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Wild 6, Islanders 4: Lost in the wilderness

A lethargic effort from the New York Islanders sunk them early as the team never settled into a tough game in Minnesota.

NHL: New York Islanders at Minnesota Wild
That about sums it up, I’d say.
Marilyn Indahl-USA TODAY Sports

Well, this was a bad one. The New York Islanders came into the game against the Minnesota Wild with a little bit of controversy as the team sent promising young forward and fan favorite Josh Ho-Sang down to Bridgeport. Many felt that the issues in Ho-Sang’s game were not reflective of the major problems the Isles have faced this season, and after this game, that argument gets stronger. The Islanders’ own power play was arguably the team’s biggest enemy tonight, and Bruce Boudreau seemed to have the Wild ready for every facet of the Islanders’ game plan. All of this compounded into a 6-4 loss, where the Isles rarely looked comfortable and were always playing from behind.

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

First Period: You know the game’s tonight, right?

The first period was frankly atrocious for the New York Islanders. It started off poorly, with Johnny Boychuk taking a hooking penalty less than a minute in. Thomas Hickey added to the Wild’s player advantage with a delay of game penalty after sending the puck over the glass on a clearance. However, the Isles killed the 5 on 3, which is often looked at as a momentum builder. Not tonight.

The Isles found themselves down 1-0 when Marcus Foligno scored, putting a rebound from Jared Spurgeon’s shot past Greiss. The Islanders had hardly any offensive pressure, and it showed when Jason Zucker scored to make it 2-0 while the Islanders had failed to register a single shot on goal in the entire period.

Soon after, Kyle Quincey took an interference penalty, and the Islanders were on the power play. Unfortunately, that went south quickly as Eric Staal scored a shorthanded goal, giving the Wild a 3-0 lead.

Eventually, the Islanders got on the board when Anthony Beauvillier tipped a Johnny Boychuk shot past Dubnyk on a delayed penalty. The Isles started moving more after the goal and seemed more engaged in the game, with Mathew Barzal drawing another penalty. However, the Isles made similar mistakes, as Eric Staal nearly scored again on a shorthanded goal, but this time Greiss stood tall and made the save.

Chris Stewart appeared to give the Wild a 4-1 lead, but coach Doug Weight challenged for goaltender interference. The challenge was good, and the Islanders closed out the period down 3-1.

Second Period: Still not great

To start the period, the Isles had about half a power play. Weight send out the second power play unit, which didn’t get much of anything going. Scott Mayfield took a penalty, but the Isles were able to kill that and get some near-breakaways shorthanded. Jason Chimera drew a penalty after one of those near-breakaways, giving the Islanders almost a full two minutes on the power play.

But, much like the other power plays, the best chances came from Minnesota shorthanded. Rookie Luke Kunin scored his first NHL goal off a shorthanded rush led by him and Staal. The puck bounced off the linesman’s skate in the offensive zone, setting it up for Staal who got the puck to Kunin for the goal.

To close out the period, Nick Leddy scored a goal on the rush, making it 4-2. It’s one that Devan Dubnyk should’ve easily had, but the Isles will take it.

Third Period: Not quite a comeback

Another first NHL goal for a Minnesota Wild player, as Zack Mitchell scored his first after some lazy play in the defensive zone by the Islanders. Mitchell was able to get below the goal line and bank the puck off Greiss to make it 5-2.

Stewart scored shortly after, as the Wild won the faceoff in the Isles’ end and moved the puck quickly. Jonas Brodin took a shot that was deflected by Stewart and looked to have hit Calvin de Haan to get past Greiss.

Minnesota native Anders Lee got one back for the Islanders, scoring off a pretty play through the middle of the ice from Leddy and Josh Bailey, who earned his third assist of the night.

With about three seconds left, Mathew Barzal scored to make it 6-4 on a great individual effort. It’s another goal that Dubnyk would want back, and you have to wonder if Dubnyk’s pretty bad night could’ve been exploited if the Islanders hadn’t started the game so poorly.

Thoughts & Notes

  • Clutterbuck got a decent amount of time on the first power play unit, which was a questionable decision to begin with. It wasn’t helped by him being part of the play where the puck bounced off the ref to lead to a shorthanded goal. If there’s no one else to fill that role (though Barzal did end up filling it later in the game) why not give Pulock more time as a PP specialist?
  • At one point, the Isles and Wild were tied at even strength, but down 4-2 due to the power play leaking shorthanded chances. The Isles overhauled their PP coaching staff this offseason, but it only seems to have gotten worse. Gotta question whether the personnel just isn’t clicking or whether they can’t seem to find the right coach.
  • Wild coach Bruce Boudreau came prepared for the Isles’ game plan, exploiting the way the Islanders play in the neutral zone to really pressure them into their own end. As the Wild’s lead got bigger, their play became more relaxed, but it was worth noting how badly beaten they were early on in the first period.

Up Next

Next, the Islanders face the Nashville Predators at the Bridgestone Arena. The Preds are 4-3-2 on the season and 5th in their division. They’ll be coming off a game tomorrow against the Blackhawks, while the Isles will get some time to rest. Please win.