The Islanders are on the cusp of their second playoff series win in more than a quarter-century,
Jordan Eberle scored for the third straight game, Robin Lehner stopped 25 shots, and the visiting Islanders rolled to a 4-1 victory against the stunned Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday to take a 3-0 lead in their best-of-seven first-round Eastern Conference series.
Brock Nelson added his second goal of the playoffs and Leo Komarov scored the first postseason goal of his career for the Islanders, who pushed the star-laden Penguins to the brink of elimination.
Garrett Wilson scored Pittsburgh’s goal, a first-period deflection past Lehner that gave the Penguins their second lead of the series.
Eberle tied it 28 seconds later, and Nelson’s wrist shot put the Islanders in front to stay just 1 minute 2 seconds after Eberle’s third goal in the series.
“Playoffs are all about momentum,” Eberle said. “When you can take some team’s momentum away and just continue to build yours, it’s key.
Komarov’s third-period goal gave the Islanders more than enough breathing room, and Anders Lee put the Penguins away with an empty-net goal with 1:28 left.
Matt Murray finished with 32 saves for the Penguins, but Pittsburgh again struggled to generate any sort of offense. The Islanders, who allowed an N.H.L.-low 196 goals during the regular season, has surrendered just five in this series.
Pittsburgh needs to win in Game 4 on Tuesday to avoid being swept for the first time since the 2013 East finals against Boston.
If the Islanders felt any pressure while taking their first 2-0 postseason lead since the 1983 Stanley Cup final — when they completed their run of four championships by sweeping Wayne Gretzky and the Edmonton Oilers — it did not show. Just as they did on Long Island, the Islanders did not back down.
Pittsburgh Coach Mike Sullivan played down the idea that his team was desperate while facing a 2-0 deficit for the first time in his successful tenure. He still opted to tinker with his lines in search of a spark, elevating Dominik Simon to the top line alongside Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel and putting Jared McCann — who sat out Game 2 with a lower-body injury — on the second line with Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel.
But Crosby and Guentzel were held without a point for the third straight game.
“You’ve got to find ways to score goals this time of year,” Crosby said, adding, “Obviously, we haven’t done a good job of it through the first three games.”
The fourth line did give the Penguins an early lift when Wilson redirected Marcus Pettersson’s shot from the point by past Lehner 12:54 into the first.
The Islanders responded immediately. Eberle collected a pass from Ryan Pulock just above the goal line and flipped a shot short side over Murray’s right shoulder to tie it at 13:22. All of 62 seconds later, the Islanders were in front again when Nelson finished off a two-on-one break by zipping the puck over Murray’s right arm.
Lehner made sure it was enough. Always seemingly in the right position, he never looked rattled. At one point he head-butted a loose puck out of danger. His teammates, with their aggressive forechecking, and their responsible play in their own end, made sure he did not have to work too hard.
“This group is not afraid of work,” said Islanders Coach Barry Trotz, who led Washington past Pittsburgh last spring on the way to the Stanley Cup. “They’re not afraid of competition. They’re not afraid of a whole lot.”
CALL SAVES U.S. WOMEN IN TITLE WIN Alex Rigsby stopped four of five shots in the shootout and the United States beat host Finland, 2-1, to win its fifth consecutive gold medal at the women’s world championship in Espoo after a goaltender interference review nullified what would have been a winning overtime goal for the Finns.
Finland celebrated after Petra Nieminen scored on a rebound 11:33 into overtime, but the officials spent more than 10 minutes reviewing the play before disallowing the goal. The United States killed off two Finland power plays to get to a shootout.
Amanda Kessel and Annie Pankowski scored in the shootout against Noora Raty, who made 50 saves in regulation and overtime. Pankowski scored the Americans’ only goal in regulation in the second period, and Susanna Tapani answered 1:43 later for Finland.
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