The headline for a disappointing Sunday night in Elmont is that the New York Islanders, who need every point they can get, once again failed to harvest even one from a team in playoff position. The Isles have put up a decent record in January, but consistently grab points against also-rans while failing to get anything from tougher competition. Such was the case in their 4-3 regulation loss to the Minnesota Wild.
The subhead, however, is that this was actually a strong effort from the home team. They fell behind early and had to play catch-up most of the game, which ultimately cost them. But they created far more chances and more shots (a season-high 43, to Minnesota’s 21) than usual. Part of that is score effects from being down one or two goals most of the game; but in contrast to some other frustrating outings, they actually generated consistent pressure and chances, including a long, hopeful stretch with the sixth attacker in the games dying minutes.
Of course, the finishing remains a vexing issue...
Attendance aside: This is the first game in the new building where the place wasn’t full and not an official sellout. Going to assume that was heavily influenced by yesterday’s “bomb cyclone” that left between 10 an 20 inches of snow across Long Island. Also a potential factor: Sunday was the NFL’s concussion ball conference championship day, where two games are played to decide which teams go to the Super Giant Commercial Interrupted by Occasional Plays Bowl.
First Period: WTH?
It took less than four minutes for the Islanders to fall behind, and just a minute more for them to open a 0-2 hole.
The first one was a little unfortunate: A pass across the crease was disrupted by Noah Dobson, only to become a juicy rebound for Brandon Duhaime, as Ilya Sorokin had been moving across along with the original pass.
The second one came after Kyle Palmieri — who really needs to show it was a worthwhile choice to re-sign him while leaving Jordan Eberle exposed — took a tripping penalty in an offensive zone battle. On the power play, Joel Erikson Ek emerged from the corner and took advantage of Sorokin falling back too far into his crease for a short-side goal.
(Indeed, a standout performance from Sorokin might’ve produced a different result.)
About nine minutes later the Isles power play had some good work to maintain pressure, and a point shot deflected right to Brock Nelson after the power play time expired. Nelson sniped his 14th of the season (in just 28 games) to make it 2-1 heading into the intermission.
Second Period: Come on now
Just 2:39 into the second the Wild restored their two-goal lead. It was a sick deflection by Matt Boldy, nothing human that Sorokin could do to stop that.
But then...Ross the Boss Breakaway! This time the Isles would get it right back, from the unlikeliest of sources this side of Kyle Palmieri: Ross Johnston, in the lineup for Kieffer Bellows, makes the nice skate-to-stick steal followed by a calm breakaway finish:
That was just 1:24 after Boldy’s goal, and the Islanders spent much of the rest of the period pushing for the equalizer. Mathew Barzal, who had a super active night — even if he didn’t show up on the scoresheet — was all over the place and also had two golden chances from the left wing side that were blocked or went just wide.
But the Isles couldn’t find that goal, so they went to the second intermission still trailing by a goal.
Third Period: Close, but short
It was just one of those nights, where the Isles’ pressure never bore fruit until they’d already fallen a little more behind. So when Kirill Kaprizov at 11:27 of the third to again give the Wild a two-goal cushion, it felt like things were over.
But to their credit, the Isles kept pushing, and a goal mouth scramble brought them back to within one once again, Oliver Wahlstrom diving to poke it in after Anders Lee did much of the trench work.
DIVING POKE CHECK GOAL! pic.twitter.com/jvK4nnIeF0— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) January 31, 2022
That made it 4-3 with four minutes left, and the Isles gave it a good push. The 6-on-5 unit moved the puck well and created looks, earning a timeout and another go at it when the Wild finally got a whistle.
Ultimately, no result.
The first five minutes cost them.
Trotz: "It might have been our best game of the year, you take away the first five minutes of that game, we were pretty solid.” #Isles— Kevin Kurz (@KKurzNHL) January 31, 2022
Honoring Charles Wang
The Isles have installed a plaque at UBS Arena to recognize the contributions of the late Charles Wang, who bought the Islanders when no one else would, and kept them on Long Island while local governing bodies told them to get lost. They shared a video recognizing his part in Isles history. No matter the mistakes of his tenure, he kept the team in place and put his heart into this franchise when few would.
With so little margin for error and two regulation losses in a row at home, things will look ugly. The Bruins did lose in regulation tonight, at least. But the Isles have back-to-back games against the Senators and Kraken to close out the pre-All Star portion of the schedule.
If they can’t get three or four points from those, well, you know...