In this late-night match-up of the last two seasons’ semifinalists, both of which have gotten off to slow starts, the New York Islanders bested the Vegas Golden Knights thanks to Ilya Sorokin’s second shutout in as many nights.
The Islanders wanted to finish up strong the first leg of their half marathon road trip, and boy howdy did they ever. Sorokin shut out the American Southwest, working much harder tonight than he did last night. He stopped all 42 of the Golden Knights’ shots.
Starting for the Golden Knights was old friend Robin Lehner, who endeared himself enduringly to Islanders fans despite playing only one season for them back in 2018-19. It was the second time that the Islanders faced Lehner since he departed Long Island. Last time, he was a member of the Chicago Blackhawks and beat his old team.
Barry Trotz rolled out the same line combos in warmups that he iced in Glendale the night before, swapping Josh Bailey and Kyle Palmieri from their usual lines and keeping Adam Pelech and Ryan Pulock separated, at least on regular assignment, to spread their love.
#Isles in warmups (No changes)— Andrew Gross (@AGrossNewsday) October 25, 2021
Vegas has been dealing with injuries to captain Mark Stone and his fellow first-line winger Max Pacioretty. They were also missing Alex Tuch, Alec Martinez, among others. But they gave Daniil Miromanov his NHL debut. They rushed these lines in warmups.
Golden Knights lines vs NYI:— Jesse Granger (@JesseGranger_) October 25, 2021
The Isles iced the puck 18 seconds into the game and then the Knights pinned them in the zone until the 18:00 mark. But despite that, the Islanders struck first.
On their first chance in the offensive zone, Jean-Gabriel Pageau took a shot that Lehner stopped as he fell. But Lehner left a juicy rebound that Josh Bailey cleaned up to give New York a 1-0 lead. The goal was Bailey’s 514th career point, moving him into sole possession of 10th place on the Islanders' all-time points list, now ahead of Bobby Nystrom.
Josh's backhand to Pager to start this is elite, btw pic.twitter.com/B1G8q17FF2— Isles on MSG+ (@IslesMSGN) October 25, 2021
Zach Parise blocked one shot painfully, but he pulled himself up just in time to block another. That’ll make Trotz happy. Not long after that, Bailey fed Mathew Barzal, who rang a puck off the post.
Vegas ramped back up the pressure, and Zdeno Chara took an interference penalty for checking Brett Howden as the puck went past him. The killers struggled to clear the zone, only barely doing so once in the first minute and not getting a full clear until the last :30; Sorokin kept the Golden Knights off the board.
In the back half of the period, Lehner made big saves on Brock Nelson off the rush, Cal Clutterbuck off the rush, and Nelson hitting a Palmieri chance out of the air.
Toward the end of the period, Barzal took another spin with Parise and Oliver Wahlstrom. Parise nearly scored on a one-timer, and Barzal or Wahlstrom nearly put away the rebound. Then, Lehner stopped Cizikas all by himself down low.
Seemed like Trotz liked the Lee-Pageau-Bailey and Parise-Barzal-Wahlstrom combinations. I’m a fan!
Early in the period, Parise grabbed the puck and fed Barzal on a two-on-one. Barzal got off a backhand but went hard into the boards. He skated just fine, though. Matt Martin nearly tipped home a shot, but Miromanov took his stick out of the play just in time.
Sorokin made a beautiful save to prevent Vegas from scoring on a two-on-one, robbing Keegan Kolesar in tight. Later, Nelson helped the Isles out of danger by pushing a puck past the blue line and, once he was clear of the red line, firing the puck down the ice from his knees to make a change.
Trotz went back to his normal lines (well, at least the ones in the tweet above), and Chara took another penalty, again for interference against Howden. This kill was much better. The Knights had a chance off of the initial face-off that never made it to the net, but the Islanders then played keep-away for about a full minute.
The Golden Knights took control of the game in the second half of the period. But Sorokin came up huge, stopping all 14 of the shots he faced, including thieving another goal from Kolesar by going into a split and getting it with the pad. Then he snagged with his glove Nicolas Hague’s shot from the circle.
In the last minute and a half, the linesmen missed an icing against Vegas, allowing Marchessault to grab the puck, but Pageau rubbed him out. Chandler Stephenson had a chance in the slot that left his stick like a pop-up, and Sorokin made the out. The Islanders escaped the period still up 1-0.
Sorokin opened the period with a big save, and Martin took it and fed Cizikas for a breakaway. Cizikas went high glove but put it off the post.
The Isles finally got a power play when Brayden McNabb tackled Palmieri in the crease. On that power play, Nelson had a chance in alone, and Barzal and Beauvillier connected for some pretty opportunities. Parise and Lee got good looks, as well. And Nelson ended the power play with a backhand off a deke, but Lehner allowed nothing.
The good power play gave the Islanders some momentum. Barzal blazed up the ice and was impeded slightly by Hague. Bailey followed him up along the boards and got the puck back to Barzal, who picked his corner with a sharp-angle shot to go up 2-0.
From there, it was mostly about short shifts and getting the puck deep, but the Islanders got another power play as Mattias Janmark went off for tripping Pageau. Palmieri, who earlier looked briefly shaken up, got off a good shot off the face-off, but the power play was pretty conservative otherwise. The best chance probably came for Reilly Smith, but it wasn’t even that good and Sorokin slid out to make the save.
The Golden Knights pulled Lehner with 2:21 left in regulation for an offensive zone draw, and Pelech took a shot off his hand, leaving him in pain. He stayed on the bench, not going to the locker room but not taking the ice, either.
After Bailey’s backhand from the defensive zone just missed the empty net and was called icing, Vegas called timeout and drew up a play. But Sorokin robbed Marchessault trying to convert some tic-tac-toe passing, making him break his stick on the bench. Lee made a nice play to kill some clock, and Sorokin made one more beauty as time expired to seal his second straight shutout.
Notes and Thoughts
- SoroKING! He was 26 seconds from a shutout in Chicago last Tuesday, shut out the Coyotes last night, and shut out the Knights tonight. He is the first Islanders goalie ever to record shutouts on back-to-back nights. Best part: It’s not even the first time in his short NHL career that he has recorded back-to-back shutouts.
- Throughout the first period and into the early second period, Trotz kept up the swap of Barzal and Pageau, putting the former between Parise and Wahlstrom and the latter between Lee and Bailey. Both of the revamped combos were dangerous. I like those lines, honestly. I hope we see them a little more.
- Bailey was in on both goals, and Barzal is shooting more and scoring more. Gotta keep that going.
- Parise hasn’t yet found the scoresheet, but he has been on the doorstep. He’s been a great addition to this lineup so far.
- Other than the second period when Vegas put on their push, the Islanders were much better tonight. They looked more like themselves. That’s a nice game to take into a long break.
The Islanders have completed the first leg of their 13-game season-opening road trip. They now head home to Long Island for a few days to be in their houses and with their families.
Then, this Saturday, they take a quick flight to Tennessee for a 1:30 ET matinee with the Nashville Predators before they head back home for a few more days, not playing again until Thursday, November 4 in Montreal.