Needing a strong performance to follow up the double “shutout” shootout loss that kicked off their three-game set with the division-leading Capitals, the New York Islanders got the performance they needed from...very few individuals, on their way to a 6-3 loss at Nassau Coliseum.
It was a bad night for Ilya Sorokin, who the Isles went to after Semyon Varlamov had the shutout (but shootout loss) in the first game of this series. Sorokin, too, was coming off a shutout in his last start, but it was one of his weaker performances since the opening month of this season. He allowed a soft goal early, and though he made some big saves, he wasn’t able to hold the fort after the Isles erased a two-goal deficit.
But the result was far from solely on Sorokin, who received a very inconsistent performance from most of the roster in front of him. For a change, the power play was a plus, netting two goals in a game for the first time since February. That and a shorthanded goal from an unlikely source meant all of the Islanders goals were on special teams, an un-Trotz-like artifact.
On balance, the Islanders are still in a funk, with more concerning performances than not since the trade deadline. They found their game against the Rangers, and had a strong game in the shootout loss Thursday, but tonight’s was another occasion where a full four-line effort was missing.
First Period: Part 2 is a different game
The scoreless streak from the last game did not last long for either side.
While things were still settling in, Garnet Hathaway caught Sorokin napping with a shot (and possibly fake pass) from the normally harmless high in the zone along the boards to make it 1-0 at 2:33. With how precious scoring was in the previous game, it felt like one gimme like that could be the difference. But it soon became clear this was going to be a different kind of night.
The Capitals expanded their lead at 10:55 when they caught the Islanders flat-footed, executing a dizzying exchange of passes to give-and-go their way into the Islanders zone and set up TJ Oshie for the tap-in.
The Islanders got one back on...the power play? Yes, they converted on the power play, and fairly early too. Twenty-five seconds after John Carlson was sent to the box for what he clearly found to be an objectionable hooking call — just his sixth minor of the season, a Pelechian run of Lady Byng-ness — Anthony Beauvillier pounced on a goal-mouth scramble and backhanded it past Ilya Samsonov.
A new game, but the Islanders continued to leak chances and they nearly gave that goal right back. But Sorokin was tall in traffic, doing the splits sturdily in the face of Tom Wilson crashing, and completing other goalie challenges to keep the score 2-1 till the first intermission.
Second Period: Special special teams
About five minutes in, for the first time the Islanders strung together two consecutive shifts of good pressure, first the Pageau-Bailey-Beauvillier line, which was a bright spot, and then the Barzal-Eberle-Zajac line, which had some moments. But the Capitals did well to absorb the pressure and mostly keep the Isles outside. Still, it was nice to see the Capitals hemmed in for a while for a change.
An even better opportunity came on the next shift when Casey Cizikas had an open net rebound chance, but Dmitry Orlov got just enough of Cizikas’ stick to make him whiff on the first attempt and only get a half piece of the second.
Orlov escaped penalization soon afterward when he yanked Kyle Palmieri’s stick out of his hand and chucked it while Palmieri was chasing a dump-in. That and a penalty on Jordan Eberle brought the boobirds out.
It also opened the door for, you know, just your usual Adam Pelech end-to-end rush and slapshot shorthanded goal.
Pelech picked up the puck in the Islanders’ corner, made a shake move around Orlov, drove up the center of the ice and opened up for the full wind-up at the blueline. There was a stick blade in the way, but the shot appeared to beat Samsonov cleanly through the five hole to tie it 2-2 at 7:37.
It was a new game, but not for long.
Five minutes after the Isles equalized, they gave up two goals in quick succession and with considerable regret. Nic Dowd picked up a blocked shot in the slot, spun quickly and picked a perfect spot upstairs through as creen. No chance for Sorokin on that one.
Ninety seconds later, Barzal ran out of options on a rush through the neutral zone and the Isles bobbled the exchange. The Caps rushed the other way off the turnover, and Daniel Sprong scored his first of two goals on the night.
Three minutes after that the Isles would get one back on the power play — yes, again, on the power play?! — when J-G Pageau batted a rebound out of the air on his backhand. Hockey, baseball, ping pong, there is nothing this man cannot do.
Third Period: Nothing happening
So the Islanders entered the third period just a shot away from making it a new game, but they could not generate anything the entire period. The Capitals continued to win the neutral zone in both directions, and the Islanders exhibited little energy to win the necessary dump-ins.
Twisting the knife, Sorokin allowed his second bad goal of the night when Evgeny Kuznetsov beat him clean under the arm, off the rush, at 7:35.
The Isles threatened little, and Sprong put an exclamation point on the night with a snipe off a faceoff win at 14:43.
That completed the final score of 6-3. Officially, the Isles were outshot 10-5 in a period that they entered trailing by one. Not a good showing by just about everyone.
Up Next: Kind of a must-win, no?
The Isles drop to a firm third place now, which is where they’ll be when these teams meet again on Tuesday in D.C.
Unrelated Distraction to Make You Smile
Elsewhere tonight, goaltender Fred Brathwaite (not to be confused with Brooklyn artist Frab Five Freddy) last played in the NHL in 2004, and his pro career ended at age 38 in Germany in 2010-11.