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NHL

Tristan Jarry’s Boner Was One For The Ages

New York Islanders celebrate
Emilee Chinn/Getty

To start: Ilya Sorokin is your official Hot Goalie of these NHL playoffs so far, and good for him. The New York Islanders are 3-0 with Sorokin in net and 0-2 without him, as the 25-year-old Russian rookie has proven to be an irresistible part of their whole “don’t let the bad guys score goals” strategy. I can’t say he had the game of his young life last night, because his experience winning postseason MVP back in Russia seems to be a big reason why he’s been so unflappable in his first NHL playoffs, but this was definitely his best showing an Islanders uniform. Sorokin stopped 48 of 50 Pittsburgh Penguins shots as the Islanders rode a mere 28 shots of their own to a 3-2 double overtime win that gave them a 3-2 series lead over the East Division winners.

But a Hot Goalie, the laws of thermodynamics would argue, implies the existence of a Cold Goalie, and to find him, you don’t have to look farther than 180 feet. Tristan Jarry, the 26-year-old Penguin who took on the full-time starting goalie role this year, played adequately enough in the regular season to earn Pittsburgh the top seed, and particularly in Game 2 was a key reason why his boys squeaked out a 2-1 win. But unless Pittsburgh wins the next two, it’s going to be hard to remember much beyond the baffling mistake that he made at the start of the second OT in Game 5.

As the Penguins were on the attack, the puck bounced off the boards and made a slow journey all the way down the ice, where Jarry moved to the left of the net to take it on his stick. He waited, and waited, and then foolishly decided to try and fire it back up the ice from whence it came. The only problem is, his attempted clearance was in fact a perfect pass to the Islanders’ Josh Bailey, who ended the game then and there.

This is the kind of mental mistake that loses a goalie his job, and since Jarry gave up four goals in each of his two starts before this one, it would appear that a change is sorely needed. Except, the Penguins don’t really have another option. Maxime Lagace, who has played in two NHL games since February of 2019, is officially their backup right now with Casey DeSmith injured. He’s not going to get the start in potentially the final game of the Penguins’ season unless there is a much bigger emergency than this one, and so the team instead put all their efforts towards lifting the spirits of their young netminder with their quotes in the aftermath of the loss.

“He’s been a really good goalie for us all year long and he’ll continue to be a good goalie for us moving forward,” coach Mike Sullivan said in the postgame. “He had a heck of a game up until that point. He made a mistake.”

The Penguins have more to fix than just their goaltender, though. Most obviously, the Islanders have done a brilliant job of shutting down Sidney Crosby for most of this series, holding him pointless in Games 2 through 4 and letting him have just an assist on Monday night. Jake Guentzel, the team’s next highest scorer, is getting bullied by the Isles’ blueliners and has yet to find the back of the net. Evgeni Malkin has historically been the one to pick up the slack in dire moments like this, and he did with a first-period power-play goal on Monday, but he’s also playing through injury and in Game 4 was a complete non-factor outside of six penalty minutes.

When I put it like that, it’s actually kind of a wonder that the Penguins are still alive, and if it weren’t for a great turnover-forcing check by J.G. Pageau midway through the third period that created a Jordan Eberle goal, Pittsburgh might even be up in this series. Instead, however, they’re desperate and anxious and searching for a savior. They had a cold goalie, and the Islanders had a hot one. And most of the time, that alone is enough to send you golfing.