Barry Trotz finally broke the goalie rotation in game no. 34, sticking with Semyon Varlamov for a second consecutive start. He didn’t exactly reward his coach’s decision today, but to be fair, the defense in front of him didn’t exactly support him, either.
They played some firewagon hockey today and were not terribly tight in their own zone—Anaheim capitalized on some of the mistakes the Islanders made. Some of New York’s better offensive players were showing their skill, especially Mathew Barzal, who was the best player on the ice all game. But it wasn’t enough to win, as the Ducks won in the shootout.
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First Period: Good Start, with a Couple Costly Gaffes
John Gibson shut out the Islanders the last time these two teams met, but it would take less than two minutes to solve Gibson today. The top line broke out on a three-on-one: Jordan Eberle dished over to Mathew Barzal, who gave Anders Lee a gorgeous cross-ice feed for a one-timer that beat the sliding Gibson.
EBERLE ➡️ BARZAL ➡️ LEE ➡️ pic.twitter.com/pwklvZlLxr— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) December 21, 2019
Over the course of the first, Barzal was tenacious and all over the place, nearly setting up a goal for Eberle that needed a skilled stop by Gibson. Before that, Casey Cizikas had taken a penalty that the Isles killed off, but Derick Brassard’s lazy tripping penalty allowed the Ducks to get on the board. Anaheim got it to the point and Max Comtois tipped in an Isac Lundestrom blast to tie it up at 1-1.
On the very next play, Barzal drew a tripping penalty to give the Islanders a chance to regain the lead. Unfortunately, though, the Ducks took the opportunity to take the lead. A misfired pass off the boards from the first face-off of the man advantage allowed Sam Carrick to skate up the ice in a two-on-two. Devon Toews skated with him but may have screened Semyon Varlamov on Carrick’s shot, which was only the second goal in Carrick’s career.
The Islanders did convert that power play opportunity later, though. They worked it out to the point, as well, and Ryan Pulock fired a shot at Gibson. The rebound popped out just enough for Brock Nelson, who had his stick on the ice, to tap it in and clean up the mess.
Pulock with the— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) December 21, 2019
Nelson seals the deal pic.twitter.com/buMMo6Xbtk
An eventful first period ended tied at two.
Second Period: Same Story as Last Period—Good Period, Except for the Gaffes
The Islanders again came out swinging in the second period and controlled most of the play early on. They had a couple odd-man rushes before the first commercial break that they didn’t score on, and Barzal made a nice individual effort to set up Eberle They looked good, though.
But the Ducks capitalized on another New York gaffe, this time by Varlamov. He went way out of position to play a puck, but didn’t actually pass to anyone and nearly fired it over the glass. Anaheim picked it back up and kept firing at the net, and the third chance went in. Michael Del Zotto fired from the point and Adam Henrique got around Nick Leddy in front of the net for picture-perfect tip-in. Anaheim regained a one-goal lead.
The Ducks got a little jump from the goal, but the Islanders quickly shifted play in their favor. Gibson looked tough to beat. However, Lee and Barzal played catch after forcing a turnover until Barzal could jump out for a breakaway. Just as he did last Saturday afternoon against the Sabres, Barzal used his unique combination of speed and skill to get the goalie to over-commit before roofing it backhand. I think this one was prettier than last week.
What a goal?!?! WHAT A GOAL!?!?! WHAT A GOAL— Isles on MSG Plus (@IslesMSGN) December 21, 2019
On the next shift, Anthony Beauvillier was a fiend. He got the puck deep and took a shot from the slot. Gibson left a rebound on the other side and Beauvillier bounced right over and fired it at Gibson. He turned it aside and took on three Ducks to grab the puck in the corner, drawing a slashing penalty by Sam Steel. The top unit spent the entire power play on the ice with Barzal buzzing like a bee all over and the entire unit creating chances they just couldn’t convert.
Josh Bailey had been playing most of his five-on-five shifts with Beauvillier and Brock Nelson, but because he had just spent the entire power play on the ice, Trotz sent out Brassard with Beauvillier and Nelson, and as it so often does, it paid immediate dividends. Beauvillier continued the tenacity ignited a shift prior to keep the Islanders in possession of the puck and Nelson carried along the half wall, pulling back to get some space before finding Leddy wide open in the slot for a go-ahead goal.
Well back to the important things like Nicks Leddy's goal, come on #Isles, we got this!!!! pic.twitter.com/zFPfrpOEJE— Isles on MSG Plus (@IslesMSGN) December 21, 2019
Yet another gaffe, though, cost the Islanders the lead again only 26 seconds later. Pulock cleared meekly up the boards and it didn’t get out. It was recovered by the Ducks, who caught the Islanders flat-footed going the other way. A couple cross-ice passes spun Varlamov around like a top, pulling him way out of position and leaving the net wide open for Jakob Silfverberg to fire in the loose puck in the slot. Trotz and company challenged for goalie interference because Devin Shore’s skate caught Varlamov’s, which may have impeded him in getting back. The challenge was unsuccessful, though, either because Pulock pushed Shore into Varlamov or because the officials believed Varlamov had enough time to recover before the shot.
