The first two periods and the first few minutes of the third would have given the impression that the New York Islanders were entering a funk that persisted over the last two games. But something is happening with these New York Islanders, and they pulled off another multi-goal comeback against a team that one could consider a Stanley Cup contender.
The Calgary Flames, in a malaise of their own after a torrid start and making its first road trip of the season, were ripe for a good game to turn things around. And they brought that game. It looked like they were going to get that turnaround game. The Islanders were probably lucky to steal this win away from them (thank you to Ilya Sorokin for making a ton of saves to keep the deficit minimal), but we’ll take it.
For the second game in a row, the Islanders came out pretty flat, though this time the visitors’ desperation to end their losing streak and commitment to how Darryl Sutter wants them to play seemed to have more to do with it.
As recent Islander Thomas Hickey noted during the MSG intermission, the Flames were playing heavy along the boards, making the Isles work and not giving them much time to do in a very Sutter-esque way.
The dam finally broke midway through the first, when Mikael Backlund opened scoring for the Flames. He was surrounded by three Islanders in the low slot, but covered by none of them, through a bit of miscommunication after an Isles turnover and a series of attempts and blocked shots.
That didn’t exactly wake the Islanders up, but a good backcheck and fast counter from Mathew Barzal led the Isles up ice to tie the game just 1:10 after Backlund’s goal. Sebastian Aho was the scorer, jumping into space as the fourth man and really nicely found by Barzal.
The Flames regained the lead four minutes later off of an offensive zone faceoff. After circling the net behind Sorokin, a Noah Hanifin point shot went through traffic and received an evil mid-slot deflection by Elias Lindholm. Calgary took that 2-1 lead into the first intermission.
The Islanders were lucky to escape the first period trailing only by a goal, and the theme for the middle period was: More of the same. They only conceded once, but it could’ve been more if not for Sorokin, and they never really threatened on offense.
The mood in the building could not have been duller. It felt as though the Flames were going to use this game to snap out of their funk and put the Islanders, who would have dropped the last two games in lackluster showings, into one of their own.
Through two periods, they were being outshot 30-12. They ended the period with a power play, the game’s first opportunity for either team. But as so often happens, the intermission undercuts the ability to trap the same killers in the zone. The first half was ineffective.
The second half of the power play was also ineffective. What makes a power play to start the period even worse, in the Isles’ case, is the fact that the faceoff is at center ice instead of in the offensive zone. They struggle badly to enter the zone, and they spent basically the whole remaining advantage attempting the entry.
With nothing going whatsoever, Lane Lambert threw his lines in a blender; they had been shuffled a bit already due to a first-period injury to Cal Clutterbuck (more on that below). Barzal took a couple of spins with Brock Nelson and Anders Lee that resulted in what was probably the Islanders’ first sustained and dangerous zone time, and then a goal.
Coming in on the rush, Nelson trailed behind for Barzal to find him in soft space. Nelson fired a wrister through traffic that Markstrom slowed, but it squeezed through him. Lee, from his desk chair, tapped it home for good measure. That cut the Flames’ lead to one and woke the crowd.
2 goals in :59 and UBS is ROCKING pic.twitter.com/rw2tv4RgON— Isles on MSGSN (@IslesMSGN) November 8, 2022
And just under a minute later, the building exploded again. PA Alex Anthony had just begun announcing Lee’s goal when Kyle Palmieri recovered the puck and snapped it on Markstrom. It slipped under his pad and tied it up at 3-3.
TIED? TIED (TWEET SENT WITH SLAM EFFECT) pic.twitter.com/PBCWXaOJCK— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) November 8, 2022
The Flames had a couple of good looks to regain the lead in regulation, but Sorokin shut the door every time. The Islanders earned a point despite playing only 14 of 60 minutes and sent a game to overtime for the first time this season.
Also, the Isles seemed to try to be messing with Markstrom; Lee got in his face at one point and made him look visibly mad earlier in the period, and then Casey Cizikas bumped with him behind the net just before the horn sounded.
It was our first look at Lambert’s overtime strategy during the regular season. He started with J-G Pageau and Zach Parise, presumably because Pageau is good on faceoffs. They had a chance to get to the net, but they couldn’t convert.
Sorokin, again, was fantastic—when is he not, really?—this time slamming the door in overtime on a clean, point-blank look for Elias Lindholm.
Ilya Sorokin is a New York Islander pic.twitter.com/3tcQcernEC— Isles on MSGSN (@IslesMSGN) November 8, 2022
While the Islanders were messing with Markstrom, teammates always stand up for their goalies, which is what Rasmus Andersson must have thought he was doing when he needlessly bumped Adam Pelech into the goalpost next to Sorokin. He was called for interference with 1:45 to go, so the end of the game if it got that far.
But it didn’t, thanks to Barzal and Noah Dobson. The two of them skated with Lee and Pageau. After one near-miss was picked up by Calgary, they attempted to clear the zone, but Dobson made another elite keep-in. They passed around until Barzal fed Dobson for the right one-timer that sent the arena into a frenzy.
Notes and Thoughts
- Steve here: I was at the game with my father and brother for my brother’s birthday. That was a pretty good way to celebrate. The Islanders came back from a multi-goal deficit against one of the league’s top teams for the second home game in a row.
- Barzal is on another level this season. He added three more assists tonight. He’s showing vision we haven’t seen from him since his rookie year. He may never score another goal again, but he could be at an assist-per-game. Hopefully, the shots begin to fall, since he is shooting more than ever before.
- What more can you say about Sorokin that hasn’t already been said? The man is a goaltending wizard.
- The first 46 minutes of this game were downright ugly. The Flames skated circles around the Islanders. Then, the Barzal-Nelson-Lee line worked and the rest of the team got it together enough to get to overtime. It doesn’t seem like a line that Lambert can keep together since Barzal and Nelson are both important centers, but it’s a nice one to have in the back pocket for late-game load-ups like Crosby/Malkin or, more prominently now, McDavid/Draisaitl.
- Cal Clutterbuck departed the game in the first period after a collision with Nikita Zadorov and did not return when the second period began. He was out for the remainder and there was no update on him.
The Isles are right back at it tomorrow night at the Garden for their second meeting with the Smurfs.