The New York Islanders opened a fresh homestand with a regulation win over the Vancouver Canucks, stopping a three-game winless streak that included two regulation losses in their weekend Florida swing.
They did it with considerable authority, finishing off an opponent playing the second of back-to-back nights by dominating the third period (shots: 17-5) to seal a 5-2 win.
First Period: More of this please
It was an ugly start, but the Islanders righted the ship quickly in the first period.
Brendan Leipsic converted from Bo Horvat after some good cycling just 2:48 to get the Canucks on the board. But within three minutes of that opening goal, the Islanders had the lead.
First Tom Kuhnhackl got a “thank-you-very-much” tally, spinning from his knees on the goal-line to sweep a desperation backhand toward the net. It worked, somehow lifting up and through Jacob Markstrom — playing on back-to-back nights — to tie the score at 5:11. It was both amazingly lucky and actually pretty talented all at once:
On the next shift, the Mathew Barzal Show began in earnest, and he drew the Canucks inside, out, and all around before feeding Josh Bailey down the left side of the slot. Bailey attempted a pass but it banked in off a Canucks skate. 2-1 Isles at 5:56.
The Isles had their first power play opportunity a couple of minutes later, and the new-look unit at least did part of what Barry Trotz was looking for: They attempted shots.
But nothing stuck there, and the next goal didn’t come until 14:50, when Brock Nelson pounced on the forecheck to find Jordan Eberle open in front. Eberle notched his fifth of the season to make it 3-1.
The Islanders were looking like they had control of play and might even run away with things, but they took four of the next five penalties. The first came with two minutes left in the first, and the Isles killed it handily.
Second Period: You put the Isles in the Box
The Isles were called for a sketchy too many men on the ice penalty just over a minute into the second period and they killed 90 seconds of that one firmly, but the Canucks finally struck on a rebound cashed in by Jake Virtanen.
Brock Nelson was called for high-sticking in a battle with Erik Gudbranson, and the Isles killed that. After wasting their lone power play of the period, they were short again at 14:45, with Leo Komarov called for an inadvertent trip (half-heel kick, half blade step) of Elias Petterssen.
The Isles survived that one, but penalties basically consumed and messed with the rhythm of the entire period.
Still, if the Islanders could stay out of the box and re-grab the flow they had through most of the first period, you had to like their chances against a tired opponent.
But they’d have to do it playing one forward short: Andrew Ladd had an awkward collision with the boards during a check on Gudbranson in the corner, and it appeared to damage his knee. He hobbled off the ice for intermission putting no weight on the leg, and he didn’t return for the third period.
Third Period: That’s how you finish
They got the early break they needed: The Isles forecheck was in form again, and Eberle sent it toward Kuhnhackl in front of the net, somehow covered by three Canucks yet zero Canucks all at once. He got his skate on the puck, and his stick attempted to follow but got caught up in Markstrom’s pad. The puck carried over the line, and after a brief review the call on the ice stood: Isles lead 4-2.
Provided an insurance goal, the Islanders did not go for the kill but nor did they sit back. They went for the slow, steady, oppressive choke hold, calmly moving the puck and taking space provided them. They managed their third-period offense like a team that wanted another goal but did not need one, making the Canucks earn every inch.
For a team that has had trouble with late leads for years and turned a couple of recent ones into regulation losses, it was refreshing to see.
With 4:25 left in regulation, Virtanen took a double-minor for high-sticking Thomas Hickey — whose face has taken a beating this fall. That provided even more leisure time, and a patient, non-shooting power play converted when Barzal fed Cal Clutterbuck for a snipe from the slot before Virtanen’s first minor expired. It was Clutterbuck’s long-awaited first goal of the season.
Johnny Boychuk was sent off for holding to abort the second half of the power play, and Clutterbuck was sent to the showers for an inexplicable misconduct for the crime of getting under the skin of Gudbranson, who also received a misconduct.
That was that. Shots finished 34-24 for the Isles, and Thomas Greiss didn’t get a ton of work but was generally solid when tested. The fans, those who were there, left pleased.
Only 8,806 at Barclays tonight - 2nd smallest crowd for #Isles in 3+ years in Brooklyn (8,790 on Columbus Day vs SJ).— Eric Hornick (@ehornick) November 14, 2018