Spoiled NHL debuts were the prevailing theme of this season-opening two-game series between the Islanders and Rangers. This time, the Islanders’ rookie caught the short end of the stick.
During warm-ups, Semyon Varlamov suffered an injury—as a result of a puck to the throat—and Ilya Sorokin, on short notice, got the call to make his NHL debut. Between an angry Rangers team sore from the beating they took Thursday and a guy taking the crease without any of the preparation that would normally precede his highly anticipated first game, it had the foundation of an ugly Islanders loss. Unfortunately, that was the outcome.
First Period: Key Quick Goal for the Rangers
Similar to the last game, the winning team got on the board early. Pavel Buchnevich snapped a shot from the bottom of the face-off circle that squeaked through Sorokin’s arm. Only 2:12 into the game, the Islanders had to play from behind.
Later into the period, Brendan Smith broke up an Islanders’ odd-man rush in front of the net and stretched a pass the other way to Artemi Panarin, waiting at the Isles’ blue line. Having sneaked behind Adam Pelech, he cruised in alone and beat Sorokin. The Rangers entered the intermission with a 2–0 lead.
A frightening moment occurred when Ryan Pulock took a deflected puck to the ear. He went straight off to the locker room and did not return for the rest of the period, but he was back on the ice for the second.
Second Period and Third Period: Nothing Great for the Islanders
Mathew Barzal took two minors early in the second, one for tripping and one for interference. The Islanders killed off those two penalties. But with the help of a linesman tangling up with Scott Mayfield, Buchnevich had time and space to paint the high, far corner. Sorokin perhaps played the shot from too deep in net. Whatever the case, though, the Islanders trailed by three and failed to click at all to that point.
With under five minutes remaining in the second period, a Ranger odd-man rush concluded with Kaapo Kakko’s one-timer beating a sliding Sorokin.
Predictably, the third period got choppy. Near the end of the game, emotions boiled over and Ross Johnston received a double-minor for roughing and a misconduct. The lone bright spot of the evening had been the Islanders’ penalty kill. It killed off every Islander penalty before Johnston’s. But Panarin padded his stats with another goal and that was that.
Quotes and Tweets
Barry Trotz, unsurprisingly, was disappointed. He and his players took the full blame for Sorokin’s disastrous first NHL appearance. He was also upset that Varlamov got hurt in the first place and had no update on his health.
#Isles Barry Trotz has no update on Semyon Varlamov. Says it's "unacceptable" to hurt your own goalie in warmups. Says it wasn't fair to Sorokin and wasn't fair to Varlamov. "We were junk today."— Andrew Gross (@AGrossNewsday) January 17, 2021
Trotz no update on Varlamov. On Sorokin: "We hung him out to dry."— Arthur Staple (@StapeAthletic) January 17, 2021
#Isles captain Anders Lee said team needs to play better in front of Ilya Sorokin. "He deserves much better than that."— Andrew Gross (@AGrossNewsday) January 17, 2021
The Islanders will play their first home game of the season on Monday. The Boston Bruins will come to town for a 5:00 p.m. Martin Luther King Jr. Day dinner-time show. It will be nationally televised on NBCSN, though the local broadcasts (MSG+ down by us and NESN up in New England) will carry the game in both markets, as well.