The Islanders and Red Wings did battle tonight in Detroit. The two teams entered with nearly inverse records, and Detroit waltzed into the evening on a nine-game losing streak, its previous seven losses coming in regulation.
It wasn’t a game the Islanders absolutely had to have. But it was a game a team like the Islanders should’ve treated like an assumed two points—not to overlook or discredit the Wings, but in a tight Metropolitan Division race, it’s important to bank the easy points against the league-worst team—and it’s good that they got them. It’s also good to get Jordan Eberle off the schneid.
First Period: A Quality Start for the Islanders
The Islanders got the game rolling quickly, earning a delay of game power play for their efforts by way of an errant Darren Helm clear, but they didn’t convert. Some slightly loose defensive zone play led to a couple of opportunities for Dylan Larkin and Andreas Athanasiou, but Semyon Varlamov was there to make those saves.
Following Detroit’s rush, the Islanders pinned the Wings in their own zone for a stretch, and timely keep-in by Ryan Pulock gave way to a shot toward the crease. The bouncing puck was swatted out of mid-air by Mathew Barzal and flew past the short side of the net and to the back boards. Barzal recovered the puck and hit Anders Lee with a centering feed in his office. Lee roofed it over Jonathan Bernier for a goal in his second straight game.
back-to-back games for our Cap pic.twitter.com/ZaMLICrLEl— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) December 3, 2019
After some more extended New York zone time, one-time Islander Valtteri Filppula was held up by Anthony Beauvillier in the Detroit corner, sending Beauvillier to the box. The Red Wings power play didn’t generate anything too dangerous, and Josh Bailey gained the puck at the top of the Islanders’ zone, lobbing a pass to Beauvillier as he exited the box. Beauvillier bobbled briefly the puck but had two steps on the nearest Red Wing and gathered control in time to backhand the puck past Bernier.
B-B-B-B-BEAUUUREAKAWAY pic.twitter.com/Uywvzi0plz— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) December 3, 2019
Second Period: Detroit Power Plays Galore, but Eberle Sets the Record Straight
The Islanders opened the period with three straight penalties, giving the Detroit power play five opportunities in the first half of the game. Even a weak team like the Wings has some talent, and if you give their best players that many chances, odds are they’re going to get a goal out of it. On the fifth Detroit power play, they cut the deficit to one. Larkin put home the rebound of a Tyler Bertuzzi deflection via a Filip Zadina shot.
But the Islanders restored the lead to two goals not long after, and also broke the curse of Jordan Eberle’s goal drought. Barzal drew two penalties within a span of 32 seconds, giving New York a 1:28 five-on-three. They had plenty of chances to score during the five-on-three but weren’t able to convert until just after Frans Nielsen re-entered play. Barzal fed Lee at the top of the opposite face-off circle just after the first penalty expired and the rebound popped out to Eberle at the bottom of Lee’s face-off circle, and he made no mistake on that one.
J O R D A N— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) December 3, 2019
E B E R L E pic.twitter.com/rhahwDLsdR
Third Period: Getting to Work, Featuring Eberle’s Second Goal
The Islanders set to work on their game of limiting scoring chances as best as they can, and they did a fair job. The Red Wings still had a couple chances down low, but for the most part, Detroit was quiet and Varlamov blocked off everything he faced.
For added fun, Eberle added another goal to seal the deal with six and a half minutes remaining. Pulock sent a blast from the blue line and chaos ensued down low. The puck hit Leo Komarov at some point and bounced out to Eberle on the opposite side of the crease, allowing him to push it in, similar to his first goal. It was waived off on the ice, I believe for goaltender interference, but it was ultimately ruled a goal and gave us the final score of 4-1.
- The record is now 18-5-2. Good gravy.
- Extremely happy for Jordan Eberle to get the monkey off his back. Even having missed 10 games to injury, it still can’t feel good to have to wait until December for your first goal, but perhaps this is the opening of the floodgates.
- Speaking of floodgates, perhaps Lee’s goal on Saturday opened them for him, as well. For the second straight game, he scored an early goal from his territory down low to set the tone.
- Ryan Pulock was excellent tonight, finishing with three assists and just generally being solid alongside Adam Pelech, as per usual.
- Varlamov was huge again tonight. Only one goal given up in his last five-plus periods, and it wasn’t anything close to a softie. When you’re hot, you’re hot. Thomas Greiss goes tomorrow in Montreal.
- Gotta feel for the fans in Detroit. Eight straight regulation losses and ten straight losses overall. I remember those days all too well.
It’s becoming clear that Barry Trotz needs a twelfth forward he trusts, preferably a fourth center. Coaches have sat wings like Ross Johnston and Oliver Wahlstrom for 5/6 or more of a game before because you have eight or nine other wingers to pick and choose for double shifting, but it probably can’t be sustainable to keep double-shifting three centers every game:
Otto Koivula played just 4:25 tonight. Between Johnston, Wahlstrom, Bardreau, Dal Colle, and Koivula that 12th F is just not getting enough playing time. It's becoming a real issue and I wonder if that lack of trust & line consistency is impacting the team's overall performance.— Carey Haber (@habermetrics) December 3, 2019
Tonight was Islanders hockey at its finest:
That was a very good third period. Nice job to lock down the game by the #Isles— Carey Haber (@habermetrics) December 3, 2019
Final 5v5 Score Adjusted Metrics via NST
Isles 53.11% Attempts
Isles 47.17% High Danger (5.56 - 6.23)
Isles 45.54% Expected Goals (1.47 - 1.75)
Varlamov was quite good again. pic.twitter.com/u3ooi1gXzz
The Islanders will get right back on the plane and fly up to Montreal to play the similarly skidding Canadiens, losers of eight straight. That game will start at 7:00 p.m. EST.