3 Keys: Penguins at Islanders, Game 6 of first round

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No. 1 Penguins at No. 4 Islanders 

6:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS, MSG+, ATTSN-PT

New York leads best-of-7 series, 3-2

The New York Islanders can advance to the Stanley Cup Second Round with a win against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 6 of the first round at Nassau Coliseum on Wednesday. 

New York has won the past two games, including 3-2 in double overtime in Game 5. Goalie Ilya Sorokin has started all three wins with Semyon Varlamov losing Game 2 and Game 3.

The Islanders have not clinched a Stanley Cup Playoffs series at Nassau Coliseum since April 28, 1993, when they defeated the Washington Capitals 5-3 in Game 6 of the Patrick Division Semifinals. They reached the Eastern Conference Second Round with a 2-1 overtime win against the Florida Panthers at Barclays Center in Brooklyn on April 24, 2016.

“The fourth game to close out a team is the hardest,” coach Barry Trotz said. “It’s going to be a grind. … You have to leave your best game out there.” 

The Penguins will try to avoid an opening-round exit for the third straight season. They were swept by the Islanders in the 2019 Eastern Conference First Round and lost the best-of-5 Stanley Cup Qualifiers in four games to the Montreal Canadiens last season.

“There’s obviously a heightened level of urgency,” coach Mike Sullivan said. “When your backs are against the wall, you’ve got to bring everything you can to have success.” 

Teams that hold a 3-2 lead are 324-87 (.788) winning a best-of-7 series, including 8-0 last season. 

Here are 3 keys for Game 6:

 

1. Jarry bouncing back 

Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry made 25 saves in Game 5 before allowing the winning goal from Josh Bailey 51 seconds into the second overtime. Jarry collected a loose puck and attempted a pass up the ice that Bailey intercepted before chipping a shot over his glove. 

After practice Tuesday, Jarry said he had turned his attention to Game 6. He has a 2.85 goals-against average and .902 save percentage in the series and made 37 saves in a 2-1 victory in Game 2 after allowing four goals in Game 1.

If Jarry responds again in Game 6, Pittsburgh could get one more home game Friday. 

“Working with the coaching staff, preparing me, preparing my mind,” Jarry said. “I think that’s a big thing in this league, just being able to bounce back and be better the next day.”

 

2. Rewarding Sorokin 

Sorokin has been the main difference for the Islanders. Except for a 4-1 win in Game 4, New York has been outplayed for lengthy stretches this series, particularly early in games. 

The rookie has given the Islanders a chance to hang around and ultimately win each time he’s been in net. That was obvious Monday, when he made 48 saves and the Islanders won Game 5 despite being outshot 50-28. They can’t expect the same type of performance to win Game 6. 

 

3. Desperation 

The Penguins are still looking for forward Jake Guentzel to score his first goal of the playoffs, and captain Sidney Crosby has been held to one goal and one assist through five games. If there ever was a time for their most prominent scorers to produce, this is it. 

Although the Islanders have won two of three games in Pittsburgh during the series, the Penguins were 22-4-2 on home ice in the regular season, so they should be equally desperate before an expected crowd of about 9,000 fans to ensure Nassau Coliseum will get at least two more games before the move to UBS Arena next season.

“This is a very good hockey team we’re playing in a special building, obviously because of its history,” Trotz said. “The atmosphere is hard to replicate because of the quaintness of it and the passion of our fans.” 

 
Penguins projected lineup 

Jake Guentzel — Sidney Crosby — Bryan Rust 

Jason ZuckerEvgeni MalkinKasperi Kapanen

Jared McCannJeff CarterFrederick Gaudreau

Zach Aston-ReeseTeddy BluegerBrandon Tanev

Brian DumoulinKris Letang

Mike MathesonCody Ceci

Marcus PetterssonJohn Marino

Tristan Jarry

Maxime Lagace

Scratched: Evan Rodrigues, Chad Ruhwedel, Mark Friedman, Juuso Riikola, Colton Sceviour, Sam Lafferty, Mark Jankowski, Radim Zohorna, Yannick Weber, Anthony Angello, Kasper Bjorkqvist, Drew O’Connor, Pierre-Olivier Joseph

Injured: Casey DeSmith (lower body) 

Islanders projected lineup 

Leo KomarovMathew BarzalJordan Eberle

Anthony BeauvillierBrock Nelson — Josh Bailey

Kyle PalmieriJean-Gabriel PageauTravis Zajac

Matt MartinCasey CizikasCal Clutterbuck

Adam PelechRyan Pulock

Nick LeddyScott Mayfield

Andy GreeneNoah Dobson

Ilya Sorokin

Semyon Varlamov

Scratched: Michael Dal Colle, Ross Johnston, Braydon Coburn, Cory Schneider, Austin Czarnik, Andrew Ladd, Kieffer Bellows, Sebastian Aho, Thomas Hickey

Injured: Oliver Wahlstrom (undisclosed) 

 

Status report 

Rust and Zucker are expected to play after missing practice Tuesday. Rust was excused to spend time with his newborn son and Zucker took a maintenance day. … Wahlstrom, a forward, will be a game-time decision after being injured on a hit into the boards from Matheson with 8:03 remaining in the third period of Game 5. … If Wahlstrom is out, Zajac will play his first playoff game since April 21, 2018, while with the New Jersey Devils.

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