The Islanders got the split that they needed to get in Pittsburgh, taking one of two games in their Eastern Division first-round matchup against the Penguins.
Granted, there was obvious disappointment after Tuesday night’s 2-1 loss in Game 2, but stealing one on the road was even more of an impressive feat considering Islanders star first-line center Mathew Barzal was held in check over the first two games of the series.
“Absolutely he [has another gear],” Islanders head coach Barry Trotz said. “I think he’s a player that we’re going to need for him to do something.”
Barzal was limited to just a single shot in Game 1, which didn’t come until overtime, before nabbing three in Game 2. His first line alongside Jordan Eberle and Leo Komarov have yet to record a point over the first two games of the series, though Barzal did show some flashes of finding some space on Tuesday night.
Naturally, as the Islanders’ most skilled player, he’s going to get a lot of attention from the Penguins. But it presents the precarious balancing act of trying to inject his skills — which sometimes leads him to try and do too much while on the puck — or making the simple play.
“It’s hard for him sometimes because he cares, he tries to do it by himself sometimes,” Trotz said. “The Penguins are doing a good job.”
The formula for Barzal to start making more of an impact is simple, at least from Trotz’s point of view. It’s a formula that he’s been preaching to the 23-year-old’s game since he arrived as bench boss three years ago.
“The No. 1 thing with him is when he’s skating, you forget about the hands and all that, if he’s skating in straight lines, getting to pucks, playing the give-and-go game, he’s extremely dynamic,” Trotz said. “When he tries to use his hands too much or play a slow-down game, he isn’t as effective. We just have to get him playing straight lines.”