2 loss.

Varlamov, who was scratched in Game 1 out of precaution due to the lower-body injury he sustained in the regular-season finale, made 16 of his 43 saves in the third period.

The Penguins had the Islanders out of sync through the first period, beating them on the walls and forcing turnovers in their defensive zone. Defenseman Ryan Pulock coughed up the puck to Rust for a shot that soared over Varlamov’s glove to make it a 1-0 game at 3:22.

It was a sloppy 20 minutes for the Isles, who struggled to convert on their passes and couldn’t string together any successful rushes. Jeff Carter doubled the Penguins’ score at 16:02 after a strong forecheck, skating in front of the crease and going five-hole on Varlamov.

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