So looks like the season isn’t over after all.
You wouldn’t be blamed for thinking it was though, after two horrible periods where the Islanders were pretty clearly outplayed by a struggling Blackhawks team. The Blackhawks couldn’t capitalize on any of their 31 shots through those two periods, though, due to some fantastic play by Ilya Sorokin, who seemed focused and more like the guy from the playoffs rather than the guy of the previous two games.
Oliver Wahlstrom’s first goal of the night, at the beginning of the third period, would put the Isles up 2-0 and ignite the best hockey we’ve seen from the team all year, along with a near-perfect boring clamp down up 4-0. Win number one in the books, with a glimpse of what we know this team can be at its best.
The first period was pretty disastrous, with the Islanders at one point being outshot 6-0 against a Blackhawks team that couldn’t manage that many shots in the entire first period against Pittsburgh the other night. Sorokin really kept the team in the game as the Isles struggled to generate any offense at all.
The Islanders did get a power play, when Mike Hardman was sent to the box for tripping, but the man advantage has been tough to watch all season and that continued in this game. Mayfield went to the box with 42 seconds left, and the Hawks couldn’t convert, with the only highlight of the whole period for the Islanders being the high level play of Ilya Sorokin.
Just four minutes in, Anthony Beauvillier opened up the scoring, picking up a loose puck from behind the net and putting it past Marc-Andre Fleury after Wahlstrom was able to keep the puck alive.
Sorokin saved a point blank shot by McCabe in the slot, one of the best chances for the Blackhawks. With the goal, the Isles seemed to get more comfortable in the game, but still had some shaky moments, notably when they went back on the power play when Zach Parise drew a tripping call, and the best chance came when Alex DeBrincat got a shorthanded breakaway that Sorokin saved.
The Islanders closed out that frame up 1-0, and it seemed like this might be a tight game in the third period.
But... the Islanders had different plans. Just 48 seconds in, Oliver Wahlstrom was able to hang onto the puck despite the best efforts of several Blackhawks, and made it 2-0, giving the Islanders some breathing room and getting a reward for what had been a strong individual effort from him tonight.
Matt Martin delivered a big hit on Hardman a little bit later, sending Hardman out of the game as he needed a concussion check. Even though there was no real intent by Martin and he even checked to make sure Hardman was okay, Khaira challenged him to a fight and both them were given 5 minute majors.
Not even a minute later, Wahlstrom would get his second of the night, putting the puck right into an open net after a fantastic pass from JG Pageau.
Goal ✌️ for Wahlstrom pic.twitter.com/Ehu3n1oHpb— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) October 20, 2021
Wahlstrom had a whopping 8 shots on goal, nearly a third of the Isles’ total. For a guy who allegedly had a tough training camp, he’s been really good to start the season and had an incredible game tonight. It was also his first career two goal game.
A couple of minutes after that, Cal Clutterbuck sniped the puck, going bar down to beat Fleury and make it 4-0.
With plenty of goals scored, the Isles did their best to preserve Sorokin’s shutout, which was thwarted when MacKenzie Entwistle scored with just 26 seconds left. The goal was reviewed by the league, looking to see if Kirby Dach had sent the play offside prior to the goal, but it was determined that the goal was good, and the Islanders would have to settle for a 4-1 win and their first two points of the season.
- Wishing all the best to Mike Bossy, who announced today he’d be stepping away from his broadcasting job with TVA in order to undergo lung cancer treatments.
- Anders Lee was a surprise scratch for the game, with Kieffer Bellows taking his place in warmups. Lee has a non-COVID related illness that kept him out of the game, so hopefully he’ll be better soon.
- Speaking of Bellows, that was not the game to have to prove you belong with the team. He was mostly unimpressive in his 13 minutes of ice time. It was a last minute lineup change, but he didn’t bring the same energy he had last season when he briefly filled in when Lee went down with his knee injury.
- Trotz switched up the defensive pairings, a clear sign that he’s not happy with the way that group has been playing. I’m skeptical that Trotz is going to play someone like Sebastian Aho or Thomas Hickey unless his hand is forced by injury, but I think those guys should get an opportunity since neither Zdeno Chara nor Andy Greene have shined at all so far.
Next, the Islanders continue their trip around the country, heading to Columbus to play the Blue Jackets. It should hopefully be an opportunity to play a more complete game of Islanders Hockey™ for a full 60 minutes. There’s also a chance Semyon Varlamov could get back in the lineup after an injury that kept him out for all of the preseason and the regular season thus far.