When your bottom six is made up of mostly borderline NHLers, it’s going to be tough to score. It probably wasn’t the smartest choice in hindsight to bring Ross Johnston and Tom Kuhnhackl into this game, which forced Leo Komarov to play center until Mat Barzal was double shifted later in the game. With Casey Cizikas out, the Isles’ woes at center were always going to be exacerbated, but the top six has to step up and just hasn’t been able to. That being said, Barzal had one of his best two way games all season, and Semyon Varlamov was stellar, with the only goal coming from an unfortunate mixup with Nick Leddy behind the net. Ultimately, that would be the game winner, and the Islanders will have some tough questions to answer going forward.
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Ross Johnston and Ryan Reaves dropped the gloves right after the puck dropped, setting the tone for what would be a rough first period.
Mathew Barzal was hit from behind into the boards by Nick Holden, and Anders Lee stepped in immediately, briefly fighting Holden. While there was no boarding call on the play, Lee also escaped without an instigator penalty, so both just went off for fighting.
Ryan Pulock overshot the puck after an Isles defensive zone faceoff win, and he went off for delay of game, giving the Golden Knights the first power play of the game. Then, Jonathan Marchessault crosschecked Leo Komarov in the ribs and was called for interference, making it a 4 on 4.
Anthony Beauvillier and Devon Toews had a 2 on 1 opportunity, but Marc-Andre Fleury stayed with Beauvillier the whole time, easily saving his shot. The Isles also had a few good looks while briefly on the power play, but couldn’t get a handle on the puck and so the period ended 0-0.
A slightly concerning moment occurred early in the second period as Varlamov fell in his crease without any kind of contact, and was stretching and testing out his left shoulder. He had to make a big save shortly after that and was slow to get up, but was notably sharp throughout the entire period and seemed to be okay.
The Golden Knights were called for too many men, but like the Knights’ power play in the first, the Isles’ power play was cut short after Noah Dobson tripped Nate Schmidt. On the 4 on 4, Nick Leddy hit the post and Varlamov made a huge save on Paul Stastny. Varlamov really kept the Isles in the game despite a completely dominant period from Vegas, but the Golden Knights would take the league with under a minute left in the period. Nick Leddy and Varlamov had a miscue behind the Isles’ net, and Reilly Smith got the puck, hit the post, and then scored on his rebound.
Mat Barzal was double shifted with the fourth line in the third, a reward for his great two-way play throughout the game. Varlamov made some good saves, including one on Max Pacioretty in the slot which was huge in keeping the Islanders in the game until the end.
Matt Martin showed some hustle chasing down a puck, and Johnston ended up with puck in front of the net, but once he gloved it down, Fleury was right there with a pokecheck to preserve Vegas’ lead.
Brock Nelson took a hooking penalty, but the Islanders were able to kill it, giving them about two and a half minutes to tie the game. With the extra attacker, the Isles put a ton of pressure on the Golden Knights and Fleury, but were unable to score for the sixth consecutive period.
Next, the Islanders head to Arizona to play the Coyotes on Presidents Day. The Coyotes will be coming off a 3-1 win against the Washington Capitals and are fighting for a spot in an extremely competitive Pacific Division. Here’s hoping for some goals!