Islanders prove they're for real in sweep of Penguins



Pittsburgh Penguins' Sidney Crosby (87) skates off the ice with a puck after Game 4 of the team's NHL hockey first-round playoff series against the New York Islanders in Pittsburgh, Tuesday, April 16, 2019.

Don't dismiss the possibility of a sweep based on the Penguins showing their inability to compete and not having toughness against an Islanders team that has outplayed and outworked them in all three games.

Barry Trotz had questions when he took over the New York Islanders last summer.

The Islanders held Pittsburgh to just six goals, trailed for less than five minutes the entire series and didn't buckle late in the clincher despite losing defenseman Johnny Boychuck and forward Cal Clutterbuck to injuries in the second period.

Later in the opening period, Brock Nelson tallied his third goal of the series, giving the Islanders a lead they would not relinquish. "Every game, for that matter, was a one-goal boils down to critical moments". Jake Guentzel scored 35 seconds into the game to put the Penguins up early, 1-0.

It wasn't almost enough to stop the Islanders.

No one expected the New York Islanders to make the Stanley Cup Playoffs back in October. Tuesday's win was just the seventh time in franchise history that the Islanders swept an opponent in the postseason.

Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said it would be hard to discuss the offseason so soon after being eliminated.

So, how were the Islanders - a team that most people didn't even expect to be here at this point in the year - able to dispatch a team that has won the Stanley Cup in two of the past three seasons? For a couple of minutes anyway. Lehner withstood a series of pushes by the Penguins, and the Islanders counterpunched brilliantly in the third period behind goals from Leo Komarov and Lee to pull away. The 574th consecutive home sellout crowd buzzed. The Penguins had the momentum and the lead.

It's a style created to frustrate opponents regardless of pedigree, one that has them on the cusp of just their second playoff series win in more than a quarter-century.

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Penguins defenseman Kris Letang whiffed while trying to pinch into the NY zone, creating a 2-on-1 the other way that Eberle finished to even it at 1 just 1:34 after Guentzel had put Pittsburgh in front.

The Penguins veteran takes out his frustration on Islanders' goalie in Game 4. Guenztel had Pittsburgh's lone goal. Nelson flicked a shot over Murray's right pad, and NY was back in control.

Or maybe more than a little bit. Crosby hit the inside of the left post in the middle of the second period, and Islanders defenseman Scott Mayfield bailed out Lehner by making a save with his left leg on a point-blank shot by Phil Kessel early in the third.

And that was it.

It was Bailey at the 19:22 mark of the third off a defensive faceoff that sealed the win with an empty net goal.

Eberle scored one goal in each of the series four games and his six points are the fourth-most in the postseason, trailing Mark Stone and Paul Stasny (eight) and Matt Duchene (seven).

The Columbus Blue Jackets capped a stunning sweep of the Presidents Trophy winners with a victory.

And what a season it was.

Kessel, who has 303 points over four regular seasons in Pittsburgh, has been in mentioned in previous trade speculation and was asked about his future with the club after the loss. They forecheck. They backcheck. Then we'll try to get into a rhythm.

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