Hampus Lindholm completed a hat trick and Ryan Getzlaf notched his fourth assist on the game winner as the New York Islanders both salvaged and squandered a point in a 5-4 overtime loss to the Anaheim Ducks in Brooklyn.
The Islanders fell into a first-period 2-0 hole (heard that before), came back in the third to tie and take the lead, only to give up a late equalizer against six attackers and then suffer the extra gut-punch of Lindholm’s goal with 57 seconds left in OT.
That continues a rough, quickly-turning-terrible month of December, with a record of 3-6-2 and the high-flying Winnipeg Jets coming into town Saturday for the final game before Christmas.
Let me just start off with the fact I was in a similar impatient mood as Dan was, though I had the misfortune of watching the first period.
I’m on the bus and didn’t watch any of the first period of the Islanders game but fire this team into the sun, please.— Dan Saraceni (@cultureoflosing) December 22, 2017
Anyway, my similar feelings explain why this is a largely recap-via-tweets. (With apologies for those who are firewalled from seeing Twitter at work or wherever. I’ll try to capture the key points referenced.)
First Period: From boredom to misery
Having come up empty in Newark and Manhattan, the Ducks were facing the prospect of losing four in a row. So they came out charged and physical, as is their general trademark.
Despite the high motivation for the Ducks, it took a while for either team to actually generate decent chances. Anaheim broke through in a big way at the eight-minute mark, scoring a pair of goals.
First Getzlaf pounced on a neutral zone turnover to lead an odd-man rush, getting Ryan Pulock to go to ground and then feeding around him to Andrew Cogliano. Cogliano’s shot hit off Lindholm on its way in for a 1-0 lead.
Ondrej Kase benefited from a good bounce to make it 2-0 as the Ducks overloaded play toward the Isles net. That’s how things stood at the first intermission, with the Ducks outshooting the Isles 11-5.
Second Period: Still alive, still frustrating
But the power play got the Isles back in business in the second period, Mathew Barzal double-swinging to knock a Josh Bailey pass in at the back door.
The Islanders had a gaping-net chance to tie it at 2-2 and completely erase that bad start but it was at the hands of Jason Chimera, who cannot buy a go-, er, well anything this season, and he couldn’t handle the beautiful setup to the doorstep.
Jason Chimera is having a Michael Grabner memorial game of a billion chances caused by speed and not even coming close to a conversion.— garik16 (@garik16) December 22, 2017
Instead of a tie, Lindolm got his second goal of the game off a faceoff in the Isles zone. A bullet. It came on 4-on-4, with one of the penalties against Jaroslav Halak.
(Let it not be said that Jaroslav Halak doesn’t care. He was quite frustrated after the second goal, and super fired up when Nick Ritchie jammed his crease, coming out at Ritchie and throwing a few jabs. Both were penalized for roughing.)
Looked like Tavares or Barzal needed to defend that. Neither did.— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) December 22, 2017
But the Islanders would get one back, again from the power play, again with the usual suspects of Tavares (the scorer), Bailey, Barzal and Lee playing a role:
So that made things seem achievable at the intermission, albeit not without plenty of concern.
#Isles with 2 PPGs to get within 3-2 after 2. Being outshot 24-9 at even strength, but down a goal.— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) December 22, 2017
Third Period: We got this! We don’t got this.
And what do you know, the third period played out almost exactly as you’d like it.
Tavares scored early to tie it 3-3 5:44 into the period, off a likely set faceoff play that had Bailey switching with Leddy off the draw, feeding from the point to Tavares, who had time to shoot thanks to Ryan Miller being kind of old.
Two minutes later, Ladd scored the go-ahead goal, with Jordan Eberle, Barzal and Ladd combining to almost rock/paper/scissors who would take the shot through traffic from the slot. Miller was completely fooled (and likely screened), and Ladd’s shot found purchase in the top stick-side corner.
Man, the #Isles have their issues. But no lead is safe against them.— Brian Compton (@BComptonNHL) December 22, 2017
Alas, no lead is safe for them either.
Anaheim hasn't scored more than 3 goals in a game since Nov. 15. That's a span of 17 games. The Ducks are 6-6-5 in that span. That's not cutting it.— Dan Rosen (@drosennhl) December 20, 2017
The Isles did a decent job of protecting the lead, playing it safe but not always too annoyingly safe. Still, Jaroslav Halak — who mostly had a good night -- was called to stop several decent chances to protect the lead.
The deflating equalizer came soon after the Ducks pulled Miller for a sixth attacker. Rickard Rakell was the beneficiary of the overload at the Isles net, on a muffed shot conversion similar to Barzal’s goal earlier in the night.
Overtime: Someone sharpen the captain’s skates
Getzlaf single-handedly dominated the opening shift of overtime, wasting a turn for Tavares who never touched the puck and fell twice trying to get a sniff of it.
Then Casey Cizikas and Eberle went into NBA isolation play mode, ending a series of zonal orbits with Eberle being stopped by Miller as Cizikas crashed the net.
On Tavares’ next shift he fell again in the offensive zone, and let himself stay out there long enough to be gassed as he struggled to cover Getzlaf in the Isles zone. Getzlaf eventually supplied Lindholm for his hat trick winner.
It may have ramped up a bit off of Nick Leddy’s stick blade. It was a sharp shot and Lindholm had time to step into it before unleashing. But it beat Halak short side, which leaves a bad taste. A familiar taste, too.
From the Coach
Doug Weight said the last two periods were really good and felt it was a bad break to put the team down 2-0 in the first place.
Asked if the team was drained from having to come back a lot, or if it’s too tiring to have to do it too often, he said, “No. We had a lead with two minutes left.”
Mentally draining? “Hockey is mentally draining.”
So he wasn’t going for the narrative that fans and frankly media are moved to go with, in part because we find these high-octane, high-goals-against Islanders are mentally draining.
Weight has a point, a valid point. (And honestly, sometimes this just comes down to the proverbial “goalie needs to steal us one” theme.) That said, these two goalies didn’t suddenly start being a lot worse overnight, despite their age nudging them in that direction of the career curve. More going on here than goaltending.
If there’s any solace on the night, it’s that the Isles are still -- only barely -- clinging on to the last wild card spot despite this terrible month. But it feels like the margin for error has been all used up.
The Jets are in town Saturday, the first of two meetings in a week’s time. That one’s a 1 p.m. EST start.