Semyon Varlamov notched his first shutout of the season as the New York Islanders ended their two-game skid with a complete game against a team they should beat (even though the Rangers couldn’t), a 3-0 professional dispatching of the Chicago Blackhawks.
The Blackhawks were coming off a 5-2 win over the Smurfs the previous night, but that was the Central cellar-dwellers first win in nine games.
Matt Martin, Zach Parise and Brock Nelson each scored at 5-on-5 in just over a six-minute span in the second period, and that essentially put the game away.
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The Hawks were without Petr Mrazek, who left Saturday night’s game with an injury, although with the back-to-back it was likely to be Arvid Soderblom’s start anyway. The Isles threw 40 shots at Soderblom, breaking through in the middle of the second when they peppered him with 20.
He’d made a few nice stops, including one on Oliver Wahlstrom and a couple on J-G Pageau, so this wasn’t the case of the Isles feasting on a backup goalie; more so feasting on a weak team.
Varlamov made some solid saves early on when the game was in doubt, then his toughest stops came late as time wound down and the Hawks tried to break the shutout.
The game opened with some frontier justice/debt repayment, as Casey Cizikas was challenged to a fight by Reese Johnson. You might recall Cizikas was tossed early from the teams’ November meeting when he ran through Alex Stalock, knocking the goalie from the game with a concussion that he still has not returned from. (Stalock is expected back soon, however.) It was a spirited fight, with Cizikas getting some licks in late.
Even at 0-0 it felt like a game the Isles were likely to eventually control, barring some foolishness, and Matt Martin got them started at 8:58 of the second with a goal that no one other than Martin realized had crossed the line. An intervention and replay review put the goal up on the board.
MARTIN. 1-0 pic.twitter.com/eujJtE06uZ— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) December 5, 2022
A little over 5:30 later, Adam Pelech walked in from the left boards and sent the puck toward the net, where Parise was screening and converting a nice deflection:
Parise on the doorstep! pic.twitter.com/dwhQnOPtYJ— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) December 5, 2022
Just 43 seconds later, a really nice breakout for the third goal: Nelson to Anders Lee, who touched to Anthony Beauvillier, who set up Nelson for a blistering one-timer to the top corner:
a beauty makes it 3-0! pic.twitter.com/aqgbjPl8P7— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) December 5, 2022
The third period was largely a formality, with the Islanders confidently slowing things down while burning the clock down. They drew one penalty — just their second power play, and one of only three total in the game — at the midway point and worked the puck around well but did not add to their tally.
No matter, two points in the bank to move to 16-10 and keep pace with the Hurricanes, who are one point ahead.
Tuesday brings another struggling Central team from the Midwest, as the Blues visit for the teams’ second and final meeting of the year. After that, a visit to Newark and the Devils looms on Friday.