What is with this team?
For the third time in this young season, the New York Islanders entered the second intermission trailing 3-1, and emerged from the next period celebrating a regulation win.
This time the victims were an extra degree of delicious, as Islanders fans celebrated in front of their despondent rivals inside the hollow soul of Madison Square Garden. The 4-3 Isles win turned with a pair of sudden sequences in the final period, leaving the Rangers to glide off their home ice with stunned expressions amid a soundtrack of Isles chants.
Historically and trivially speaking, it was the first time in franchise history that the Islanders won consecutive games after trailing by multiple goals at the second intermission. But as to this current team and this current season, it offered that combination of hope at their resilience and puzzlement at their uneven play from period to period.
images that precede legendary events pic.twitter.com/oraGvh1SEG— Isles on MSGSN (@IslesMSGN) November 9, 2022
First Period: Much better start
Unlike Monday’s comeback win over the Flames, the Isles did not look outmatched all night before they came alive. The first period was a good one, or at least an evenly played one, if a little highwire from both sides.
The Islanders actually opened scoring at 6:04, a much-needed conversion for the second power play unit when Kyle Palmieri alertly pounced on the rebound of a Ryan Pulock shot.
The Rangers tied it five minutes later, after an extended shift in the Isles zone enabled a nice one-timer conversion from the slot by Filip Chytil.
To reach the intermission tied 1-1 was a bummer, but felt completely fair. Alas, Casey Cizikas took a high-sticking penalty off a faceoff with seven seconds left in the period, and that would foreshadow rough times ahead.
Second Period: Penalties, and more penalties
The determination to conduct things differently did not carry past the first intermission, as this time it was the second period where the Islanders looked flat and outmatched.
A big part of it was an inability to stay out of the box. On the power play that carried over from the first period, the Rangers converted quickly, just 22 seconds in. Chris Kreider was the culprit, finishing a very nice Rangers breakout by beating J-G Pageau to Varlamov’s backdoor.
A minute later, Anthony Beauvillier was in the box for hooking. The Isles killed it, but the disruption to their first period flow was set. Oliver Wahlstrom was sent off at 7:53 for interference, and the Islanders killed that off too, including an amazing replay-causing shot that trickled and wobbled on the back fraction of the line, but never fully crossed.
Two minutes later, Casey Cizikas went off for tripping. The Isles were five seconds shy of killing that one when Varlamov made a glove save, thought he had it to freeze play, but it popped out, possibly due to a stick battle between Scott Mayfield and Kreider. Vincent Trocheck pounced on the newly loose puck and lifted a backhand into the top corner to make it 3-1.
Asked #Isles Scott Mayfield about the exchange between him and Varlamov that led to Trocheck's PPG.— Andrew Gross (@AGrossNewsday) November 9, 2022
Mayfield said he was facing the play and wasn't sure where the puck was but knew Chris Kreider had his stick in the crease so he tried to hit Kreider's stick.
The penalties stopped at that point, but the damage was done and the Isles never really got their game back for the rest of the period, which ended up being a 17-6 shot differential favoring the home team.
Third Period: They did it again?!
So the talk at the intermission was: Well, that period was ugly, and this is not where the Isles want to be, but...they’ve been here before and come out winners.
#Isles Kyle Palmieri: "There's a lot of belief in our group and in our room, and we were confident. We got into some penalty trouble there in the second. I think there are some things to like about our game and some things we have to do better."— Andrew Gross (@AGrossNewsday) November 9, 2022
If they were going to make another comeback attempt, it would sure help to get an early goal, and that’s exactly what Adam Pelech provided, just 14 seconds in. The Isles won the opening faceoff, Zach Parise won the dump and chase battle, and Kyle Palmieri slipped the puck out to Pelech in the slot, where he beat Igor Shesterkin high.
The Isles were back within a goal, and things were played fairly carefully. But Varlamov had possibly the pivotal save of the game to keep it within one, when he stopped Jimmy Vesey on a clearcut breakaway:
Varly with the huge stop to keep this at a 1 goal game pic.twitter.com/ve1bPatNlj— Isles on MSGSN (@IslesMSGN) November 9, 2022
The struggling power play got another chance at 11:42 when Chytil went to the box for hooking, and this time Brock Nelson converted to tie the game on a one-timer.
Brock Nelson ties it up on the power play!! pic.twitter.com/zmzboR4j8I— Isles on MSGSN (@IslesMSGN) November 9, 2022
Okay, great comeback, again, but surely we can’t count on another regulation win from all this? Before we could finish that thought, the Islanders were ahead.
Less than two minutes after Nelson’s equalizer, Anders Lee pounced on a broken play to give the Islanders the lead at 14:30. It came after a lucky break for the Islanders, as Oliver Wahlstrom probably should’ve been called for tripping on a board battle in the Rangers zone.
The Rangers might’ve even let up on the play, but Alex Romanov and Lee didn’t. Romanov intercepted at the point as Lee broke from the corner to the net. He received Romanov’s pass and slipped it around Shesterkin for what would hold up as the game winner.
“Oh my goodness” says Butch Goring during the play-by-play as the goal goes in:
The Rangers pulled for a sixth attacker with two minutes left, and though the Isles played that stretch well, the Rangers did get a few very dangerous looks. But for the most part, they did not let Adam Fox walk the puck down low to set up one-timers, and they did not leave Mika Zibanejad any space for a one-timer or backdoor conversion.
Somehow, someway, the Isles prevailed from a third-period losing position on back-to-back nights.
This time, they couldn’t have picked a better place to do it, in the world’s most frivolous arena.
The Isles actually get a one-day “break” before Thursday’s meeting with the Coyotes, who won in Buffalo tonight.