The New York Islanders are still shocking the hockey world.
But at this point maybe it shouldn’t be a shock anymore.
After an incredible regular season that saw them overcome the loss of their former franchise player in free agency, go from worst to first in goals against, and return to the playoffs for the first time since 2015-16, they are now moving on to Round 2 where they await the winner of the Carolina Hurricanes-Washington Capitals series.
And they did it emphatically.
They completed a four-game sweep of the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday night with a 3-1 win that pretty much followed the script of the first three games of the series.
That script: A suffocating defensive effort, some sensational goaltending from Robin Lehner, and a knack for not only being able to pounce on and convert on every Penguins mistake, but to also be able to almost immediately respond to any counterpunch the Penguins could throw.
For the third game in a row the Penguins scored first, and for the third game in a row were unable to hold the lead for more than a couple of minutes.
Shortly after Jake Guentzel scored his first goal of the series 35 seconds into the game, Jordan Eberle scored for the fourth consecutive to tie the game. Later in the period, Brock Nelson scored his third goal of the series to give the Islanders a lead they would never relinquish.
On the rare occasion where the Penguins did create a chance or put themselves in a position to potentially tie the game, they could get nothing to go their way. Late in the second period, Sidney Crosby rang a shot off the post when Lehner was out of position and looking in the other direction. On a power play attempt in the third period, Phil Kessel appeared to have an open net to shoot at only to have his shot hit the leg of Islanders defender Scott Mayfield and stay out. During their last-ditch empty-net effort, their zone time came to an end when Erik Gudbranson‘s stick broke on a one-time attempt.
That was the kind of series it turned out to be from the Pittsburgh side. They not only played poorly, but they couldn’t even get a break.
The Islanders, meanwhile, looked flawless at times in their execution in shutting down the Penguins hired powered offense and taking advantage of every opportunity.