Mathew Barzal had two goals and an assist, and Robin Lehner stopped all 10 shots in relief as the Islanders overcame a sluggish and sloppy start for both teams to nab a 6-3 win over the Ottawa Senators in Brooklyn.
The Islanders trailed by a goal after both of the first two periods, but tied it and quickly took the lead early in the third. Thomas Greiss started the game but was pulled (14 saves on 17 shots) with the Islanders stalling and trailing 3-1 six minutes into the second period.
It was an important win for the Islanders, kicking off a three-in-four-nights stretch against a weak opponent, with two far more challenging opponents waiting for them on the road as they head to New Year’s Eve.
According to MSG, it was the fourth time this season they’ve won in regulation after initially trailing 2-0.
[Game Sum | Event Sum | Natural Stat Trick | Corsica | HockeyViz]
First Period: Stomach full from eating
The first period was one of shaking the rust off for both teams. The Islanders dominated in the faceoff circle (14-2) and had more shot attempts (25-14, though 10-10 on goal), but never really generated sustained pressure nor close chances.
The only difference? An inexplicable decision by Adam Pelech, backhanding a pass from behind his goal line toward two Senators, easily intercepted by Mark Stone, a sniper who had no trouble quickly beating Thomas Greiss from in close.
The big Thing To Watch was Josh Ho-Sang on the first line, and he looked good and active there — to these eyes, anyway — including an assertive shift following the Senators’ goal at 16:18. He also drew the period’s only penalty, being tripped after fighting for the puck in the corner.
The Islanders...didn’t manage a shot on net during that power play, however. And Ho-Sang’s work went without reward, because...
Second Period: Anything you can do I can turn over
...The second period began with Ho-Sang moved back to the Valtteri Filppula line. Tom Kuhnhackl opened the period in his spot on the Lee-Nelson line, though Ho-Sang would return to that combo later on and through most of the third.
Just 2:15 into the period, Casey Cizikas was called for a pretty weak interference call. On the ensuing power play, Matt Duchene made the Islanders’ problems worse by walking through the team into the slot, stopping short to avoid a Johnny Boyhcuk check, and beating Greiss top glove corner from point-blank range.
Fortunately, Senators goalie recall Mike McKenna likes to play the puck a lot, and less than 30 seconds after Duchene’s goal made it 2-0, McKenna backhanded a pass from behind the net right to a predatory Mathew Barzal. Barzal passed across to Josh Bailey, who shot through a sliding Senator into an empty net to cut the lead back to one goal at 2-1.
Got Bail'd out there quite nicely. #Isles pic.twitter.com/wtAj5eb4PB— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) December 29, 2018
But that margin didn’t last long either.
Cody Ceci joined a Sens rush and placed a perfect near-post shot off the pipe and in, chasing Greiss from the game after conceding three goals on 17 shots. That was the only goal Greiss could be faulted on, but that and the general direction of things was enough for Barry Trotz to put Robin Lehner in net.
Things were looking bleak, but a game marked by turnovers offered the Islanders one more gift. This time Casey Cizikas’ forechecking pressure helped rush an exchange between McKenna and his defenseman, and the subsequent outlet pass was bobbled — or perhaps Barclays-ice bounced — straight to Lee in the slot.
Lee still did well to fake that he would take more time to dust the puck off, and instead slipped a quick no-look shot low past McKenna, who was still getting set after returning from the back of the net.
That goal, with 2:32 left in the second period, sent the game to the second intermission with Ottawa holding a 3-2 lead.
As Trotz wanted, the Islanders really took control of the overall attempt share after the Sens' third goal (and goalie switch). So that worked as I'm guessing he had hoped. pic.twitter.com/eVD0tOKmu2— Carey Haber (@habermetrics) December 29, 2018
Third Period: How Barzal, How Barzal
The Isles came out with jump for the third, and they were rewarded quickly.
At 2:57, Johnny Boychuk steadied a puck at the blueline off a feed from Matt Martin. The puck saw its way through plenty of traffic — including Casey Cizikas, cruising through the slot — and tied the game at 3-3.
Must be that dad strength @joboych. #Isles pic.twitter.com/gSClioVjCu— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) December 29, 2018
At 4:51, Anthony Beauvillier did well to regain his feet as he held the puck on a zone entry and then fed to Leo Komarov. Komarov passed across the high slot to Barzal, who ripped one up high past McKenna to give the Isles the lead for the first time.
.@Barzal_97 puts the @NYIslanders up 4-3. pic.twitter.com/xGQ4CQ1mNB— NHL GIFs (@NHLGIFs) December 29, 2018
And the Islanders did not sit back, instead continuing to press the game. That approach paid off — well actually, the Barzal line was pressing well all night — at 12:24 when Barzal ripped one past McKenna for his second of the game to make it 5-3. He’d won the puck in the neutral zone and rushed the zone to load up the shot.
.@barzal_97 with a !— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) December 29, 2018
His second of the game to put the #Isles up 5-3! pic.twitter.com/BYFrb6mEXG
The Senators pulled McKenna for a sixth attacker with two minutes left, and the Isles had several looks at the empty net before Cizikas cashed in on a shot from center ice.
That finished the scoring at 6-3. Then some score settling followed in the final minute: Matt Martin and Mark Borowiecki fought (Borowiecki had dumped Filppula into the bench in the first period, and Martin had dumped Thomas Chabot later on), and Ross Johnston and Christian Jaros fought soon after.
Then at the final whistle the Senators got a broader scrum going, with a few attacking Cizikas and Ben Harpur picking out Scott Mayfield for a fight.
Barry Trotz Post-Game
“This team has grown, character-wise. Our leaders got a couple of big goals for us.” Also, on coming over to the Islanders he praised the “good young talent like Barzal, Beauvillier, Toews” and noted that the defense “couldn’t get much worse” LOL:
Fought to come back for the win tonight.— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) December 29, 2018
Trotz post-game interview: pic.twitter.com/XlhVTLhUi9
Quote of the Night
“The puck hasn’t laid flat all night. We keep watching it roll...it’s supposed to lay flat on ice.”
>>Butch Goring, with an understated dig at the Barclays ice
The busy 2018-ending stretch continues tomorrow night in Toronto, with Matt Martin and Leo Komarov’s long-awaited meeting with their former team, then New Year’s Eve in Buffalo.