Ryan Pulock’s first of the season couldn’t have come at a better time. Just when it seemed like he was cursed this season, an opportune OT winner against the Rangers is just what he needed. That extra point also ensures the Isles keep pace with the Capitals.
The newest Islanders both factored into the game today, with Kyle Palmieri opening the scoring on the power play, and Travis Zajac, while not credited, making a key play along the boards to help facilitate Pulock’s OT goal.
Oliver Wahlstrom also drew back in, replacing Leo Komarov, and the Palmieri-Pageau-Wahlstrom line was arguably the Isles’ best of the night. The creation of that line meant that Zajac was at times a pseudo-1C, taking the faceoffs and opening up Mat Barzal to do more of his magic.
The Isles were dominant in the first period, starting off strong and earning a power play when Chris Kreider shot the puck out over the glass in his own zone. Just under two minutes into the period, Kyle Palmieri would score his first goal as an Islander, driving to the net to pick up the puck Brock Nelson tipped out in front and putting it past Igor Shesterkin.
Wahlstrom went to the box for interference and the Isles killed the penalty, with Ilya Sorokin making a big save on Mika Zibanejad.
Igor Shesterkin kept it 1-0 with a save on Anthony Beauvillier, but at the end of the period, Scott Mayfield would make a nifty play to get the puck up to Mat Barzal, who rushed up and carried the puck in, dished it off to Jordan Eberle, who passed it to a fresh on the ice JG Pageau, who one timed it past Shesterkin to give the Islanders a two goal lead.
Not a bad way to end the 1st— Isles on MSG+ Tonight (@IslesMSGN) April 11, 2021
Pageau makes it 2-0 pic.twitter.com/PBlHuNoTUh
Everyone was feeling good, until...
...The awful second period. Second periods have not been great for the Isles lately, and this one stunk aside from a solid Palmieri setup for Nick Leddy, who just ran out of room in front of Shesterkin.
Sorokin kept it close, just like Shesterkin did in the first, making several key saves. Matt Martin went to the box for tripping, and the Isles killed that penalty, but couldn’t draw any momentum from that.
Buchnevich and Trouba hit the post and crossbar, respectively, and then a Libor Hajek shot went in to make it 2-1. Brendan Smith then scored shortly after to make it 2-2.
Leddy drew a penalty to give the Islanders a chance to regain the lead, but the PP was lackluster and so the score remained 2-2 going into the third, despite the Rangers’ best efforts to take control of the game.
Both Sorokin and Shesterkin were big this period, with Sorokin making a big save on Ryan Strome early on, and Shesterkin making a big save on Pageau later in the period.
Between all of that, Matt Martin went to the box again, and the Isles killed that penalty. Adam Fox took a high sticking penalty when he crosschecked Cal Clutterbuck in the face, and the Rangers killed that penalty and were bailed out by the refs when a blatant high stick on Pelech went uncalled.
With just 1:30 left, both Mayfield and Buchnevich were given penalties, for roughing and high sticking, and we’d go to OT tied 2-2 with both of them in the box for another 30 seconds.
Travis Zajac had one of the best looks, but Shesterkin made a good save on him. However, he’d make a great play, pinning Chytil to the boards after a Strome faceoff win, which let Mat Barzal get the puck away and under control. Barzal then had a ton of space to move it cross ice to Ryan Pulock, who made no mistake and finally, mercifully, broke his scoreless streak and won it for the Islanders in OT.
- It looks like the Zajac-Barzal-Eberle experiment kind of worked out? As I wrote above, the logic seems to be that Barzal is terrible at faceoffs and needs someone on his line to take them. Zajac can certainly do that, but he still feels like a stopgap to me.
- The Nelson line and TBFLIH, the only two that actually remained in tact, have been struggling, though. They always seem to be getting hemmed in, and that’s been a big factor in the team just not looking as good as they did earlier on in the season.
- Sorokin now 8-0-0 at the Coli to start his rookie season. Pretty good!
- Also: as of writing this, the Isles traded a 7th round pick for Braydon Coburn, who will presumably (hopefully) just be some insurance, because that guy shouldn’t be playing over any of our current top six defensemen.
Next, the Islanders head to Boston to take on the Bruins at TD Garden. The Bruins have been a weird team this year, and the Isles seem to have their number, so let’s continue that streak!