For the past two years the Pittsburgh Penguins have shown what they could do in the regular season and then have bowed out of the playoffs in the first round. Their fans had been marking the days until Wednesday night’s playoff opener against the New York Islanders.
Game 1 was huge because if Marc-Andre Fleury and the Penguins didn’t play well, people will begin saying they can’t get the job done when it counts. It truly is Stanley Cup or bust for the Penguins.
The crowd was rocking from the pregame skate to the final buzzer at Consol Energy Center, as the Penguins shut out the Islanders 5-0.
The Penguins have been chomping at the bit for this day. A day to get the bad taste out their mouths from what happened last year at this time to the Philadelphia Flyers. It was a chance to right the wrongs and put the past behind him them.
The Penguins got the first opportunity on the power play and did not waste it as Beau Bennett – playing in his first playoff game – scored his first playoff goal on a terrific shot, beating Islanders goalie Evgeni Nabokov up high on the short side.
“It meant a lot,” said Bennett, who didn’t know if he would be playing until late afternoon. “Being out there helping the team and gaining momentum.”
The Penguins kept the pressure on hitting the Islanders every chance they got. By doing so they were able to get another goal. This time Pascal Dupuis crashed the net and chipped a puck pass Nabokov for a 2-0 Penguins lead late in the first.
Kris Letang didn’t waste any time in the second period putting the Penguins on the board, giving them a 3-0 lead. It was the Penguins second power-play goal of the game. But they weren’t done there. Dupuis would score his second of the game on the backhand just 32 seconds later, increasing the lead to 4-0.
Nabokov was pulled after giving up the fourth goal; he stopped 11 of 15 shots.
If the Islanders thought the Penguins were going to take their foot off the gas up 4-0, they were wrong. The Penguins continued to do everything that gave them the lead, and Tanner Glass would add a bad-angle goal against young goalie Kevin Poulin before the end of the second.
It was as perfect as a team could play as the Penguins were dominant in every facet of the game. However, it was not all good news for the Pens as James Neal left early in the second period and did not return after absorbing a check from Travis Hamonic. Jussi Jokinen left late in the third when Marty Reasoner tripped him in the neutral zone. There was no update on their conditions as of an hour after the game.
Fleury recorded his sixth career playoff shutout, stopping 26 shots. His shutout ties a franchise record shared by two-time Stanley Cup winner Tom Barrasso.
The Penguins will look for a 2-0 series lead Friday night at 7 at Consol Energy Center.