PITTSBURGH — Tristan Jarry bounced back from a shaky performance to stop 39 shots, and the Pittsburgh Penguins evened their first-round playoff series with the New York Islanders with a taut 2-1 victory on Tuesday night.
Jarry, who gave up four goals in the opener, picked up the first playoff win of his career as Pittsburgh won for just the second time in its last 12 postseason games.
Game 3 is Thursday night in New York.
Bryan Rust and Jeff Carter scored during a dominant first period, and Jarry did the rest to outduel New York’s Semyon Varlamov.
Varlamov, unavailable for Game 1, made 43 saves, including several highlight-reel stops in the third period. Josh Bailey’s slick backhand in the later stages of the second period drew the Islanders within a goal, but Jarry hung tough down the stretch, particularly in the final 90 seconds after Rust took an inexplicable delay-of-game penalty when he grabbed a loose puck and threw it like a baseball out of the Pittsburgh zone.
New York couldn’t find the equalizer, sending the series to Long Island tied.
The Islanders pulled off a 4-3 overtime stunner in the series opener on Sunday, taking advantage a subpar effort by Jarry to steal home-ice advantage. The Penguins insisted there was no time to panic, expressing confidence in both Jarry and their ability to rebound.
And just like Game 1, Pittsburgh came out flying. Energized by the largest crowd at PPG Paints Arena this season after COVID-19 protocols were eased to allow 50% capacity, the Penguins overwhelmed the Islanders in the opening 20 minutes, even with Russian star Evgeni Malkin sitting out again with an undisclosed health issue.
Varlamov looked a little rusty in his first start in over a week. Rust gave the Penguins the lead 3:22 when he pounced on a New York turnover and fired an innocuous shot from above the right circle that found its way over Varlamov’s glove and into the net.
Carter, who has been electric at times since being acquired from Los Angeles at the trade deadline, scored the 40th playoff goal of his 16-year career at the end of a sequence in which linemates Kasperi Kapanen and Jared McCann did the heavy lifting. Kapanen chased down the puck in the corner and flipped it behind the net to McCann while absorbing a check. McCann then centered it to Carter, who patiently dragged it across the slot before beating Varlamov between the legs.
Just as they did on Sunday, however, the Islanders appeared to find their legs as things wore on. A pair of listless Pittsburgh power plays in the second period gave New York life, and Bailey ripped a backhand over Jarry’s shoulder 14:46 in to draw the Islanders within one, just as they were entering the third period in the opener.
Yet this time there would be no third-period rally. The Penguins withstood an early push by New York and counterpunched effectively to avoid falling into a potentially fatal 0-2 hole.
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