The Islanders went 2-1-1 in their first week after the All-Star break. They picked up two wins against the Flyers and Kraken to go on a four game winning streak. However, they lost two disappointing games against the Canucks in regulation and the Canadiens in overtime to end the week. The five points earned this week puts the Islanders at 60 total points. They currently sit one point behind the Penguins for the final wild card spot, with the Penguins having four games in hand over the Islanders.
Islanders Extend Win Streak to Three Games in Philly
The Islanders first game after the All-Star break saw them visit the Flyers in Philadelphia. This game had a very similar flow to the back to back wins they had before the break. It was low scoring and had an emphasis on defensive discipline and goaltending. The Isles kicked off the scoring in the first period, with Kyle Palmieri providing the rare power play goal. They struck again at the 8:18 mark of the second, when Mat Barzal deflected a shot from Noah Dobson past Carter Hart.
The Islanders only slipped up once when Nicolas Deslauriers was given a lot of space to tip in a shot past Varlamov in the second. Aside from that moment, they played a quality game that saw the PK go 2-for-2 and Varlamov make 25 saves. Also notable was the new Bailey-Horvat-Barzal line that meshed very well together in their first game. The Islanders would win their first game out of the break with a 2-1 final score.
Islanders’ Offense Breaks Out in Horvat’s Home Debut
In the second game of a back-to-back, the Islanders returned home to play the Seattle Kraken. Unlike their first meeting with the Kraken this season, the Isles were explosive in this one. Samuel Bolduc scored his first career NHL goal on a long wrist shot that beat Martin Jones in the first. Another Islanders rookie would find the back of the net when Simon Holmstrom got a good look from the slot to go up by two.
The scoring run would continue in the second, with Zach Parise tipping in a J.G. Pageau shot. The fourth and final Islanders goal from this game would prove to be the fan favorite. Barzal set up Bo Horvat in front of the net and he buried it for his first goal with the team. The Kraken promptly called a timeout to gather themselves, during which the Islanders faithful loudly chanted Horvat’s name. The Kraken never managed to get on the board, with Sorokin making 31 saves en route to his fifth shutout of the year, putting him in a tie for the league lead. The 4-0 home win gave the Islanders their fourth straight victory.
Islanders Lose High Scoring Affair to Canucks
Thursday’s game featured Anthony Beauvillier returning to Long Island as a member of the Vancouver Canucks. The Isles would strike first with Palmieri beating Collin Delia with a hard wrist shot in the first. However it took the Canucks less than a minute to respond with Oliver Ekman-Larsson ripping a long shot past Sorokin. Just seconds after that goal Brock Boeser scored one of his own to give Vancouver the lead. Brock Nelson capped off the high scoring first period, forcing a turnover and taking it all the way up the ice and into the back of the net for the game tying goal.
The Islanders received an early power play opportunity in the second period in which a go-ahead Horvat goal was called back due to goalie interference. Still, Barzal hit paydirt with a one-timed shot in the dying seconds of the power play to take the lead. The Barzal-Horvat connection struck again later in the period, with Horvat scoring his second as an Islander to take a 4-2 lead. But just like in the first it took the Canucks less than a minute to find a response, courtesy of Nils Aman.
Up 4-3 in the third, Elias Pettersson wreaked havoc on the Islanders in the period. He scored a power play goal to tie followed by an even-strength goal to take back the lead. And for the cherry on top, Beauvillier deflected a shot past Sorokin in his first game against the Islanders to put the Canucks up by two. Dobson provided a power play goal with the net empty in the final minute to draw closer, but the Islanders couldn’t find a sixth goal. They lost at a 6-5 final score, with old friend Beauvillier registering the game-winning goal.
Bad Defense Dooms Islanders in Overtime Loss to Canadiens
The final game on this week’s slate saw the Islanders visit the Bell Centre to play the Canadiens. This was a back-and-forth affair, with the Canadiens scoring first when Rafael Harvey-Pinnard hit Nick Suzuki with a perfect crossing pass to Varlamov’s blocker side. The Islanders found their response at the 15:01 mark, with Nelson deflecting a shot from Dobson past Sam Montembeault.
A late power play chance in the second saw Horvat score a power play goal from a strangle angle to take the lead with just five seconds left in the period. Just four minutes into the third period, Justin Barron got a wide-open lane in the middle of the offensive zone to bury his first goal of the season to tie it up again. Midway through the period, Matt Martin got a piece of a long shot from Alex Romanov to take a 3-2 lead. But again the Canadiens tied it up, with Kirby Dach tipping in a shot that would eventually bring the game into overtime.
The Isles had a great stretch of play in OT, powered by a power play opportunity. However as the opportunity expired, Barzal made a bad turnover that allowed Mike Hoffman to break away out of the box. His initial chance was saved but Michael Matheson buried the rebound. There was a prolonged review of the goal, but Matheson’s marker would prove to be the game-winner in a 4-3 overtime loss for the Islanders.
It was almost a terrific week for the Islanders. They came out of the break hot, winning two great games to try and fuel their playoff push. Just as things were starting to look good for the Isles, it all fell apart again. Facing two teams that rank near the bottom of the league, they played two games with completely lackadaisical defensive performances that resulted in losses. Despite the offensive spark that has come with Horvat’s arrival, this is still very clearly a flawed team.
There’s a lot of sloppiness and inconsistency to their game that’s starting to cast some doubt on Lane Lambert as a head coach. Everyone can agree that the losses to the Canucks and Canadiens wouldn’t have happened under the Barry Trotz regime. He demanded a defensive consistency that made the Islanders so good at holding leads.
They’ve been able to achieve that quality defense on occasion, but they’ve been wildly inconsistent in their ability to do so. Lambert wasn’t expected to be as good a defensive coach as Trotz, but games like those last two have happened a lot this year, and they’re unacceptable at this point of the season. The five points gained is a positive development, but losing what should’ve been an additional three really hurts in this tight postseason race.
3 Stars of the Week
1. Brock Nelson: (2 goals, 3 assists while actively on a 10-game point streak)
2. Mat Barzal: (1 goal, 1 PPG and 3 assists, 3 total points against Canucks)
3. Bo Horvat: (2 goals, 1 PPG and an assist in his first week with the team)
Featured image courtesy of ESPN
Check out our NHL page for more updates!
You can like The Game Haus on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for more sports and esports articles from great TGH writers like Justin!