Tonight, in their 40th game of the season, the New York Islanders welcomed to the Coliseum the Philadelphia Flyers in the Isles’ debuts of both Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac, who lined up on either wing of Jean-Gabriel Pageau.
The Islanders looked fired up by their new acquisitions... for the first seven minutes or so. They scored two early goals, and then lost all their momentum because their dreadful power play did less than nothing on a five-minute major.
Still, the Flyers lost whatever juice they had drank from killing off the major after tying the game, and it seemed clear that both teams played more than half of this game just trying to secure a point.
It worked out in the Isles’ favor, thankfully. Ilya Sorokin outlasted Carter Hart in the shootout for the second straight meeting between these two teams and the Islanders moved into sole possession of first place in the East Division—and real sole possession—because the Washington Capitals, also playing in their 40th game of the season, lost in regulation to the Boston Bruins.
It wasn’t pretty, but we’ll take it.
First Period: Great Start, Slow Finish
The Islanders got on the board early. Ryan Pulock carried the puck behind the net and sent a wraparound pass into the crease. Brock Nelson managed to retrieve the puck from the fray and buried it over Carter Hart.
Mathew Barzal pressured Ivan Provorov, leading him to slip and turn over the puck. Leo Komarov retrieved and skated behind the goal line, dishing to Jordan Eberle at the last second. Eberle buried Komarov’s sweet pass to make it 2–0 just 1:03 later.
Brock & Eberle go back to back for the early 2-0 lead pic.twitter.com/MoCLXze1g5— Isles on MSG+ Tonight (@IslesMSGN) April 8, 2021
And right after the goal, Samuel Morin boarded Casey Cizikas, driving his head right into the ledge and causing a bloody nose.
Morin received five minutes and a game misconduct, though the only good chances came shorthanded for the Flyers; in fact, the Islanders’ effort was pretty abysmal. Scott Laughton and Claude Giroux escaped on a two-on-one but Giroux shot it wide. Michael Raffl also had a breakaway, but Sorokin turned aside his chance.
Nicolas Aube-Kubel got the Flyers on the board and he didn’t even know it; with good reason, too, because that shot cannot go in the net. Aube-Kubel skated over the blue line with possession and just threw the puck—I think he was just trying for a cross-corner dump-in—but Sorokin tried to knock the puck toward the corner. Instead, it ricocheted off his blocker and the butt-end of his stick before dropping into the goal. Fluky, yes, but man just let the puck go wide at that point.
The Flyers nearly tied it when Sorokin left a rebound from a point-shot. Joel Farabee, unchecked by Nick Leddy, pulled the puck to his backhand and got Sorokin to fall, but he put it off the post despite the wide-open net.
After the major, the Islanders lost their focus and Philadelphia really controlled the rest of the period, but they escaped with a lead.
Second Period: Alright, We’re Just Packing It In, Tonight?
Early in the second, the Flyers carried their momentum and it led to Philadelphia tying up the game. Travis Konecny and Claude Giroux combined with Jakub Voracek for the latter’s seventh goal of the season off the rush.
The Flyers mostly controlled the period, to the extent that either team controlled anything; both were a bit off throughout the period, which would turn out to be a theme tonight.
However, the Islanders got another power play when Robert Hagg tripped up Cal Clutterbuck. They did not do much with it, though, and just as it finished up, Matt Martin took a holding penalty against Kevin Hayes. The Isles killed off that one, too.
Third Period: Yes, We’ll Take the Point, Thank You Very Much
A scrum in front of Sorokin, caused in part by a fluky bounce that left everyone scrambling, forced Noah Dobson to take a hooking penalty. However, the Islanders killed it off without conceding, to my eyes, a high-danger chance.
Other than that, though, it really didn’t seem like either team threatened much. Sorokin had to make a couple of hairy stops, but it seemed like they had more to do with funky bounces than strong Flyers’ play. It wasn’t the Isles’ strongest period, but it wasn’t their worst, either.
Both teams played for the point. Other than Jean-Gabriel Pageau crushing Travis Sanheim and a late flurry in the final minute of regulation for the Islanders, not much happened. As so often happens between these two teams, we went to overtime.
The first half of overtime belonged to the Flyers, and the second half to the Islanders. After a cross-ice pass from Barzal and intended for Eberle ticked off Farabee’s skate, Hart had to make a last-minute kick save.
Shortly thereafter, a fluky bounce allowed Pulock some space to move and Kevin Hayes tripped him, giving the Isles a four-on-three power play for the rest of overtime. However, they did not do much with it, and we went to the shootout.
This one, much like this past Saturday’s, also went longer than three rounds—this one, in fact, lasted five rounds. Hart stopped Eberle, Anthony Beauvillier, Barzal, and Josh Bailey through the first four rounds.
Meanwhile, Sorokin continued to dominate the shootout. He made a beautiful split save on Sean Couturier, a flashy glove save on Nolan Patrick, a you-can’t-fool-me save on Giroux, who faked going between his legs, and another save on Travis Konecny.
In the fifth round, Nelson wasted little time in wristing a shot off the post and in the net, putting the Isles in the driver’s seat for the win. And to seal the deal, Sorokin stopped Farabee.
Notes and Thoughts
- The power play remains awful. I really hope that this team can get in some practice days to work in Palmieri.
- Speaking of which, the new guys looked okay. They didn’t look spectacular, but absolutely no one did, besides Sorokin (and even he gave up his one weird or weak goal of the night). I feel like we have barely scratched the surface on Palmieri and Zajac, though.
- Komarov on the top line has been fun for the novelty of it and he definitely had a nice pass to set up goal no. 2. But there is zero justification to play him over Oliver Wahlstrom, unless Wahlstrom was not fully healthy.
- To that end, Barry Trotz mentioned, in his post-gamer, that Wahlstrom was banged up and probably would not have been in the lineup had the Isles played last night (which I took to mean that he would not have played even without the trades).
- But he did say that Wahlstrom was available tonight. I really, really hope that yesterday’s trade doesn’t bump Wahlstrom from the lineup. He’s obviously better than Komarov, and Zajac for that matter. I realize that he has cooled off a bit lately, but not playing him is shooting yourself in the foot and wondering why your foot is bleeding. Trotz’s biggest complaint from his teams past has been that he sometimes trusts his aging, not as talented veterans over his much more talented, if a bit green, rookies. I hope that Wahlstrom cracks tomorrow night’s lineup at the expense of Komarov.
The Islanders are right back at it tomorrow night, welcoming the New York Rangers to the Coliseum for the first time this season. They’ll do it again on Sunday night, too.