The New York Islanders broke a franchise record by extending their points streak to 16 games as Brock Nelson scored the overtime winner for the second game in a row. The 4-3 win also made it a sweep* of this week’s home-and-home with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
*because of the NHL’s People Demand a Winner regime, however, the Penguins still got two standings points from this week’s OT losses
If the Penguins have proven anything in the close games over these teams’ last three meetings, it’s that despite their struggles they can provide a tough match for the Islanders. All three games have featured lengthy stretches with either team in control, as well as late comebacks.
Thursday night in Brooklyn, the Penguins have the better of play for most of the first two periods, but the Islanders improved over the course of the game and once again got the timely equalizers and, ultimately, the winner.
That is not something you’d expect for a team that thrives on its disciplined defensive foundation, but that’s where we are.
And it’s glorious.
15-0-1 and the #isles points streak is now one-fifth OF THE ENTIRE DANG SEASON.— Mike Levak (@ICanC4Isles) November 22, 2019
(19.5%. I'm rounding.)
First Period: Penguins don’t want to be swept
The Islanders got off to a poor start, and the Penguins were pushing hard from the opening shift, striking at 1:04 when Evgeni Malkin gave them a 1-0 lead. Throughout the period, they looked determined not to let the Islanders sweep this home-and-home.
Thankfully 14 minutes later, Scott Mayfield scored through a rush-hour maze of traffic on one of the Islanders’ five shots on goal in the period, so the teams reached the intermission tied 1-1. It came off an offensive zone faceoff win from Mathew Barzal, and Mayfield placed his shot perfectly around the traffic, where Matt Murray had zero visibility.
Second Period: Repeat
The middle frame was a little better, though the same story: Bryan Rust scored with a great snipe on a counterattack just 1:09 into the period, and the Penguins held a 2-1 lead for the next 10 minutes.
Jake Guentzel took a foolish roughing penalty on Scott Mayfield and then doubled down on the foolishness by chirping the ref, drawing an extra minor. But the Islanders spent three minutes failing to convert the opportunity before a red-hot Anthony Beauvillier tied the score. From the left wing circle he pounced on a rebound that came from the opposite side, and things were tied again heading into the final period.
Third Period: Record Broken
The Islanders looked to have a golden opportunity to take the lead halfway through the period when the Penguins were called for excessive faceoff violations.
But, almost as if feeling guilty about calling such a technicality 50 minutes into a tie game, the officials took the power play away just 18 seconds later when they called Brock Nelson for not being the one to fall down in a net-front battle.
The ensuing 4-on-4 was a wash for both teams, but Nelson gave the Islanders a 3-2 lead with just under five minutes to go.
A couple of minutes later, Anders Lee received two minutes for roughing after wailing away on Zach Aston-Reese, who’d regrettably and half-heartedly challenged him to a fight and also received a roughing penalty for his troubles.
That wasn’t the most bizarre part of the sequence, however: Jared McCann actually left the ice, apparently thinking he’d been tossed for extending the mini-fracas when he went after Josh bailey, and the officials actually paused for quite a while to give him time to return to the rink. (He returned after the next whistle.)
Jared McCann indicated he got conflicting messages from on-ice officials as one told him to leave and the other told him to stay after that dust-up with less than three minutes left in regulation.— Seth Rorabaugh (@SethRorabaugh) November 22, 2019
The Penguins pulled their goalie for an extra attacker with things at 4-on-4, creating a more traditional 5-on-4 advantage. Adam Pelech’s broken stick made things even shakier, but Josh Bailey made some nifty moves behind the Islanders goal line to buy space, dropping to Scott Mayfield, who tried to skate his way out of the zone.
Mayfield ran into trouble though, the Penguins got an easy zone re-entry with the same Islanders still on the ice, and Patrick Hornqvist poked in a rebound to tie the game at 3-3 and force OT.
Overtime: Brock Star
Overtime featured a mix of half-rushes and careful positional puck control. Then it happened: On a Penguins shot gone wide, Barzal picked up the loose puck and rushed from his own zone. He dished to Nelson at the offensive blueline as each of them timed their onside entry perfectly.
Nelson made a nice move to his backhand to get space on the defenseman, but what stood out most was how badly Matt Murray fell for his first move, taking himself well out of position. Nelson’s winner, in his 500th (regular season) NHL game, ended up sliding on the ice into a gaping net.
Barry Said It
Initial post-game thoughts from Barry Trotz:
Our starts have to be better. We’ve had to dig ourselves out of some holes, especially in the last three games. But we stayed with it. A few guys had tough nights but stayed with it, and they were rewarded.
Getting through the first period [tied] was fortunate for us. We got better as the game went on. ... I’m just a little disappointed we gave them a point, and we didn’t need to.
He’s good one-on-one. I just like his deception. He threw a couple moves in there, sold shot, froze the goalie. Three on three, he gets it. He gets it, he’s understanding goalies, and gets some better looks. He’s been huge.
On blowing the lead late:
We were fine until we tried to stickhandle through three or four people. We could have laid it out in the neutral zone and take our chances, but that’s what gets us in trouble: when we try to get a little too fancy.
On the historic context of the streak:
“I’ve never really thought about it honestly. I guess that’s something you can ask me at the end of the year. This group just focuses, stays in the moment, and that’s why I think this team — they come to work, they come to compete every night, and they give you their best effort.
“That’s the Islander way, I think it’s a reflection of the way we play, it’s a reflection on the people we have, and it’s a reflection on the community we live in.”
And on this group:
Next Up: West and Late
It’s Western road trip time now. The Islanders kick their trip off Saturday in San Jose, a 10:30 EST start.