The New York Islanders needed badly a complete game, something that they had not been able to put together since acquiring Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac. Going up against the rival New York Rangers, fresh off a four-game sweep of the New Jersey Devils, seemed like a tall task.
But perhaps that was just the motivation that the Isles needed.
The Islanders played one of their best games of the season, the kind of game that gives a team back its groove. They dominated the Rangers through all sixty minutes of tonight’s game and earned two huge regulation points to keep the Rangers down in the standings. They also tied the Washington Capitals for first place ahead of three straight against the Capitals.
Josh Bailey returned after a two-game injury absence, taking Oliver Wahlstrom’s spot at RW3. Cal Clutterbuck remained out, so Leo Komarov stayed at RW4. Noah Dobson re-entered the lineup and Braydon Coburn exited.
Semyon Varlamov got the start for the Islanders.
First Period: Best Period in a Long Time
On what I believe was their first shift, Mathew Barzal set up Jordan Eberle off the rush but Igor Shesterkin sent it wide. On the same shift, Barzal had the puck poked away from him at the Rangers blue line and when he went to backcheck, he was tripped, forcing him to trip Kevin Rooney. It prevented a breakaway so it wasn’t the worst. But frankly, he probably could have drawn a penalty on the same play.
The Rangers’ power play was dangerous and Mika Zibenajad had a chance that nearly sneaked through, but Varlamov came up huge. The Isles spurred Barzal on a breakaway coming out of the box and he drew a slashing penalty that probably could have been a penalty shot. It was a decent power play; the second unit held the puck in the zone but the first unit, coming out second, did not do much with it.
After the power play ended, though, Michael Dal Colle, Casey Cizikas, and Komarov took a shift together in which they had three or four great chances. The Rangers finally cleared after Jacob Trouba leveled Matt Martin. But later in the shift, Martin legally crushed Trouba, hard enough that Trouba stumbled getting up to halt play. Trouba did not return.
The Islanders kept up the pressure and Kyle Palmieri drew a high-sticking penalty against Adam Fox, but the Isles’ power play did not take any shots on net. However, the Isles continued to control play at even strength after the man advantage ended.
The breakneck pace continued and the Isles continued to control it. Dobson wristed a shot toward the net and the puck laid in the crease, but Palmieri got pushed before he could get to it. The Rangers regained control but the Islanders stole it in the neutral zone. Anthony Beauvillier skated in and dropped for Jean-Gabriel Pageau. Pageau rushed in and backhanded a pass to Josh Bailey, who had a good position on Anthony Bitetto to put it in the net.
Another look at Bailey's goal in the first! pic.twitter.com/EjDunGWLOH— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) April 20, 2021
As the period ended, Nelson walked Ryan Lindgren and put the puck off the crossbar. A great period of play by the Islanders.
Second Period: Great Second Period by Islanders’ Standards
The Isles kept the pace going in the middle frame. Dal Colle stole the puck to keep the puck in the offensive zone and found Palmieri coming back in there. He dished it over to Nick Leddy, he skated down the wing at the same pace as Palmieri. Leddy threw the puck toward Nelson at the crease, who angled it over Shesterkin.
Later in the period, the same line brought the same energy. Nelson stole the puck in the Islanders’ zone and cruised up the wing. He threw on the brakes and spun around before backhanding a pass to Palmieri barreling to the net. Palmieri went for a wraparound and got off a decent attempt before Brendan Smith tripped him, drawing another penalty.
The first unit took care of business this time. Dobson fired a shot that was deflected wide. Eberle recovered and got it back out to Dobson at the point. Dobson took another shot that deflected right to the wing, but Beauvillier was ready for the one-timer into the wide-open net. 3–0 lead and a power-play goal.
Leddy took a slap shot clear from Pavel Buchnevich in an unfriendly place to stop play, but he was okay. After the commercial break, Beauvillier was whistled for hooking Colin Blackwell, though it really just kind of looked like defense. The first four killers remained trapped in the zone, but eventually got a clear and let the time run down.
The Rangers broke through after the Islanders turned over the puck in their own zone. It came back out to Smith at the point, who fired through traffic. The puck deflected on the way in past Varlamov, but the goal was initially credited to Smith. Rooney later earned credit for it; he must have tipped it. The first line was responsible for the turnover and did not see the ice for the rest of the second period.
The goal put some legs under the Rangers, including a chance for Zibenajad dancing around Scott Mayfield, but Varlamov made a huge save. Later, with the Rangers threatening, Rooney nearly scored on a wraparound and the rebound gave Brett Howden two chances on which Varlamov absolutely robbed him.
Third Period: Blowing It Open
Nelson forced a turnover in the Rangers’ zone and nearly set up Palmieri all alone in front, but took just half a second too long and allowed the Rangers to get back. On that line’s next shift, Palmieri fed Dal Colle off the rush and Dal Colle put the puck off the crossbar.
The Pageau line took advantage of a broken Ranger stick and cycled the puck beautifully. Bailey and Beauvillier played give-and-go and Shesterkin made a big save, but the puck popped into the corner. Beauvillier skated the puck behind the net and fed Pageau in the slot for a falling-down one-timer past Shesterkin. 4–1 Isles.
Right off the face-off, the Nelson line nearly made it 5–1. Off the rush, Dal Colle fed Palmieri, who just ran out of room to lift the backhand over Shesterkin. But then the Pageau line really did make it 5–1. The Rangers failed to clear and Pulock corralled the puck to keep it in the zone. Beauvillier spun away from pressure and, in so doing, backhanded a pass to Bailey for a one-timer through Shesterkin’s arm.
Another look at Bailey's second of the game! pic.twitter.com/ur5WDy8xOQ— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) April 21, 2021
And for good measure, the first line joined the party. Travis Zajac broke up a pass between the Rangers defensemen and was joined by Eberle on a two-on-one. Despite pressure from Bitetto, Zajac threaded a pass to Eberle, who backhanded the puck into the Toy Department.
forehand, backhand, forehand, backhand, goal. pic.twitter.com/UTU6RpG0UQ— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) April 21, 2021
The rest was elementary, but the Islanders continued to press. We love to see it, folks.
Notes and Thoughts
- That’s the kind of effort that I wish the Islanders put forth every night. They were amazing for all sixty minutes and withstood whatever pushes the Rangers had. Even when the game got out of hand, they were the first ones on loose pucks. And it was not like the Rangers took the night off; they played hard, too.
- Dal Colle looked fantastic. I think he should be a fixture in the lineup. I love what he brings to the team and I feel like if he stays in the lineup, the goals will come.
- For that matter, his whole line—him, Nelson, and Palmieri—were excellent. However, the new third line of Beauvillier, Pageau, and Bailey may have been even better. They certainly scored more than the Nelson line.
- Varlamov played spectacularly, as well. He kept the Rangers off the board when the game was close and allowed the Islanders to pull away.
- I love beating the Rangers. Don’t you?
The Islanders begin a three-game series with the Capitals, their final games against the Capitals of the regular season. The first two, including Thursday’s game at 7:00 p.m., will be at the Coliseum, and the last one will be in Washington.