I have no idea what to make of this one. It was rough.
As part of the changes promised by coach Barry Trotz, Ilya Sorokin was moved to the taxi squad and Cory Schneider was elevated to backup. There was some cap maneuvering going on with that move, but it potentially became a relevant part of the game.
Also, both Oliver Wahlstrom and Kieffer Bellows drew into the lineup, skating on a line with Jean-Gabriel Pageau.
The Capitals, because of COVID-19 protocols, still lacked Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Dmitry Orlov, and goalie Ilya Samsonov. But they added Lars Eller to their list of scratched players, stemming from the ugly hit put on him by Leo Komarov two nights ago.
First Period: A Brighter Time
Remember the first period? Remember what a good time it was? We felt so happy. The first half of the period featured a whole lot of nothing. But around the middle of the frame, Oliver Wahlstrom notched his first NHL goal by throwing a shot toward the slot that ricocheted off of Trevor van Riemsdyk. It was fluky—it would have been way wide had it not hit the Capitals defenseman—but it still counts!
Eighteen seconds later, Casey Cizikas got on the board, deflecting a point shot from CalC Clutterbuck such that it looked like he caught it on his stick. Cool as hell, honestly.
Casey Cizikas, join the party my guy pic.twitter.com/l1PBsEkcBc— Isles on MSG+ (@IslesMSGN) January 29, 2021
Before the period was out, the Islanders registered a power play goal, too. Mathew Barzal threw a shot toward the net that Vitek Vanecek stopped, but the rebound bounced out to Anders Lee in his office. He doesn’t frequently miss from there. Good way to celebrate a milestone.
The Islanders finished the first up 3–0. They usually lock down on multi-goal leads. They looked like they had responded well to Barry Trotz’s frustration.
Second Period: Pain
The first several minutes of the period passed without incident. The Isles seemed to be executing smoothly their game plan.
Then, Conor Sheary scored. 1:13 later, Sheary scored again. Less than a minute later, Garnet Hathaway slipped a shot through Semyon Varlamov’s arm to tie the game. In just 2:04, the Capitals erased entirely the three-goal deficit.
John Carlson added a power play goal about three minutes after that, with Wahlstrom in the box for what appeared to be a phantom slash. For good measure, Zdeno Chara blew a puck past Varlamov for his first goal as a Capital. Just like that, a 3–0 lead became a 5–3 deficit.
Third Period: Trying, At Least
Despite allowing five goals in half a period, Trotz elected to leave Varlamov in net. It remains to be seen whether that was because Schneider was not ready for game action or because he wanted to send a message to figure it out. The Islanders had some jump off the first face-off, but the Capitals locked it down with the two-goal lead.
The Isles were granted a power play in the waning minutes and pulled Varlamov for a 6-on-4, but even that didn’t help. They only got set up once and ended up taking a penalty to negate it, though I would argue that Tom Wilson tripped Ryan Pulock if it was not just a collision. Barzal seemed to take that position, perhaps loudly and vulgarly, and was assessed a misconduct. Wilson added an empty-netter to seal it and the Islanders fell to 3–4–0.
The Islanders take this road trip to Philadelphia. The Flyers host them both Saturday and Sunday nights. They need some points.