Pittsburgh Penguins: Third Line Dominance Continues In 4-1 Near Perfect Victory vs Islanders

Photo Credit: AP

Coming off of one of their worse games of the season, the Pittsburgh Penguins bounced back in a big time against the New York Islanders.

Leads have been few and far behind for the Penguins, who had never played a game in which they didn't trail at some point. That ended Thursday night, as Pittsburgh led from start to finish and a late Brock Nelson goal kept it from being a shutout.

Building off his game on Tuesday, Tristan Jarry came one save short of a shutout and in the process stopped 31-of-32 shots he face. 

Sidney Crosby opened the scoring for the Penguins, redirecting a Kasperi Kapanen shot on goal. Teddy Blueger would score to give Pittsburgh a two-goal lead before Jason Zucker and Bryan Rust sandwiched Nelson's power play marker.

Things got a little chippy at the end, not surprising for these two when they play each other. Evgeni Malkin got involved near the Penguins' bench and Matt Martin received a misconduct penalty.

The two teams will pick things back up on Saturday, again in Pittsburgh.

Penguins 4 - Islanders 1: By The Numbers

After getting dominated in their last game against the Washington Capitals, the Penguins did a fairly good job of controlling the action at 5v5. While the overall shot attempts weren't widely in their favor, the Penguins still finished in control of the metric.

Photo Credit Natural Stat Trick

They also scored all three goals that were scored at 5v5, and controlled the expected goal share at 53.38%.

After being one of the few Penguins with an ok outing against the Capitals, Mike Matheson played one of the better games of his career, or at the very least since being traded to Pittsburgh.

He once again led the Penguins in ice time while playing at 5v5, with 18:33 total, and while the shot attempts didn't play out in his team's favor, Matheson's expected goal share (60.85%) showed how well they fared.

More than numbers, he did pitch in an assist on an extremely high-IQ play, Matheson directly contributed to all three goals the Penguins scored while he was on the ice for. Matheson completed a shot pass to himself along the boards, corralled the puck and fired it on net, the rebound being buried by Blueger.

Maybe the most impressive part in Matheson's success was that he caught a high dose of Mat Barzal and Anders Lee, with both being on the ice for over ten minutes against the Penguins' defenseman.

They failed to score, nor get credit for a high-danger chance, as the Penguins were a perfect 4-0 in that metric while Matheson was on the ice.

I talked about how the Penguins may be coming towards the need to make some sort of a shakeup to get things started. They started with something small, and it paid dividends. Mike Sullivan swap right wingers on the top two lines, having Kapanen line up with Crosby.

The line had some success on the night, scoring the opening goal but their high defensive usage (a team leading six face-offs in their own zone) kept most of their metrics from looking ideal. The one that does matter in the end they made it count, a perfect 100% for goals-for.

On the other hand, the third line found the scoreboard and posted dominate metrics on the night. They owned 71.43% of the shot-attempts and 65.70% of the expected goals. Going into the season, the Brandon Tanev-Blueger-Zach Aston-Reese line was known for their defense (ZAR received a Selke Trophy vote), but wasn't pitching in enough offensively.

They've fixed that certainly this year, which has been huge for the Penguins.

Being the home team and getting the last change, I feel like it's worth noting that Matheson-John Marino saw the bulk of the playing time against Barzal, while Kris Letang only saw the Islanders' forward for 3:57 over the course of the game.

Jarry allowed his lone goal on the power play, meaning he was a perfect 25-for-25 at 5v5. He was also 5-for-5 in high danger opportunities. Both categories he has been among the worst in the league at.

This was by far the best, complete, game that the Malkin line has played - no matter who was on his wing. They've showed flashes, but this is the game that everyone has been waiting for. The line recorded 70% of the shot attempts and 77.78% of the scoring chances when on the ice together.

Zucker had seven shot attempts and five scoring chances, leading the team in both categories. Rust pitched in another four shots on goal as well. It was the offensive output they've been searching for all season. If that pushing and shoving really woke Malkin up, good luck to the rest of the league.

What were your key takeaways from the Penguins 4-1 win over the Islanders? Let us know in the comment section below, subscribe to the link at the top and follow me on the Twitter @AJ_Murfy.

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