PITTSBURGH — It’s been surprising all season, so why stop now?
The Islanders continued this unexpected run with another buttoned-up victory, a 4-1 win over the Penguins in Game 3 of their first-round series on Sunday afternoon that gave them a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.
As unbelievable as that might have been to think nine months ago, it’s true. And now the team assembled by Lou Lamoriello and expertly coached by Barry Trotz has a chance to complete the sweep with a win in Game 4 here on Tuesday night.
The Islanders had held serve at the Coliseum over the past week, winning a dramatic 4-3 overtime contest in Game 1 on Wednesday and a decisive 3-1 victory in Game 2 on Friday. It was a continuation of the Islanders’ shockingly good season, taking it to the Penguins, who have won three Stanley Cups in the past decade.
But by the start of the third period, the Islanders were up again, this time 2-1. They kept things tight, not giving Pittsburgh any room to operate. And then Leo Komarov pretty well put a bow on things by burying a loose puck at 10:27 for a 3-1 lead that they would not surrender.
Anders Lee ended things with an empty-net goal with 1:20 remaining in regulation.
The opening 40 minutes were rather tepid compared to the end of Game 2, when tempers were flaring and there were a handful of scuffles. All of the scoring then took place in a matter of 90 seconds in the first period.
The Penguins got on the board first, a deflection from Garrett Wilson that beat goalie Robin Lehner at 12:54 to give Pittsburgh a 1-0 lead. But the Islanders needed only 28 seconds to answer back, a sharp-angle shot from the red-hot Jordan Eberle that hit the out-of-position Matt Murray and in went in to tie it, 1-1. It was Eberle’s third goal and sixth point in the first three games of the postseason.
And then 62 seconds after that, a bad read from Penguins defenseman Justin Schultz led to a 2-on-1 break for the Islanders, where Brock Nelson beat Murray inside the far post for a 2-1 advantage the Islanders would take into the third period.
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