Mathew Barzal scored the long-awaited equalizer, then scored the only shootout tally as the Islanders prevailed over the Detroit Red Wings 4*-3 at Nassau Coliseum Saturday night, in the latest sign that Barzal’s game is evolving into 200-foot Beast Mode.
It was a game that the Islanders, who outshot the Wings 48-21, should have won in regulation, if only they could convert more than once on six power play tries. They did finally end a monthlong drought on their sixth power play opportunity of the night to tie the game. A go-ahead goal from the “fourth” line soon followed as the third period wound down. But a last-minute Wings goal with the sixth attacker tied it at 3-3 and sent the game to the coin-flip period.
Josh Ho-Sang made his season debut and was effective and smart in limited minutes, including multiple looks on the second power play unit. And though Thomas Greiss was only called on for 18 saves, he had a couple of critical ones to keep it close or tied as the Islanders tried to find paydirt.
First Period: Where the goals are
The Red Wings received an early power play, and converted right away. That would be foreshadowing.
After an interference call on Cal Clutterbuck, the Islanders scored off the ensuing faceoff. Gustav Nyquist crept down low to receive a back door pass and convert from a bad angle to open scoring.
The Islanders controlled most of play the rest of the period and had a few chances to equalize before Anthony Beauvillier scored, converting a sweet two-on-one pass from Mathew Barzal after a heads-up lead pass from Josh Bailey in his own zone.
It looked like the Isles might then take the lead — Josh Ho-Sang fed Leo Komarov on a two-on-one, but the late pass was just a little too handcuffing for Komarov — but instead the Wings got the next goal, on a bit of a fluke, late in the period.
Trevor Daley was the beneficiary of a bouncing puck, after it was inadvertently swept back toward Thomas Greiss on a simple rush. The puck just trickled over the line, and the referees initially ruled no goal, but a quick video review confirmed they were wrong. So the Wings took a 2-1 lead with just 14 seconds remaining in the period.
Second Period: This again
The second period was a sadly familiar tale: The Islanders controlled play to win power play after power play — though the third one, a tripping call drawn by Brock Nelson, was simply bad luck for the penalized Dylan Larkin — but failed to convert.
They maintained possession for long stretches of each power play, and had good looks. But they didn’t move it around swiftly enough, and the Wings positioned themselves to dare Mathew Barzal to shoot. Barzal did finally shoot, once a shot through traffic that hit Jonathan Bernier in the mask`, another time ringing it off the post. A few Josh Bailey one-timers were tipped by Anders Lee, but again the bounce or the rebound didn’t favor the home team.
The power play situation is truly astonishing at this point. It’s true they don’t have the most talent of all time but to go a month without a power play goal takes almost takes some actual persistence.— Carey Haber (@habermetrics) December 16, 2018
Late in the period, the Casey Cizikas line was trapped for a shift that was 2:36 in length, an eternity, but they survived, and the Barzal-Bailey-Beauvillier line had one more shift to apply pressure, but with no reward.
The Isles ended up outshooting the Wings 15-6 in the second period, with six of those 15 coming on the power play.
Third Period: This again, again...but wait!
The Islanders came out gunning to start the third period and, incredibly, drew two more power plays in the first five minutes. As you can imagine, the first one, from a Niklas Kronwall penalty — not for recklessly throwing his body at an opponent’s head, surprisingly — drew no goal. The second one, from a trip by old friend Thomas Vanek, also came up empty.
It wasn’t for a lack of trying nor even decent power play work. The Islanders are simply snake bitten, even after improving their approach during the last month of this power play goal drought.
Which is why...finally. It happened.
It felt like the Red Wings were tempting fate all night with their penalties. Sure, they were taking them against a team with an ice-cold power play. And sure, most games the refs try to “even it up” a bit, even if undeserved. So Andreas Athanasiou became the goat. In a battle with Clutterbuck, he threw a gratuitous punch, then acted all offended when he was whistled for roughing.
And the Islanders power play finally converted. Leddy shot from the point. Lee batted at the rebound. Eberle dove in for it — cause for a weak Wings goalie interference challenge, which was rejected — and Barzal pounced on the final rebound to tie the score at 2-2.
Just shy of three minutes later, Casey Cizikas out battled everyone for a rebound to give the Islanders a 3-2 lead with 6:04 left to go.
The Wings complained that the puck had hit the out-of-bounds netting beforehand, but the Coliseum gods answered, “This is not the technicality you are looking for.”
The Wings pulled Bernier for a sixth attacker with over two minutes left, but had to put him back in after a neutral zone faceoff. It took a while for them to get him back off the ice, but once they did and set up in the Isles zone, it was an astonishingly easy, uncontested set play that pulled the Wings back to 3-3.
On just their 15th shot of the night, Vanek had an easy tap-in — completely uncovered at the top of the crease — after Kronwall slapped wide to Athanasious, who one-time redirected it to Vanek while drawing Greiss out of the crease. Announcement of Vanek’s goal drew appropriate jeers from the crowd, and some calls to bookies.
Overtime + Shootout
Brock Nelson hit the outside of the post on the first shift of overtime. A dull 90 seconds followed before Barzal set up Beauvillier for a one-timer from the top of the circle, which Bernier handled. Barzal consumed about half a minute behind the Isles net waiting for the Isles to complete a change, and then let him change, but instead they took an icing trying a home run pass to Barzal, who just missed it.
Shots in OT were 6-2 for the Red Wings.
Then the shootout:
- Bernier stopped Eberle on the first shootout attempt, a nice backhand pull.
- Frans Nielsen’s full magician heart wasn’t into his Backhand of Judgment try, which didn’t trouble Greiss, and drew a roar from the knowing Coliseum crowd.
- Barzal converted on a pull back to forehand after sending Bernier sliding away.
- Vanek did a fake slapshot before his meager slide was stopped by Greiss’ leg pad.
- Bailey tried to fake upstairs and slip one five-hole, but Bernier didn’t bite.
- Nyquist went in really slow, suffered a Greiss pokecheck that technically ended it (the whistle blew), but his follow-up try was also stopped by Griess.
Barry Trotz Post-Game
“I liked the fact that we battled through it all. There was a lot of stuff that could make you quit, make you get off the rails, get you unfocused emotionally. We were able to stay the course. I give a lot of credit to the leadership.” #DETvsNYI pic.twitter.com/vZIybP8YCw— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) December 16, 2018
The Islanders are in Colorado for a late one against the Avalanche on Monday night, the start of a road trip that takes them through Arizona, Vegas and Dallas before the Christmas break.
A Little One On the Way
Congratulations to Shannon Hogan, a central cog in an increasingly outstanding Islanders broadcast team. She’s due in early May. Wishing her health and smooth sailing. (She knows as a hockey announcer, she’ll have to return to announce the Islanders run to the Cup finals, right?)