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Canucks 4, Islanders 3 (OT): Finding a way to lose

Even when they play fine, they will find a way.

NHL: New York Islanders at Vancouver Canucks
Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Islanders haven’t won a game since their improbable, franchise-first shutouts on back-to-back nights just after Valentine’s Day. That makes tonight’s 4-3 overtime loss in Vancouver their seventh consecutive game without a win. (There are three OT/SO losses mixed in there, always coloring the meaning of “losing/winning streaks” in today’s NHL.)

This time the Isles picked a new way to lose, actually outplaying an opponent for most of the game. But the mistakes that erased a 2-0 lead were not all that new. The wilt instead of rebound to follow those against-the-grain breaks was fairly familiar. To be fair, the late comeback to salvage something and force overtime wasn’t a shock either.

But one more mistake (or two, if you count the risky goalie reaction) led to an OT winner for the Canucks by Brendan Leipsic, who had three points, three penalties and three shots on the night.

So the Isles, bringing their fanbase ever closer to full TANK! resignation, once again left a game against a very beatable opponent without banking two points.

[Game Sum | Event Sum | Corsica | Natural Stat Trick | HockeyViz]

The Calder Race

It looked like Mathew Barzal and Brock Boeser were both a little too hyped up for this Calder Contender vs. Calder Contender game, the second and final such meeting for them this season, and also the only one taking place in Barzal’s home.

Both played the puck a lot (nothing new for Barzal), but tried to get cute way too often, to ill effect. Both committed ghastly turnovers that created golden scoring chances for the opponent. Barzal forced more high-zone passes (read: things that are dangerous if they don’t work out) than I can remember him doing all season. He also passed up shots to make even prettier passes.

Barzal also took a rare penalty, an undisciplined slashing against Michael Del Zotto, who’d taunted him after Barzal drew a tripping call earlier. (Barzal would draw more calls.)

Speaking of which, this was a fun Twitter thread, regarding the Calder race and various Canucks broadcaster/fan reasons that it’s rigged or something. Love Scott Cullen for calling things as they are.

(There would be more drama in the final minute, when Boeser left the game with a back injury thanks to an open gate at the Canucks bench. Boeser tried to cut Cal Clutterbuck off as he carried the puck. But Clutterbuck had the momentum. Boeser when sailing into the open bench door. They’ll blame Clutterbuck but he literally did nothing but stand his ground while carrying the puck.)

Boeser went to the hospital for precautionary evaluation, but hopefully it’s just a bruise. Get well soon, rookie. You’re fun to watch.

Play Well, Score Goals, Make Mistakes, Concede Goals

The Islanders played really well(!) for most of the first 40 minutes. They did the things they always say they should do but so seldom do. They pushed play, closed gaps on defense, sustained forechecks, supported D-men pinches, executed the power pla— okay, not that last one, but they looked like a playoff bubble team that at least knows how to handle non-bubble teams like the Canucks.

Alas, the mistakes. They cost them.

Felt like it should have more than a 2-0 lead by the midway point of the game. Then felt like they deserved their misfortune when it was 2-2 going into the third period.

But first, the good things: Josh Bailey opened scoring at 9:51 of the first, after good work by Nick Leddy to keep it in, and work by John Tavares in the corner to get it back to Leddy to move the puck around.

Early in the second period the Isles came up empty on another power play, but John Tavares scored soon after to make it a 2-0 lead.

My goodness that shot upstairs by Tavares...

...and my goodness that redirect pass from Thomas Hickey!

The Isles pushed and controlled for much of the second, but couldn’t extend that lead.

Then with under six minutes left, defensive miscues let the Canucks back in on a goal from Brendan Leipsic. John Tavares and Adam Pelech, you two should talk.

A minute and a half later, another risky Barzal pass eluded Johnny Boychuk, who is slow. Boychuk applied a hook — a legal hook to the stick back in my day, but now they call that sort of thing, which is fine. So late-20s story David Archibald (undrafted, couldn’t get an AHL contract, came through the ECHL) took advantage, with a penalty shot.

On the original breakaway, Halak played the backhand deke well and I dare say he’d have kept it out even if Boychuk’s through-the-legs stick-hook hadn’t happened.

On the penalty shot, however...went down a bit early, over-protecting the five hole while leaving stick-side upstairs wiiiide open. The callup took advantage:

Entering the third tied 2-2, it was reasonable to think the Isles would win if they just kept doing what they’d been doing (minus the mistakes) in the first 40.

“Feels like it’s inevitable, it’s gonna come. Just keep doing what we’re doing and we’re going to get the two points.”

>>John Tavares at the 2nd intermission, talking to Shannon Hogan on MSG

Except rare is the night where a team controls all three periods. The Canucks played with their house money and asserted the game they no doubt intended when the game began. The Isles looked like they were owed a victory.

“Feels like it’s inevitable?” Islanders know that to mean something else.

As in, the Vancouver go-ahead goal felt inevitable, after numerous Canucks chances to begin the third period.

But wait! Barzal would help draw one more penalty, a slash by Leipsic (his third minor, but he would be redeemed) against Jordan Eberle in the slot as Barzal carried into the faceoff circle. This came with two minutes left. That was important.

The first minute of the power play was weak, but then they pulled Halak for a sixth attacker. The top unit continued to move the puck around. Tavares got himself a great look and Jacob Markstrom made the save.

Eberle found the rebound. Tie game, 3-3, with 1:04 to go in regulation.

But given another reprieve, the Isles once again didn’t take it all the way. They didn’t threaten in overtime. Anthony Beauvillier curled back and his own zone, fell under pressure, gave up the puck to Leipsic, who gratefully dispatched it into an empty net after Halak — looking like he’s tired of all these OT games -- went for the all-or-nothing pokecheck.

That’s how it goes.

Up Next

The Western swing continues Thursday in Edmonton, a meeting of two teams with massively shattered expectations.