I guess you could say that overall, it was a successful road trip.
The New York Islanders wrapped up their Ontario-Nashville-Dallas-Ontario journey tonight by visiting the Toronto Maple Leafs. For the Islanders, it was their third road game in five nights, and it showed at times. Ilya Sorokin, however, recovered nicely from conceding five goals to Nashville and kept the Islanders in it as he usually does.
But after two straight games where they couldn’t get the breaks—five posts against the Predators, Ryan Suter stopping the tying marker on the goal line and the Stars going the other way and scoring—they got a massive dose of good fortune when Leafs goalie Erik Källgren Tristan Jarry’d the late game-tying goal right to the original Jarry recipient, Josh Bailey.
Anthony Beauvillier finished the job in the extra frame, and the Islanders scurried away with two points.
The Islanders looked terrible in the first seven minutes. Okay, maybe not terrible. But they didn’t look anything resembling good. The Maple Leafs came out with their hair on fire, and the Islanders were chasing them around their own zone. There was a memorable chance for John Tavares alone in front of the net—well, I remember it, anyway, because he put it off the side of the cage.
The most terrifying part was that Brock Nelson landed on his knees awkwardly during a faceoff try. He winced and couldn’t put any weight on it. He went down the tunnel and missed his next shift. Thankfully, however, he returned after the first commercial break, and it looked like it gave his teammates a boost.
Now, all of a sudden, it was the Leafs who couldn’t escape their own zone. The Aho-Dobson pairing, which earlier in the period had gotten trapped in the Isles’ end for over two minutes, did what they were put together to do.
Mathew Barzal entered just ahead of the defenders on a two-on-two, but as he does so well, he pulled up to create time and space, allowing Sebastian Aho to pinch behind him for a drop pass. Aho carried the puck behind the net and found Noah Dobson at the point for a slapper that careened off David Kampf’s hip.
The end of the period consisted of an Isles power play, courtesy of Jordie Benn, that largely did nothing, and the Islanders took a 1-0 lead to the intermission.
The Islanders went back to looking poor again. Alex Romanov took a needless cross-checking penalty, and furthering a worrying trend, the Islanders gave up another power-play goal very quickly. Toronto needed eight seconds to set up a pretty, triangular passing play that Tavares finished from the bumper spot. Adam Pelech was not happy with himself for losing Tavares.
That restored the buzz that the Maple Leafs had to start the contest, running the Islanders around the defensive zone. Sorokin, at one point, robbed Pierre Engvall and Calle Järnkrok on three consecutive chances right in the slot.
Sorokin shrugs off two different chances pic.twitter.com/ChQZcPjacJ— Isles on MSGSN (@IslesMSGN) November 22, 2022
But even he couldn’t stop a nasty Auston Matthews deflection that went over his blocker. Matthews and the Leafs were helped by Pelech screening Sorokin; the tipped puck went five-hole on him.
In the final minute and a half of the mostly weak middle frame, the Islanders reasserted their strength. Scott Mayfield and Cal Clutterbuck tied up with Michael Bunting in front of the benches, and the three temporary pugilists were assessed canceling minor penalties: Clutterbuck got a roughing penalty, Mayfield got an unsportsmanlike penalty, and Bunting got one of each, somehow.
But that brouhaha appeared to light a fire under the Islanders' bench, and they got their best chance of the period in the last half minute. The hope, it seemed, was that the energy would carry over to the third period.
Kyle Palmieri and Morgan Rielly collided awkwardly early in the third. Neither saw the other coming, so neither was prepared for it, and they were pulled from the game, likely to undergo concussion testing. Palmieri knew all the answers to the questions and came back soon thereafter, but Rielly did not.
