The Islanders did not exactly match the tutorial they displayed the previous night. Nevertheless, they did not give up a goal, thanks in large part to Ilya Sorokin. He put up a doughnut for his first NHL victory and a well-earned one at that.
Anthony Beauvillier returned to the Islanders’ lineup for the first time in over two weeks, slotted in on the third line with Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Oliver Wahlstrom. Leo Komarov was assigned to the taxi squad.
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First Period: It’s Déjà Vu All Over Again
If you watched tonight’s first period and thought you were watching last night’s first period, I wouldn’t blame you. The Islanders played much better than they did in the opening frame of last night’s game. But the scoresheet looked the same, right down to the goal-scorers.
Just about five minutes into the game, Noah Dobson and Anders Lee hustled in wide on a two-on-two, set up after Dobson played give-and-go with Josh Bailey. Dobson skated in thinking pass all the way, finding Lee nearly along the goal line as he barrelled down the opposite wing. For the second straight night, the Islanders led 1–0, courtesy of Lee.
What a pass and what a finish pic.twitter.com/kF9f6ylZbt— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) February 17, 2021
More than halfway through the period, Pageau converted a chance coming in on his own. Ryan Pulock carried the puck up to his blue line and saw Pageau floating around Buffalo’s blue line. Pageau caught the pass in stride and once again beat Hutton top shelf. For the second straight night, the Islanders ended the first period up 2–0—their lead boosted by Pageau.
Sticking with the déjà vu theme, I’m pretty sure that Adam Pelech took a first-period penalty both nights.
Second Period: Somehow Only Conceding Three Shots-on-Goal
The Islanders ran out of gas during the second period, but they still managed to have more shots-on-goal than the Sabres. Buffalo controlled play for most of the period, but not one of their attempts made it on net in the final 13:00-plus minutes.
Their final shot came from Henri Jokiharju off the rush. As he entered the zone, he loaded up and fired. Sorokin had skated out to the top of his crease and flashed the leather while falling into a split.
Third Period: Not Quite Shutting It Down, But Locking It Down
Sorokin, playing with a lead for the first time in his NHL career, continued to look like the superstar we expected. He made an early save on a chance off of some tic-tac-toe passing. He also absolutely robbed Sam Reinhart’s opportunity back-door.
Pelech took another minor penalty in the third period and it appeared that Victor Olofsson ruined the shutout after some pretty power play passing. But the linesmen took out the tablets to check for offsides after Barry Trotz challenged the play, and Jack Eichel was a mile off. Shutout intact.
The Sabres pulled Hutton with two minutes left and created some opportunities, but Lee finished the game off with an empty-netter with 0.3 left on the clock.
Notes and Thoughts
- How great is it that Sorokin’s first NHL win also turned out to be his first NHL shutout? And even if the Sabres did not record too many shots, many of them were dangerous. They have a potent offense that the Islanders almost completely shut down over two nights and certainly gave Sorokin some confidence.
- Lee scored a goal in his second straight game. But perhaps even more impressively, Pageau scored his fifth goal in his last four games. And in each of those four games, he recorded a goal in the first period, matching the Islanders’ all-time record.
- Mathew Barzal snapped his point streak at nine games, but he played a role in the first goal, holding the puck and springing Dobson.
- The Islanders’ point streak is up to eight games (5-0-3).
The Islanders have one more stop on this road trip, but they do not have to fly far to get there. They will head to Pittsburgh for two games with the Penguins: Thursday and Saturday, both at 7:00 p.m. and both on local television (although Thursday’s game will also broadcast on NHL Network).