The New York Islanders got “back to their game” with a reassuring performance against the Vegas Golden Knights, who forced overtime with a late equalizer before Ryan Pulock’s goal at 3:20 of overtime gave the home team a 3-2 win.
The victory stopped Vegas’ four-game win streak, and prevented them from sweeping the metro area after they dumped the Islanders’ lesser local siblings.
More importantly, it was a return to their desired form against a tough opponent.
Barry Trotz put the lines in “a bit of a blender” to try to get the Islanders back to the predictable and consistent basics of their system. “What was happening is I had a couple of lines that were trying to paint a Picasso instead of just paint the barn if you will...you can tell I’m from Western Canada with that one,” Trotz said in the post game.
But a bit of deja vu nearly wrecked the one line he left untouched: On his first shift Matt Martin took a hit from behind by Derek Engelland that caused him to miss his next shift, eliciting fears that he’d be out the rest of the game just like linemate Cal Clutterbuck did after an early crosscheck in Montreal.
But Martin returned, and Trotz had four lines to enjoy having his team do what he wanted. The remix included some Ross Johnston time on a line with Mathew Barzal and Josh Bailey.
“We tried to balance the lines out a little bit. ... we tried to spread the wealth a bit through the lines.” — Trotz on Johnston playing with Barzal tonight. #Isles— Christian Arnold (@C_Arnold01) December 6, 2019
Johnston did his work in front of the net, creating some space in puck battles, plus a little policing since the Knights were intent on trying to get Barzal off his game.
“Right through the lineup, we had a consistent effort, guys playing a 200-foot game,” Trotz said afterward. “But we’re all about team here. We’ve relied on our top six or seven guys all year, and lately they just didn’t have the same predictability in their game. The other thing is we’ve got a lot of games here, lots of travel this month, and you’re gonna have to go four deep and use everybody to have success.”
First and Second Periods: Message received
The Islanders had the better of play for the first 40 minutes, but reached the second intermission tied 1-1. Cal Clutterbuck scored at 4:26 on one of his top-corner snipes on the counterattack after he blocked a shot, and there were several stretches in the middle period where the Isles pressured for good looks that could have extended the lead to 2-0 or 3-0.
But instead, Alex Tuch tied it at 15:27 and we had a fight going into the third.
Third Period: Still knotted
The third period was probably the visitors’ best period, but the Islanders were in control thanks to Brock Nelson go-ahead goal at 3:58. The center rifled a shot to the far top corner after great work from Anthony Beauvillier to forecheck, win the puck, and feed Nelson in the faceoff circle.
The Islanders stuck to their style and Semyon Varlamov covered any of the leaks. But a fortunate bounce helped Vegas tie the game with under five minutes late. Cody Glass dangled on Leo Komarov, who had dropped to one knee in anticipation of a shot block. Komarov recovered to still deny Glass...but the puck slid right to Jonathan Marchesseault, who pounced and finished from the slot.
Advanced Stats— Ryan The Hockey Guy (@RyanHockeyGuy) December 6, 2019
Scoring Chances: 41-33 NYI
High Danger Chances: 21-10 NYI
Expected Goals: 3.75 - 2.23 NYI
Actual Goals: 3-2 NYI#VegasBorn
For about a minute early in OT, Mathew Barzal deked and doodled and held the puck to get the Knights out of position and bait them into a change. That eventually worked to create a brief three-on-two. Derrick Brassard had a point blank chance on a feed from Josh Bailey, but Nate Schmidt went to one knee for a successful block.
On Barzal’s next shift, he exchanged with Anders Lee for a moment, which drew a trip on Barzal by Marchesseault and an Islanders power play with 1:50 left in OT. The Islanders called a timeout and put Anders Lee, Pulock, Josh Bailey and Jordan Eberle out as the first unit to try to win it.
It didn’t take long.
Off the ensuing faceoff, the Isles got in a three-on-three scrum in the corner. Lee won the puck and fed Pulock to walk in, isolated in the high slot. Pulock waited a beat as Lee rushed to set the screen, then ripped the winner low past Malcolm Subban.
This was the lone home game in a stretch of six that included the back-to-back road games earlier this week. Next the Isles hit Dallas Saturday, Tampa on Monday, then a couple days before the road trip finishes at the Panthers.
“I liked the way we played. We played Islander hockey. ... it was a good test and we got the two points in the end.” — #Isles HC Barry Trotz on the game.— Christian Arnold (@C_Arnold01) December 6, 2019
The #Isles’ streak of not losing in regulation at home has now reached a remarkable 53 days. 11-0-1 in their last 12 on home ice.— Rob Taub (@RTaub_) December 6, 2019
Moment of Joy
What a couple of pictures: