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Islanders 3, Coyotes 2: Pulock injured as Isles play with fire

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It was closer than it should’ve been, and costly losing Pulock early, but it’s two points.

Arizona Coyotes v New York Islanders
Johnny Knuckler.
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The New York Islanders snapped a mini-skid to bring their early season record to 2-3 after a 3-2 win over the Arizona Coyotes.

The Isles had a 2-0 lead in the first but lost it in a flash, and they spent much of the rest of the game increasing pressure on a Coyotes goalie who’s been under fire.

They also spent it with five defensemen, as Ryan Pulock lasted only five shifts and 3:57 in his first NHL game of the season before exiting with a lower body injury. (Update: Outlook is not good. He could be out a while.)

Johnny Boychuk scored the winner — his second point of the night — early in the third.

[Game Sum | Event Sum | Natural Stat Trick | HockeyViz]

How the Islanders built (and blew) an early lead: After several counterattacks, Casey Cizikas gained the zone, pulled up, found Dennis Seidenberg crossing the blueline all alone, where he calmly rifled a shot top far corner, stick-side.

That was 4:45 into the game, and Ryan Strome doubled the lead nine minutes later after a high-speed, zone-slicing rush by...Johnny Boychuk?

Indeed, Boychuk saw a loose puck and open ice and rushed hard through the Coyotes slot to get a backhand shot on. Ryan Strome followed him up to deposit the rebound for his second goal of the season.

The 2-0 lead was painfully brief, however. Just 38 seconds after Strome’s goal — scored with his brother on the ice (and Mom torn on how to react) after Ryan lost a defensive zone draw to the younger Dylan — Brad Richardson ripped a sharp shot from above the slot to cut the lead in half.

The next goal was even more difficult for Jaroslav Halak but doubly depressing. Only 13 seconds after Richardson scored, Radim Vrbata deflected a shot in the slot that fully changed direction and eluded Halak to tie it at 2-2.

Mercifully, there were no more goals for the final five and a half minutes of the first, so Isles Anxiety stood at par.

And despite that disappointment, things were promising, right? Much-awaited Ryan Pulock was back in the lineup to rock and roll? To goose the power play?

Well. Things looked ominous as he headed to the locker room during the first period. A power play came and he was not on it and nowhere to be found.

Well that certainly doesn’t sound promisi—

Crap.

The teams exchanged unsuccessful power plays to bridge the end of the first and beginning of the second period, with the best chance coming as Travis Hamonic took a pass on his way out of the penalty box.

Steadily, the Islanders started to control play in the second the way they looked set to do when they built that (fleeting) 2-0 lead in the first. Being down to five defensemen wasn’t holding them back, nor were the three penalty kills they faced in the second period.

But despite outshooting the Coyotes 16-4 in the second period, they reached the second intermission still tied 2-2. Louis Domingue, who was chased from the previous night’s game in Montreal and looked quite beatable early on tonight, stood tall.

Cizikas and Clutterbuck had a shorthanded 2-on-1 early in the third, but Clutterbuck’s shot toward the Seidenberg spot was blocked by Domingue’s blocker. But on the ensuing faceoff, Boychuk’s dipping knuckler from the point dropped below the Coyotes goalie’s blocker to give the Isles a 3-2 lead.

The Isles made it through about two full shifts with the lead before they started looking like they were trying to cough up the lead again. Lots of plays with Halak uncomfortably looking behind him as shots went just wide or were parried away by the Slovak.

But then things settled down a bit, with even some utopian hope of an insurance goal. It was most likely to come from John Tavares from point blank range, but Domingue, who catches with his right hand, had his glove ready to stop the top corner attempt.

This and That

Who Said That Contract Was Bad? Once again, Cizikas looked like one of the best Isles forwards, and his line buzzed.

He set up Seidenberg’s goal with a play we’ve already seen from Cizikas several times already this season. And he was nails during the final minute as the Coyotes had Domingue pulled for a sixth attacker.

Ladd: And there was Mr. Snakebit himself, who had a nice chance set up by John Tavares but was stopped by Domingue:

Minutes: With Pulock out, all five surviving defensemen logged over 20 minutes. Travis Hamonic led the way, per usual, with 25:42 followed by his initial partner, Thomas Hickey, who logged 24:22.

The Ice: Horrible. Take it away, Cal:

Road Runners: This was the third game of a pretty grueling six-game trip for the Coyotes. That doesn’t seem fair (though the Isles have their own Western march later in the season, even less fair).

Still, the Coyotes came in 0-2 on the trip and having flown in after playing in Montreal last night. The Isles needed to have this. At times, they looked like they knew that and executed accordingly. At other times, they looked like a one-goal lead is just a fine time to get casual and sloppy.

Officiating: There was a stretch in the second period where you might’ve thought they would call everything tonight. Then they called...like, practically nothing. Inconsistent night from the officials, with a lot of stick stuff alternately called and then overlooked.

Attendance

Attendance was announced as 13,076.