The New York Islanders took to the ice against the San Jose Sharks in a battle of two teams that were both surprisingly under .500 in points percentage to start the season. The Islanders were looking to break their zero for 15 start to the power play but more importantly pick up two points. The Islanders didn’t break their power play slump, but came away with the victory thanks to some stellar goaltending.
It didn’t take long for the Islanders to get their first chance to end their power play woes. The Islanders forced the puck into the zone and had themselves an offensive zone faceoff when Justin Braun got his hands up high on Jordan Eberle only 45 seconds into the game and was called for interference. They had a few decent opportunities including some tips out in front to start off, but the Sharks cleared after about 50 seconds of sustained zone time by the Islanders. The Islanders failed to get much going after that and time expired making the Islanders scoreless in their first 16 power play opportunities.
The Sharks had been much better than the Islanders on the power play for the season as they had scored at a 23 percent clip on them and capitalized on their first chance only a few moments later. Kevin Labanc drew the slash on Calvin de Haan along the side boards 4:04 into the period. The power play would not last long as Labanc slipped a rebound past Thomas Greiss from the left circle 4:16 into the period giving the Sharks a one to nothing lead. Mikkel Boedker and Marc-Edouard Vlasic picked up the assists.
The Sharks had the better of play through the first half of the period. Through the commercial break 10:24 into the period they lead in shots nine to four. The Islanders had zero scoring chances at even strength during the first half of the period.
The islanders played better through the second half of the period, but play on both sides was relatively tepid. The Islanders were able to tie the game up with 2:58 left in the period when Adam Pelech fired it into the slot to Jordan Eberle. Eberle quickly tipped it over to Anders Lee on a play Aaron Dell had no chance at.
The Sharks nearly took the lead in the last minute when Brent Burns and Labanc were getting shots off, but Greiss was able to make the saves including a dazzling one off the stick of Labanc. The Islanders got it out of the zone and Josh Ho-Sang dangled his way into the Sharks’ end which gave them time to make the change. There was little action from there as time expired on the period.
The Islanders got another quick power play opportunity only 1:04 into the period when a strong individual effort by Ho-Sang lead to a slashing penalty on Boedker which - as noted by Brendan Burke - was hard enough that it would have been a penalty last year. They probably should have had a five-on-three thanks to a questionable hit into the boards by Timo Meier on Nick Leddy, but it wasn’t called leading to a short-handed shot by the Sharks forward. Johnny Boychuk had a shot on Dell, but it was far too telegraphed and Dell was able to make the save. Ultimately it was another lost effort for the Islanders.
Pelech attempted to knock a puck out of the air by reaching up at it only to be knocked down in his own right by Ryan Carpenter by a shot to the head with an elbow (there was no call). Brock Nelson was looking to drop the gloves only to be rebuked, so he wound up scoring a goal instead. Ho-Sang fed the puck into the slot to Nelson who wristed it past Dell as he was knocked down giving the Islanders a two to one lead. De Haan picked up the second assist 6:27 into the second.
The pace heightened from there as play was back and forth. Greiss stopped Joe Pavelski on a shot that didn’t seem overly difficult, but Pavelski was quite frustrated and took it out by breaking his stick on the net with roughly 8:06 in the period. Perhaps it was an intimidation tactic or just sheer frustration, but in either case there wasn’t a call.
Play was back and forth with shots being peppered all over. Both teams struggled a bit with accuracy and the goalies were able to make the hard saves. Play was stopped at the 17:36 mark when Joe Thornton was called for tripping and Thomas Hickey received a questionable embellishment call leading to some four-on-four hockey. Neither team had anything going on the four-on-four play, but the Islanders got caught napping when the penalties expired and Thornton lead the two-on-one. Fortunately Greiss made the save and the Sharks had nothing going on the ensuing faceoff as the Islanders took a two to one lead into the third.
The beginning of the third period was the worst fears of those who thought Doug Weight would be Jack Capuano part two come to fruition. The Sharks were peppering Greiss constantly and the Islanders were in full shell mode. San Jose had nine shots on net in the first five minutes while the Islanders had none.
Mathew Barzal was able to slow the pressure down by getting out on a breakaway of sorts and drew the holding penalty on Joakim Ryan. Unfortunately they had little to no pressure on the power play. In fact, the Sharks had the best opportunity during that time when Greiss nearly gave the puck away to Chris Tierney. Meanwhile, the Islanders failed to get a shot on net during the two minutes.
The Islanders went to the television time out and Weight lead with the fourth line coming out of it. The Sharks had no problem getting possession time and Greiss had to make save after save. Even after score adjustments, the Sharks had over 85 percent of the shot attempts during the five-on-five play. There needed to be some coaching adjustments, but none were being made.
Pucks flew at the Islanders net at a torrid pace. Boychuk had to make a play from his knees to get the puck away. Make no mistake about it - this was the worst play fans had seen from the Islanders so far this year and had it not been for the astounding play from Greiss this game would have been tied a long time ago.
The Sharks pulled Dell with 2:16 left in the game. The Islanders iced it and Tomas Hertl won the ensuing draw, but fortunately it wound up on the stick of Casey Cizikas. Cizikas got the puck over to Nikolay Kulemin who shoveled it up to Cal Clutterbuck who scored the empty netter to clinch the game with only 1:50 left in the game.
The Islanders escaped this one thanks to Greiss along with Nelson and Lee’s goals. The Sharks did all they could to get the game overtime, but Greiss was just too good in this one. As for the Sharks, their low P.D.O. cost them once again - had they gotten decent goaltending or been able to finish this one they likely would have come away with at least a point.
First Star - Thomas Greiss
Second Star - Brock Nelson
Third Star - Anders Lee