An odd game, in which the New York Islanders were close but playing with fire, blew up in their hands, beyond the reach of a late three-goal comeback.
Once again and frustratingly so, this Islanders team faced a weak or struggling opponent and let them off the hook. The St. Louis Blues, who walked away as 7-4 victors, entered amid another losing spell and bleeding goals. They were playing on back-to-back nights, and announced shortly before the game they’d lost key contributors Pavel Buchnevich and Torey Krug.
Though the Islanders had a strong first two periods and arguably should’ve had the lead, they entered the second intermission trailing 3-1, with an uncharacteristic poor night from Ilya Sorokin extending that deficit to 5-1 by the fourth minute of the third period.
The Isles ultimately pulled to within one, thanks to some nice work and nicer bounces, but two empty-net goals put the game away. Thomas Greiss stopped 36 for the visitors; Sorokin gave up five on 28 shots.
These nights and strange turns happen, understandably so in a long season. But it’s getting annoying to see the Isles lose again to very beatable teams. But yeah, they’re still 16-11 and being annoyed is a luxury, I suppose, particularly given preseason expectations and fears.
It was a fairly even first period but arguably tilted the Isles’ way (shots: 13-6 for NYI), but the Blues struck first, and late in the period, on a clean shot by Josh Leivo on a two-on-one. But it took less than a minute for the Isles to equalize, at 17:52, as Noah Dobson kept the puck in the zone, then read the play well to pinch in to the low slot. He beat his man to a great pass by Mathew Barzal to send the teams to the locker room tied 1-1.
Dobson's 8th of the year! pic.twitter.com/UyUh1eIL1J— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) December 7, 2022
The middle period was where it started to feel like portents of doom lurked, despite the Isles having some good extended periods of pressure. Just 3:50 in, Scott Mayfield missed a keep-in at the point to allow a two-on-one, where rookie William Bitten found Ivan Barbashev for a one-timer past Sorokin to give the Blues the lead.
Things stayed 2-1 until late when Ryan O’Reilly made a nice play from behind the net, was allowed to dive for his own rebound and sweep it past Sorokin.
Instead of hitting the second intermission tied, or down just a goal, it was now a 3-1 deficit. But the Islanders have been a big third-period team, and the Blues were coming off blowing a third-period lead across town the night before. There was still hope.
And that’s where the Isles needed a save or two from Sorokin. The fourth goal, by Noel Acciari at 3:37, was a deflection and hard to blame Sorokin specifically.
But it was compounded 13 seconds later by a should-be-harmless knuckler from Colton Parayko that made it 5-1.
At that point, the night should’ve been over, but the Blues, as noted, are a fragile team who bleed goals in bunches.
Zach Parise got one back quickly, a perfect far-post shot while streaking down the left wing. Greiss got a piece of it with his glove but it still clanged in off the far post for Parise’s 9th(!) of the season.
That was at 5:36 and it was another nine minutes before the Isles made things uncomfortable for the visitors. Hudson Fasching (who had another nicely effective game) got his first goal as an Islander, a deflection in front from a Matt Martin point shot.
Just 21 seconds later, the Isles really turned the screws when J-G Pageau’s wraparound try took a lucky bounce off Rob Thomas’ (“I will, I will”) skate and past Greiss. With just five minutes to go and a four-goal lead reduced to one, it was the perfect setup to complete another Blues implosion.
Instead, they called timeout, managed the empty net well, and potted two insurance goals with ease.
Comeback over, and a homestand that had every reason to conclude 3-0 instead ends with a thud.
The easy stretch is over: The Isles visit the streaking and terrifying Devils on Friday.