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Islanders 5 (EN), Sharks 2: Wahly World is fun

Wahlstrom snipes two, Varlamov wins first start.

San Jose Sharks v New York Islanders
Kick it.
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

It took a while for it to show on the scoreboard, but the New York Islanders ultimately ran away with a 5-2 win against a mangy bunch of visitors in the San Jose Sharks.

Playing (and scoring) in his second straight game after being scratched/”maintenanced” for the opener, Oliver Wahlstrom was the star. His two lethal snipes that broke the game open when there was still a chance for the Sharks to steal it late in the second. Noah Dobson, Brock Nelson and Adam Pelech each had two assists.

Semyon Varlamov stopped 27 shots in his first start of the season, but the win came from nice, high-pace play from throughout the lineup. The transition tempo that Lane Lambert appears to prefer was evident again, and we’ll soon learn how it plays against some better opponents.

[NHL Gamecenter | Game Sum | Event Sum | Natural Stat Trick | HockeyViz]

With a winless team visiting and this game a kind of “must/should win” for the Islanders before their schedule gets tougher, the atmosphere sounded a little tight as the first period carried on without the Isles converting any of their chances.

That persisted as Nico Sturm opened scoring for the Sharks at 12:50, followed a little later by an Islanders power play with nice possession but no result. The teams reached the intermission with San Jose leading 1-0. Was it gonna be one of those nights?

The opening of the second period didn’t change that feeling. The Isles created lots of good looks — the Identity Line joining in with that fresh, early-season legs feeling — and had a power play where they absolutely controlled the puck, and created good shooting lanes, and actually took the shot. Brock Nelson was maybe a little slow to shoot on one or two of his looks, but he had three opportunities in a row.

The game was approaching the midway point with the Islanders controlling play, but the Sharks holding the lead, and James Reimer standing on his head.

Finally, three seconds after the official midway mark, the dam broke.

Anders Lee kicked it off with his first goal of the season at 10:03, a vicious redirection of an Adam Pelech volley that was headed well wide. That tied it at 1-1, and Zach Parise gave the Isles their first lead nearly five minutes later.

J-G Pageau did the work, Noah Dobson did the locating and Parise had the “finish,” as he angled Dobson’s pass in with his skate at the top of the crease.

The Sharks answered to tie it at 2-2 just 2:22 later, but with the way the Isles were playing that felt more like a temporary setback than a “one of those nights’ moment of dread. Personally I was confident things would work out in the third, but Wahlstrom did us all a favor by restoring the lead 56 seconds before the intermission buzzer.

It was another Nelson faceoff win that fed Wahlstrom, who used the faceoff crowd to create space and a dangerous look from the left side of the slot, where he unleashed a top corner past Reimer.

Wahlstrom doubled the lead 5:24 into the third, pouncing on a loose puck low in the right wing faceoff circle and finishing up high in one motion.

After Wahlstrom gave the Isles a two-goal lead, the Isles had to kill one last threat following a soft-ish tripping call on Brock Nelson. They were good at cutting down the danger on that penalty kill, and the rest of the game felt a formality.

Cal Clutterbuck provided the final punch, a shot into the empty net after Matt Martin’s try was blocked.

This-and-That Notes

  • Both Wahlstrom goals were displays of the kind of elite shot the youngster possesses, a dangerous threat the Isles desperately need. They even gave Wahlstrom an extra shift late to try for the hat trick.
  • Casey Cizikas had a tremendously active game offensively, generating several looks with Barzal-ish drives into the zone that usually led to shots for him or his linemates.
  • From that line, Clutterbuck got the tally — the empty netter — but he had a different chance in the second, a clearcut breakaway. His unconvincing wrister from straight on made it seem he’s much more comfortable shooting with angled options from the wing.
  • Nelson hasn’t scored yet in the season’s first three games, but his faceoff work and positional play has been Brocktober-worthy.
  • In his first start of the season, Semyon Varlamov looked comfortable. THe first goal allowed was on a low angle, but it was a chopped rebound from a guy sneaking around to the backdoor.
  • Pity the Sharks, who had a decent effort early, and were in it late in the second, only to get the same result yet again. I remember those kinds of years. {shudder}
  • On the bright side, their retro/alternates look much better than their regular kit. (Is that a bright side, or is that awkward? Maybe switching back full time can be one of those mid-tank marketing boosts.)

Up Next

The Devils visit Thursday, before the Isles head out for a back-to-back weekend in Florida.