The Islanders played excellently tonight. Full stop. Any other night during the season, maybe you look at tonight’s result and shrug because they did everything they could to win and just didn’t get the break. Maybe because they won the previous game in inverse fashion—they didn’t play great but got a nice break, so you say “ah gee, well, they’ll get them next time.”
But you can’t be satisfied with that at the end of a seventh straight loss as they continue to tumble out of what should have been a guaranteed playoff spot. Sure, four of them came in overtime. However, that’s still just four points out of their last seven games. They’ve lost 11 of 13. They’re now a full point out of a playoff spot and their games-in-hand advantage is shrinking.
This is unacceptable and they need to explode out of the gates and step on some necks throughout the rest of this trip. Really getting sick of writing this, to be honest.
The Islanders opened the game on a high note when Andrew Ladd tipped in Josh Bailey’s shot past Thatcher Demko for his first NHL goal since October 2018. But they gave the lead right back to Vancouver.
:21 after the Ladd goal, an Alex Edler shot from the point was deflected past Semyon Varlamov. Adam Gaudette was credited with that goal. Less than a minute after that, the Isles’ top line lost a face-off and the Canucks top line went the other way for a 3-on-2. Tyler Toffoli sniped Elias Pettersson’s beautiful saucer pass and Vancouver had goals on their first two shots.
An open but even period featured the Islanders failing to convert with :37 of 5-on-3 time but they were able to tie the game after a strong penalty kill. Just as Ladd’s minor ended, the Isles’ top line led a rush the other way. Mathew Barzal slowed up and sort of lost the puck in Jordan Eberle’s direction, but there was enough space for Eberle to dangle and roof a backhand.
Again, the Islanders let the Canucks re-take the lead quickly. Devon Toews attempted to sent the puck around the back boards to a teammate but it ended up on the stick of Edler. His shot from the boards was tipped by Zack McEwan past Varlamov.
The Islanders played another strong period, but it had a couple waves of frustration. They pressed for fifteen minutes of game play before Brock Nelson finally broke through, sneaking behind the defense to flip a backhand past Demko.
But Barzal took a retaliatory cross-checking penalty, and it took Vancouver :12 of power play time to work the puck from the point to behind the net to the bumper and in. Bo Horvat misfired the shot and the change-up beat Varlamov. Third time in the game the Canucks managed to reinstate a deficit for the Islanders to work out of after the Islanders scored, which ought to portend bad news.
The Canucks went into a shell with a one-goal lead and the Islanders took it to them. They tied the game up early in the period with an even strength goal that was essentially a power play goal. An early power play was spent entirely in the Canucks’ zone and it just seemed like they were snakebitten, until finally Nelson slammed a loose puck past a sprawled-out Demko. It was a milestone for Nelson.
Brock with his second of the game for a new career high in points! (also tied his career high in goals!) pic.twitter.com/deSQX0eTJB— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) March 11, 2020
Shots in the third were 16-5 Islanders, but they could only muster one goal out of that barrage. Both teams got a point out of regulation.
The Islanders controlled the puck for most of the three-on-three, save for a couple mental mistakes, including two on the same sequence with :20 left by Nick Leddy. Luckily, Quinn Hughes was stoned by Varlamov. Though they controlled the puck, they didn’t much threaten and that was that.
J.T. Miller scored the only goal of the shootout—and Varlamov left him plenty of room to shoot. Eberle and Barzal were stopped by Demko and Ladd missed wide in his attempt to keep the game alive.
- This sucks, man. They did pretty much everything right tonight—they took 49 shots, for Christ’s sake—and they just can’t get any breaks. They score 4 goals, but Semyon Varlamov gave up 4 and the shootout winner. It’s getting really depressing to watch this team and it’s getting really irritating to hear Butch Goring keep trumpeting the moral victories of playing well. I’m glad they looked like they didn’t want to lose seven games in a row tonight. That’s how they should look every night. And they lost anyway.
- Speaking of Varlamov, Lou’s goaltending gamble this summer looks worse and worse by the game. Varlamov made a couple big stops tonight, but not nearly enough. This team’s success is predicated, at least partly, on the goalie making at least some of the saves he shouldn’t. It doesn’t feel like Varlamov is getting any of those, where as it felt like Robin Lehner was doing that last season. But that personnel move falls at Lou’s feet, because it feels like he could’ve kept Lehner and potentially avoided all this. Of course, Thomas Greiss is way down from where he was at last season, as well, so it may just be cruel regression to the mean.
- Mathew Barzal’s play has been excellent. But it’s the second game in a row he’s potentially cost this team points with his dumb penalties. Completely unnecessary retaliation right after the Islanders tied it at 3-3.
- I don’t know anymore. Even if they get in, they’re gonna get waxed by the Bruins, unless the Isles rattle off a superb final stretch and somehow manage to avoid that match-up. So I’m pretty perturbed about the team right now, despite how strong they looked as a whole tonight.
The Islanders’ next attempt at not losing a game is Thursday night in Calgary. They’ll play the Flames at 9:00 p.m. After that, they play the Oilers in Edmonton same time Friday night. Please just win a god damn game already.