Penguins pot 6 goals in 2nd period, Kris Letang makes history in 7-0 thrashing of Islanders

Kris Letang Islanders Penguins
Dec 23, 2023; Ottawa, Ontario, CAN; Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang (58) skates with the puck in the third period against the Ottawa Senators at the Canadian Tire Centre. Mandatory Credit: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports

ELMONT, N.Y. — Jake Guentzel scored twice in 12 seconds to headline a six-goal second period for the Pittsburgh Penguins, who dominated the New York Islanders in a 7-0 victory on Wednesday at UBS Arena. 

Evgeni Malkin scored two of his own while defenseman Kris Letang had six assists, including five in that period, which tied an NHL record for most helpers in a period set by Dale Hawerchuk of the Winnipeg Jets on March 6, 1984, in a 7-3 victory over the Los Angeles Kings while making him the first defenseman to reach that mark. He also became the first blueliner ever to record five points in a single frame and just the seventh defenseman in NHL history with six helpers in a single game (first since 1986). 

The six goals allowed by the Islanders (16-9-9) in a single period were tied for the second-most in franchise history. They allowed eight in the second period of a March 3, 1973 game against the Philadelphia Flyers and allowed six on seven other occasions — their previous two also coming against the Penguins in 1990 and 2000.

“It’s all fixable,” Islanders head coach Lane Lambert said. “We just weren’t hard enough in our own zone. We weren’t hard enough around our goaltender, and we gave up the interior and the net front far too easily. Very, very uncharacteristic. All fixable.”

While the Penguins outshot the Islanders 32-20 on the night, including 20-7 in the second period, they drove New York’s star goalie Ilya Sorokin from the game after just 40 minutes. He made 19 saves on 26 shots before Semyon Varlamov saved seven shots in relief.

Pittsburgh netminder Tristan Jarry turned away all 21 shots he faced to earn his NHL-leading fourth shutout of the season on an easy night that saw his team score those six goals in 10:29.

“Just a weird lull in the second period that obviously cost us the game,” forward Mathew Barzal said. “I want to say that [an effort like that in] a sold-out rink like that tonight in front of our fans, it’s unacceptable.”

Rickard Rakell put the Penguins ahead 6:44 into the second period when he cleaned up a loose puck that snuck through Sorokin’s pads and laid behind the Islanders netminder. 

Despite the official’s quick whistle to blow the play dead after losing sight of the puck and before Rakell knocked it in, the officials convened and ruled it a good goal — a call that stood after an official review. 

Guentzel helped put the Penguins out of sight in quick succession. Following a turnover by New York defenseman Samuel Bolduc on the left boards, Guentzel redirected a Letang shot past Sorokin at the 10:15 mark of the second. 

With Pittsburgh outshooting the Islanders 11-1 in the period after that tally, Lambert called timeout in an attempt to stabilize his side. It didn’t work.

Just 12 seconds later while hanging behind the defense at the Islanders’ blue line, he was sprung on a breakaway by Rakell where he fired a wrister that beat Sorokin stick side.

“You don’t see that very often,” Lambert said. “What did I emphasize [in the timeout]? We had to wake up. There was a lot of hockey game left and then, clearly, it didn’t work this time.”

Penguins Islanders Malkin
Dec 27, 2023; Elmont, New York, USA; Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin (71) celebrates his goal against the New York Islanders with defenseman Ryan Graves (27) in front of Islanders center Brock Nelson (29) during the second period at UBS Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Malkin picked up his first of the night 2:21 later at the 12:48 mark when he was able to cut through a gassed Islanders defense that was running around their zone, receive a pass from Reilly Smith in between the circles, and rifle a wrister home. His second came at the 16:06 mark when he was allowed to stand in the crease by himself to redirect a Letang feed in with ease. 

Radim Zahorna capped off the six-goal second-period onslaught with another tap-in from in close just 1:07 after Malkin’s second, which mercifully for Sorokin was the last time he yielded a goal as he was pulled between periods for Varlamov.

“We didn’t help Ilya out tonight,” Barzal said. “A lot of breakdowns, a lot of free pucks in front for them.”

Valtteri Puustinen made it 7-0 9:48 into the third period — an open one-timer from the left circle that lasered home for his first-career NHL goal. 

For more on the Islanders, visit AMNY.com