At this rate, if the Islanders are going to keep making these small steps “in the right direction” to get them out of their first-quarter hole, they’re not going to catch up until August.
For the 10th time in a row — a “Scott Gordon has been relieved of his duties” length streak — the Islanders lost, this time 4-3 in overtime to the Red Wings in Detroit.
For the second game in a row, they actually managed a standings point, and this game showed some other progress in that they actually scored more than a goal, and their power play actually made positive contributions.
The latter came in the form of two Oliver Wahlstrom goals, tying the game at 2-2 in the second and then 3-3 in the third at 12:33.
But it was another night of uneven effort, misplaced passes, neutral zone turnovers, heavy reliance on Ilya Sorokin, and rushes into the zone that did not lead to dangerous shots nor sustained pressure. There’s a lot still wrong with the team right now and they don’t much look like they’re on the cusp of getting back on track.
Still, it was some relief to see multiple goals again, to see the power play actually try some different looks and make them work, and to see Wahlstrom wake up, at least at 5-on-4. It doesn’t count for a lot — except a consolation standings point — but it breaks up the numbness that is a 10-game losing streak and counting.
Zdeno Chara and Kieffer Bellows were the latest to return from COVID protocol, so Chara bumped Grant Hutton from the lineup. Austin Czarnik had a decent night, coming into the lineup instead as both Andy Andreoff and Otto Koivula sat, with Zach Parise playing some center.
Highlights because those are fun
For the second game in a row, the Islanders scored first(!) and on their first shot on goal, when Cal Clutterbuck went coast to coast and made a nice move around the D and around Alex Nedeljkovic.
A look at Clutterbuck's shorthanded goal! pic.twitter.com/aaIf3xOJcv— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) December 5, 2021
But for the umpteenth time (or maybe just the fourth, MSG says), the Islanders gave that back inside a couple of minutes. Then, just over two minutes after Filip Hronek tied it at 1-1, Sam Gagner gave the home team a 2-1 lead at 7:37.
Wahlstrom had quite the night, and he made the most of it considering he was in the box for 17 minutes. After Anthony Beauvillier took a hard hit from Adam Erne coming off the bench, Wahlstrom did the “stand up for teammate” thing and instigated a fight with Erne. That cost Wahlstrom 2, 5 and 10.
Fortunately, Walhstrom got out of the box just in time...
Walhstrom ties it in the second
At 10:49, with Gagner in the box, Wahlstrom switched positions (after an earlier shot was blocked) and found paydirt:
Wahlstrom wrister.— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) December 5, 2021
It took less than three minutes for the Isles to concede again, giving up a 2-on-1 after Scott Mayfield got caught on a failed keep-in. Givani Smith carried, was given the shot, and beat Sorokin clean to make it 3-2.
Wahlstrom ties it in the third
Wahlstrom did it again, however, this time from his more traditional spot on the power play, after a good look from Mathew Barzal and likely a little help from a defenseman’s stick:
Alas, the Red Wings had the better of play in overtime, with several clear shots (officially: 5-1) on Sorokin. The Isles won the OT-opening faceoff again but didn’t do much with it. Their only shot was a Sebastian Aho bomb after some good pressure forced a turnover.
But the Wings worked the puck around really well in the offensive zone to set up Moritz Seider for the winner at 3:33 of OT.
Back home tomorrow (Sunday), with the Blackhawks, who are at the Garden tonight, visiting at 7:30.