Coming into the game tonight, the Vegas Golden Knights were the biggest story in the NHL, sitting at 8-1-0 and wildly outperforming pre-season expectations. While many attribute this to puck luck, Vegas also seems to seek to capitalize on the mistakes of their opponents, and they haven’t played the real upper echelon of the league, barring maybe the Chicago Blackhawks. It felt like it could be a trap game at the Barclays Center tonight, and the Islanders were sluggish at times. However, the New York Islanders took advantage of the murky goaltending situation for the Golden Knights and worked through some early hiccups for a 6-3 win.
What started off as a promising period for the Islanders was once again dashed by the special teams. Old habits die hard, and an aggressive penalty kill from the Vegas Golden Knights led to the first shorthanded goal in team history. Cody Eakin beat Nick Leddy to the puck in the Isles’ end, and with the rest of the power play unit inexplicably changing, he was left alone as Anthony Beauvillier couldn’t catch William Karlsson in time. Karlsson got the pass from Eakin while rushing to the net and scored.
About four minutes later, Andrew Ladd carried the puck into the offensive zone and took a wrist shot from distance which went past Oscar Dansk for the goal, tying the game 1-1. The goal was Ladd’s third of the season.
However, Dennis Seidenberg took a hooking penalty, and Vegas rookie Alex Tuch converted on the power play, restoring the Golden Knights’ lead. After that, momentum really switched in Vegas’ favor, and Jaroslav Halak was the only thing keeping this a one goal game.
In the second, the two teams exchanged penalties, and Vegas held the better chances for the majority of the period. Then, James Neal took a tripping penalty after taking Mathew Barzal down. On the ensuing power play, John Tavares scored his 10th of season, tying the game for the Islanders. Tavares tipped in a shot from Nick Leddy to bring the Isles back into the game.
Unfortunately for Vegas, Dansk, who was already their third string goalie (!!!), left the game after the Tavares goal. Dansk seemed to be having trouble putting weight on his left side, and so the Golden Knights had to turn to career minor league goaltender Maxime Lagace. While putting Lagace in for his NHL debut, Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant challenged for goaltender interference on the Tavares goal. However, it was a fairly easy call to keep the goal as it was called on the ice, as Anders Lee was never in the crease and didn’t make much, if any, contact with Dansk.
Reilly Smith took a high sticking penalty late in the second when his stick came up and hit Brock Nelson in the face. On the power play, Lee tried to redirect the puck past Lagace, but it bounced off the post and right into the path of Barzal, who had an empty net and scored. The goal was Barzal’s third of the season and gave the Islanders’ their first lead of the night.
So. Many. Breakaways. Early in the third, Cal Clutterbuck rushed down the wing and put the puck past Lagace short side to give the Islanders a 4-2 lead.
Not long after, Nikolay Kulemin found himself on a breakway and beat Lagace on a nifty backhand move for his first goal of the season and a 5-2 lead.
Then, a few minutes after that, Tavares was on a similar breakaway, where unlike his teammate, he went for a forehand shot that beat Lagace for a 6-2 lead and made Tavares #hattrickeligible, though he didn’t complete the hat trick this time around. Guess he lost a step or something.
On a Golden Knights power play, Colin Miller scored to pull Vegas within three. However, with just six minutes left in the game, the Golden Knights couldn’t rally a comeback, even with another power play opportunity, and the Islanders won the game 6-3, handing Vegas just their second loss of the season.
Thoughts & Notes
- The Nelson-Barzal-Eberle line continues to crush it, and they looked the liveliest tonight. Really can’t say enough positive things about Mathew Barzal.
- The power play is still a problem, despite yielding two goals for the Islanders on the night. The short handed chances have to stop. It’s a liability at this point.
- John Tavares may have started slow this season, but he now has 11 goals, good for second behind Tampa’s Nikita Kucherov, and 15 points that have him tied for fourth in the league. The captain is having a great season so far, and he’s provided some much needed scoring power even when the team hasn’t played its best. (Also, can the NHL fix their website? I had to look up the scoring leaders on Fox Sports because the NHL’s own leaderboard doesn’t work.)
- This is my third recap in a row, and in each of the games one team has scored 6 goals. Does this mean anything? Absolutely not. But it’s fun to be back in the real swing of the season after a busy October.
- Even with some of the struggles the team has faced, the Islanders are 7-4-1, good for third in the Metropolitan Division. The season is still young, but it’s a better start than last season, and every point counts.
The New York Islanders travel to DC and the Capital One Arena to play the Washington Capitals on Thursday, November 2nd. The Capitals have been struggling lately after a difficult offseason, and are currently 5-6-1 on the year. Despite the record, Alex Ovechkin has been on fire so far this season, and the Capitals as a whole are still a tough division rival. Should be a good game.