The New York Islanders went 2-2 across their four games played this week. They started the week off strong with wins against the Devils and Capitals. However they followed those wins up with back to back losses to the Lightning and Hurricanes. The four points won this week puts the Islanders at 87 points on the season. They still hold the first wild card spot but have the Penguins and Panthers hot on their tail.
Kyle Palmieri’s Big Night Leads the Islanders Past the Devils
This crucial week of play opened up with a home contest against the New Jersey Devils. After a pair of bad losses the Islanders came ready to play in this one. Getting things started was Pierre Engvall, who cleaned up a rebounded shot from a Kyle Palmieri breakaway chance. In the second period, Erik Haula got a breakaway chance of his own while on the PK and beat Ilya Sorokin with a backhanded shot to tie the game.
Palmieri answered back with a backhanded goal of his own later in the period to take back the lead. In the third the Islanders played a well executed defensive game to preserve their one goal lead. At the 14:21 mark of the period Palmieri scored his second of the game against Vitek Vanecek to give the Isles some extra insurance. Bo Horvat and Zach Parise each provided an empty net goal to secure a big 5-1 victory over the Devils.
Islanders Finally Win a Shootout Against the Capitals
Next up was a trip to Washington to face a Capitals team the Islanders had not won a game against yet. As they did in both prior meetings with this team, the Isles took the game’s first lead. Brock Nelson set up Engvall with a drop pass that Engvall snapped by Darcy Kuemper in the second period. The lead was short lived as Connor Sheary got a clean look against Sorokin and beat him with a backhand. Aside from allowing one second period goal each, Sorokin and Kuemper were rock solid for their respective teams.
They remained deadlocked at one goal a piece at the end of regulation and went into the overtime period. After trading chances in overtime the Islanders and Capitals had to settle this game in a shootout. Having lost all five shootouts they played in this season, the situation seemed bleak for the Islanders. However Horvat and Palmieri were both able to beat Kuemper in the overtime period. Sorokin stopped two out of the three Capitals attempts to help lead the Islanders to a 2-1 shootout victory, their first shootout win of the season.
Lightning Blank the Islanders
Saturday night’s matchup featured the Islanders playing the Lightning in Tampa Bay. The Lightning have been a well established problem for the Islanders over the last few years. They went into Saturday having lost their last five regular season games against this Lightning team. This game would prove to be no different than the previous five. The Isles found themselves down 1-0 in the first after a Mikhail Sergachev shot deflected in off the leg of Alex Romanov.
What followed was a disastrous second period. Tanner Jeannot scored his first goal since getting traded to the Lightning on a tip-in to double their advantage. Nikita Kucherov then got off on a breakaway and scored at the 9:57 mark of the period. Two minutes later, Steven Stamkos saw a puck go in off of his skate to go up by four goals.
With Sorokin pulled and Semyon Varlamov in, Brayden Point added a third period power play goal for good measure. On the offensive side of the puck the Islanders had no answers. They put up 38 shots on net, but Andrei Vasilevskiy was on his game and stopped every single one of them. Vasilevskiy picked up his fourth shutout of the year as the Islanders lost a 5-0 blowout game to the Lightning.
Hurricanes Beat Islanders a Third Straight Time
For the final game of the week the Islanders traveled to North Carolina for a game against the Hurricanes. After the previous night’s disastrous game, the Islanders got off to a better start in this contest. At the 17:33 mark of the period Engvall set up J.G. Pageau with a good setup pass that he fired past Freddie Andersen to take the lead. The Isles’ lead wouldn’t last as Jesperi Kotkaniemi tied the game back up in the second period. Despite having an all around rough second period, Kotkaniemi’s goal was the only damage done.
Early into the third, Jordan Martinook and Sebastian Aho broke off on a two on one with Martinook keeping the puck and burying it to give the Hurricanes’ their first lead. In a close game the Islanders again had issues coming up with a response. Even with a power play and a chance with the net empty they couldn’t take a point from this game. They lost at a final score of 2-1, marking their third consecutive loss against the Hurricanes.
The late season optimism surrounding this Islanders team is quickly beginning to fade. Having lost four of their last six games, their postseason position is in great peril. The Panthers won’t go away and the Sabres even have an outside shot of getting in with their numerous games in hand. Now with only four games remaining, the Islanders have their backs against the wall.
The best thing they could possibly do is win, at minimum, three of their last four games. And even then they may have to do some scoreboard watching to hope they don’t get overtaken by one of the teams on the outside. With a three day break and a pair of home games this week, the Islanders have a good opportunity to shake off some ugly losses and gain some momentum amidst this critical final stretch.
3 Stars of the Week
1. Kyle Palmieri (2 goals and an assist vs. Devils, shootout goal vs. Capitals)
2. Pierre Engvall (2 goals and an assist)
3. J.G. Pageau (Goal and an assist)
Featured image courtesy of Twitter/@NYIslanders
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