Barry Trotz hit puree on the line blender, swapping Josh Bailey for Jordan Eberle on the top line and putting Michael Dal Colle on Brock Nelson’s other wing. The moves certainly paid off in the standings.
#Isles lines in warmups:— Brian Compton (@BComptonNHL) February 6, 2021
Lee - Barzal - Bailey
Dal Colle - Nelson - Eberle
Komarov - Pageau - Wahlstrom
Martin - Cizikas - Clutterbuck
Pelech - Pulock
Leddy - Mayfield
Greene - Dobson
First Period: Eberle, Isles Look Fresh
From opening puck drop, the Islanders had noticeably more jump than they had shown in most of their previous games this season.
That energy resulted in a goal for Jordan Eberle, playing on a new line with Brock Nelson and Michael Dal Colle. Noah Dobson picked up a checked puck and hit Dal Colle, who quickly found Eberle. With room to move, he danced around Cody Ceci before backhanding the puck past Tristan Jarry to make the game 1–0.
that backhand tho >>> pic.twitter.com/4bcmnxMyRI— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) February 7, 2021
The Islanders made only a few mistakes in the first period, but the Penguins capitalized on one of them. Despite having numbers back in the zone, Pierre-Olivier Joseph had time and space as he glided down through the face-off circle and lasered his first NHL goal past Semyon Varlamov.
Before the period ended, though, the Islanders regained the lead. Dal Colle battled to win the puck and get it over to Nelson in the slot. He managed to get some good wood on his shot as he fell, which forced Jarry to give up the rebound. Eberle jammed home the loose puck, 2–1.
Things we love to see:— Isles on MSG+ (@IslesMSGN) February 7, 2021
Eberle with his 2nd...AS HE'S FALLING pic.twitter.com/rOEjxnCp1S
Second Period: Wide Open, Back and Forth, Late Pittsburgh Goal
Both teams had multiple days off due to pandemic rescheduling and it showed in their legs throughout the game, notably in the second period. The Isles and Pens traded chances either way early before they settled into their respective structures.
It looked as though the period would finish with everything but a goal. But unfortunately, Nelson and Scott Mayfield turned over the puck with around twenty seconds remaining. Kasperi Kapanen broke in with Evgeni Malkin on a two-on-one against Mayfield and Malkin, who struggled to this point in the season, tied the game at 2–2.
Third Period: What a Game!
As so often happens when a team scores late in a period, the Penguins carried their momentum into the beginning of the next one. They owned the ice in the first handful of minutes in the third and earned themselves the lead. Sidney Crosby, always dangerous, targeted down low Jake Guentzel and Guentzel put the puck behind Varlamov. 3–2 Penguins, less than four minutes into the third period.
Pittsburgh’s lead lasted only five minutes, thankfully. And the tying goal came courtesy of the fourth line, which thus far had not been playing up to its normal standard. It was vintage The Best Fourth Line in Hockey, too. The three skated through the neutral zone, across the red line, with possession before Matt Martin threw the puck below the goal line. Casey Cizikas beat his man to retrieve it and hit Cal Clutterbuck crashing the net. Tie game, 3–3, with a little more than half a period remaining.
The referees kept their whistles in their pockets for most of the game. By the end of the third, the only penalties they had called were offsetting minors for Cizikas and Mike Matheson in the second period. But the Islanders received a gift in the dying minutes of the game when Teddy Blueger flicked the puck over the glass. The refs had no choice but to give the Isles a power play, and they made the most of it.
It took a minute, but the Islanders looked solid on the power play to that point. Mathew Barzal sent the puck cross-ice to Ryan Pulock. He fired a one-timed blast and Jarry made the initial stop. But the puck squirted through his legs and lay in the crease for captain Anders Lee to push across the line.
Who else but The Captain!?— Isles on MSG+ (@IslesMSGN) February 7, 2021
Lee for the LEAD pic.twitter.com/tOaEoeRnHx
4–3 Isles with a little more than two-and-a-half minutes on the clock, and 4–3 read the scoreboard when the buzzer sounded. Only at the 1:30 did Pittsburgh coach Mike Sullivan pulled Jarry and the Penguins could not set up against the stout defense.
Notes and Thoughts
- Hoo boy did the Isles need that. And so did we. I imagine the fan base at large will be very pleased. Trotz definitely is.
How bad did the #Isles need this one tonight?— Arthur Staple (@StapeAthletic) February 7, 2021
"Like a starving person needing food," Barry Trotz said.
- Dal Colle looked great lined up next Nelson and Eberle, and the two veterans looked energized playing next to him. I guess they really needed those days to gather themselves. Trotz’s line blender got results.
- Lee has four goals already. Not bad!
The Islanders visit Madison Square Garden once again on Monday night, taking on the Rangers at 7:00 p.m. ET. It will be on national TV on NBCSN, but should be available on the local network, MSG+, as well. Make sure you get the Islanders call and not the Rangers.