Either way, though, they cost themselves another lead due to a moment of sloppy decision-making, and now Ross Johnston was in the box serving the bench minor for the failed challenge. The Islanders killed it off, but the second Johnston stepped out of the box, Cizikas took a blatant tripping penalty against Ondrej Kase. The Isles killed that off, too, keeping the game tied at four to head into the third.
Third Period: The Back-and-Forth Continues
The Islanders again started a period strong, getting most of the early shots and setting up some dangerous chances against the Ducks. Barzal continued to run roughshod over Anaheim, who had no solution for dealing with him.
Varlamov didn’t seem to have much of a solution for the Ducks, who took the lead on the first mistake the Islanders made this period. Under pressure, the Islanders threw the puck away in the neutral zone and it was picked up by Nicolas Deslauriers. In a three-on-two, the Isles left Cam Fowler in no-man’s land for a shot he ripped over the way-too-slow glove of Varlamov. He had a rough go today.
Luckily, though, so did Gibson. Beauvillier’s energy was evident all game long and it drew the Islanders another power play—Josh Manson tripped him as they dove for a loose puck in the corner. The Islanders needed only ten seconds of man-advantage time to tie the game back up. Brassard worked it out to Leddy at the point, and Leddy found Pulock in the Ovi Office for a one-timer through the pads of Gibson. He probably wanted that one back.
As if this game didn't have enough action, Pulock scores this to tie up the game......AGAIN! pic.twitter.com/jjKV45ENKm— Isles on MSG Plus (@IslesMSGN) December 21, 2019
From that point on, both teams played like they just wanted the point, and they got it. Off to overtime.
Overtime: Not a Great One
The Islanders controlled the puck early on but didn’t get anything past Gibson, and then the Ducks held on to the puck for most of the second half of overtime. Barzal did his thing and nearly scored one-on-one with Gibson, but the Ducks goalie had the forehand try. We headed to a shootout.
Shootout: Boo Hiss
Eberle led off for the Islanders but didn’t elevate it enough to get it over Gibson. Kase went off the post for the Ducks. Barzal tried some fancy moves but Gibson followed him all the way. Comtois beat Varlamov cold. Bailey kept the Islanders alive with a backhand, only for Silfverberg to dash those hopes.
- The effort was there, but the attention to detail was not. This was not Barry Trotz Islanders hockey. This was Doug Weight pond hockey. They had all the offensive jump in the world and their best offensive players showed off their skill, but the Islanders were rather sloppy in their own end and made quite a few puzzling decisions with the puck. They did their goalie no favors.
- That being said, Semyon Varlamov did himself no favors, either. Varlamov got the first consecutive start of the season for the Islanders and was honestly pretty bad. He looked like a much different goaltender than the guy who made arguably the Save of the Year on Thursday night. He had a few goals he’d like to have back. An off day happens for every goalie, but the timing of this one, where Trotz finally broke the rotation of he and Thomas Greiss, wasn’t great. We’ll see who Trotz goes with on Monday night and how Varlamov rebounds. I expect that he will.
- On to some of the good news. Mathew Barzal was buzzing. He had one of his most dominant efforts in a long time to celebrate his 200th NHL game. He played like a man possessed. I think he likes playing in day games.
- It was Ryan Pulock’s 200th NHL game, as well. He played pretty well and got on the scoresheet, but the egregious turnover on the fourth Ducks goal sticks out.
- Anthony Beauvillier was the Energizer Bunny today. He just kept going, and going, and going, and going, and... I mean he was just everywhere the puck was when he was on the ice. He was a huge factor in this game, even if he didn’t get on the scoresheet.
- Lotta multi-point games: Nick Leddy had three points (one goal, two assists) and Barzal (one goal, one assist), Pulock (one goal, one assist), Anders Lee (one goal, one assist), Brock Nelson (one goal, one assist), Derick Brassard (two assists), and Jordan Eberle (two assists) all had two points today.
Here’s the unusually busy shot chart for this Islanders game:
These types of games is why banking points early in the year is important. Final #Isles Metrics via NST— Carey Haber (@habermetrics) December 21, 2019
5v5 Score Adj
76.53% High Danger
52.41% Exp Goals
75.00% High Danger
52.31% Exp Goals pic.twitter.com/x7x2NZ5el9
The Islanders are home for the holidays and they’ll host the Blue Jackets on Monday night at the Coliseum, a 7:00 p.m. start.
After that, they don’t play until the 27th, when they begin a three-game trip against the Blackhawks, Wild, and Capitals to close out the year and the decade.