In true Islanders fashion, after a wildly disappointing loss to Arizona, they come away with a win against the Pacific Division leaders. In this 3-game stretch, if someone told you the Isles would be 1-1-1, you’d probably expect it given the competition, but... just not the way it played out.
Kyle Palmieri and Cal Clutterbuck were late scratches, both ruled day to day with upper body injuries, which is definitely concerning, especially for Palmieri, who took a high hit from Nick Ritchie in Arizona. In their place, Hudson Fasching and Simon Holmstrom came into the lineup, and made the most of their opportunities, each scoring big goals.
[NHL Gamecenter | Game Summary | Event Summary | Natural Stat Trick | HockeyViz]
The game started out somewhat timid, with nothing too dangerous for the first 7 minutes or so for each team.
Then things picked up, as Semyon Varlamov made a great save on Nicolas Roy, and then Logan Thompson made a great save to keep the Islanders off the board.
William Carrier was called for interference for a big hit on Robin Salo, but the Islanders power play was pretty ineffective for its first 40 seconds, before Mat Barzal was called for hooking.
No one scored on the 4 on 4 or the subsequent Vegas power play, but a few minutes later, Anthony Beauvillier made a great pass to Anders Lee, who one timed it from the slot past Thompson to make it 1-0 Islanders.
WHAT A SETUP FOR LEE pic.twitter.com/KGh2HAkHkG— Isles on MSGSN (@IslesMSGN) December 18, 2022
At the very end of the period, Casey Cizikas went to the box for boarding Jonas Rondbjerg, a pretty unnecessary hit.
Just over a minute into the second, Vegas would tie the game as Reilly Smith scored a power play goal through a crowded Islanders crease after beating Brock Nelson to the puck.
After that goal, the period was all Vegas, with Varlamov really keeping the Islanders in it with some big saves.
Then, against the run of play, Hudson Fasching got the puck from Sebastian Aho and on an amazing solo effort scored on Thompson to give the Islanders their lead again.
Just give it to Fasching and let him do the work— Isles on MSGSN (@IslesMSGN) December 18, 2022
Isles lead 2-1 pic.twitter.com/YQZOW8JKaq
Vegas kept pushing after Fasching’s goal, and the Isles continued to struggle to clear the puck out of the zone and sustain offense. Finally, they started to get a little bit of pressure on Vegas, sustaining a few good shifts in their zone. JG Pageau prevented a Golden Knights clearing attempt with his skate, getting the puck to Zach Parise, who passed it off to Simon Holmstrom, who shot it past Thompson for his first NHL goal.
Pager with the soccer play to keep it in and it's Holmstrom's first NHL pic.twitter.com/CnNkbcrfJV— Isles on MSGSN (@IslesMSGN) December 18, 2022
After that, Cizikas’s end of the period adventures continued, this time in a potentially beneficial way, as he rifled the puck past Thompson as time ran out. At first, it was called a goal, but on further review, time had already run out before the puck crossed the line, keeping the score at 3-1 going into the third.
Vegas came out strong, earning a power play as Fasching went to the box for holding. Smith scored again to cut the Isles lead to just a goal.
Alex Pietrangelo was called for tripping, sending the Isles to the power play, and they had one good shot that nearly created a shorthanded chance the other way for Vegas.
The Isles went through a long stretch with just not being able to clear the puck and not getting any pressure at all, forcing Varlamov to make some big saves on Chandler Stevenson, Michael Amadio, and Jake Leschyshyn. At one point during the period, Vegas was so dominant that shots were 11-1, with the only shot for the Islanders coming on the power play.
Mark Stone was hit by a shot from Phil Kessel, and then twisted around and fell to the ice, unable to put weight on his left foot. It looked like a very serious injury, but Stone returned to the ice a few minutes later.
Reilly Smith went looking for his hat trick, but hit the crossbar. After that, the Islanders were finally able to break out a little bit, with Josh Bailey getting a partial breakaway that forced him into a backhand that went wide.
After a TV timeout, Varlamov left the game, bringing Ilya Sorokin in for the last 6 and a half minutes of the game. The Isles did a good job protecting a cold Sorokin, and eventually Vegas pulled Thompson for the extra skater. Brock Nelson nearly scored but had his shot blocked, before he eventually was able to net the insurance goal to make it 4-2 with a minute and a half left. Then, Nelson and Parise were on a 2 on 1, and Nelson passed it off so that Parise could score in the empty net to make it 5-2.
- Congrats to Simon Holmstrom for his first NHL goal. He’s looked more and more comfortable playing with Pageau and Parise and really is in the mix for a regular NHL spot.
- It was good to see Anders Lee get on the board. One of the big issues for the Isles has been the captain struggling as of late, especially on the power play where he just hasn’t been as lethal deflecting pucks.
- This still wasn’t a flawless performance by any means, though. The Isles were outshot 38-26, relying on Varlamov heavily for long stretches of time. Some of that is certainly due to Adam Pelech’s absence, but the defense just hasn’t been very good this year.
Next, the Islanders continue their road trip and head to Colorado to take on the Avalanche on Monday. You might remember the last meeting between these two teams, where the Islanders staged a major comeback against the Avalanche after going down 3-0 to win the game 5-3. Another (maybe less stressful) win would be great!