That energy idea didn’t work right away; much like the first period, it took until the first commercial break for the Islanders to find their legs, but that was when they finally sustained some zone time. Going back the other way, Oliver Wahlstrom knocked knees with Matthews, and Rasmus Sandin took exception to it. Wahlstrom landed some nice punches, though, and he and Sandin earned fighting majors. Incredibly, Wahlstrom wasn’t called for kneeing or even tripping, but the Islanders did get a too-many-men penalty.
After they killed off the penalty, Lane Lambert started switching up his lines. It led to a dangerous opportunity for Barzal, Nelson, and Anders Lee. I originally wrote that Lambert was loading up his lines, but then he sent Barzal over the boards with Clutterbuck and Casey Cizikas, and then he kept doing it.
It wasn’t looking good for the Islanders—they had been getting some chances, but they were giving up just as many because of the risks they were taking. In fact, between 4:00-3:10 remaining, the Leafs nearly put the game away. Thank you, Ilya.
And right back the other way, Toronto goalie Erik Källgren corralled a dump-in behind his net but brain-cramped and Tristan Jarry’d a meek clear into no man’s land. Josh Bailey scored a big double-overtime goal that way a year and a half ago and tonight scored a big tying goal the same way. He picked up the floating puck and fired short side with 2:58 left on the clock.
The last three minutes were all about securing a point in Gary Bettman’s three-point system and featured some admirable puck-killing in the corner by both Clutterbuck and then Lee.
The Islanders rolled J-G Pageau and Zach Parise with Pelech against Matthews, William Nylander, and Timothy Liljegren. Pageau did not win the faceoff, but that first Leafs unit iced it twice.
Barzal took both shifts, one with Nelson and the next with Pageau. Pageau won this faceoff but sent it right to Nylander. However, Barzal lulled Nylander into turning it over in the neutral zone, setting up a two-on-one with Pageau. Pageau’s shot wouldn’t go, though.
When it was time for a change, Barzal skated the puck behind the net until his two linemates were off and then gave it to Anthony Beauvillier so that Nelson could join him. Beauvillier gave it to Nelson for the carry through the neutral zone before Nelson dropped it back off for Beauvillier over the blue line. Finally, Beauvillier sniped his corner for a 3-2 Islanders overtime win.
Notes and Thoughts
- That was fun. This year’s team is definitely fun. It wasn’t a pretty victory, but it’s always a blast stealing a win in Toronto. Ilya Sorokin, we’re not worthy.
- But—and maybe this is just me—I have been concerned with what I see as a lack of structure in the Islanders’ defensive end. Sometimes, they play tight in their own zone; other times, it’s like they lost all that Trotzian instinct. I get cheating to try to make a play, but you cannot sustain trying to cheat all the time. As a result, they’re giving up way too many high-danger chances. Circling back to my first point, Ilya Sorokin, we’re not worthy.
- On the other hand, it was the end of a road trip. A four-gamer isn’t too long, but it’s not short either. And it was sort of a bizarre trek: It started with one game in Ontario before going home for one day, and then they flew to the American South and back to Ontario; the last three games came in a five-day span. Not sure how the schedule-makers came up with that one.
- Local boys Casey Cizikas and Adam Pelech had a little more than just a five o’clock shadow, so Lou probably isn’t on this particular road trip.
- Josh Bailey and Cal Clutterbuck were also making their annual homecoming. Bailey celebrated the occasion with a gift of a goal. And in his hometown, Clutterbuck made history by taking over first place all-time (all-time = since they started counting them in the 2000s) from Dustin Brown.
- Game-winner Anthony Beauvillier looked relieved at the end of the game. And he liked Thomas Hickey’s suit.
Beau showing love to Hick's drip pic.twitter.com/uJ4VE3jZvu— Isles on MSGSN (@IslesMSGN) November 22, 2022
The Islanders get to go home before the holiday, hosting the Edmonton Oilers on Thanksgiving Eve at 7:30 p.m. ET. The Oilers will be coming off their 5-2 loss to the New Jersey Devils tonight, extending the Devils’ win streak to 13 games. I am sick of the Devils.