On a night that the New York Islanders needed two points, they got them. Against the Ottawa Senators, who once again have taken up residence in the NHL’s basement apartment, anything less would have been unacceptable.
Powered by goals from Anthony Beauvillier, Oliver Wahlstrom, Mathew Barzal, and Adam Pelech, the Islanders rebounded after conceding a fluky goal in the first two minutes of the game. They now sit at 38 points through 38 games—or a perfect NHL .500 record.
It reiterates what has been clear about this team in 2021–22: They are a clear cut above the bottom-feeders but a clear cut below the playoff line.
The Islanders finally welcomed back to the lineup Ryan Pulock. He had not played since breaking his foot blocking a shot on his first shift in the final game of the season-opening 13-game road trip; that means that yes, this game was his first-ever game at UBS Arena.
To activate him, the Islanders reassigned Robin Salo to the taxi squad. I have to say that I wholly disagree with sitting Salo, but I am disappointed to say that I am not at all surprised about it. Pulock lined up next to Andy Greene on the third pair and played just over 15:00, the lowest among Isles’ defensemen.
Ilya Sorokin started in goal for New York, while Anton Forsberg did the same for Ottawa.
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First Period: Quick Goal Against Erased
The Islanders found themselves behind at 1:56 of the game. The Senators got the puck deep, and Tyler Ennis fed Nick Holden cutting into some open ice from the blue line. Sorokin stopped the defenseman’s initial shot, but the puck popped up and bounced off his back and over the goal line. Holden, never much of an offensive defenseman, received credit for his second goal of the season.
Despite falling into an early hole, the Islanders persevered and maintained pressure throughout the period. They earned two power plays for their efforts. Though they did not convert on the first penalty by Josh Brown, the Isles did score on their second opportunity, granted when Clark Bishop took down Pulock.
Beauvillier fed Noah Dobson, who wound up a slap shot from the point. That shot created a rebound that Josh Bailey scooped up and threw back toward the crease. Brock Nelson and Zach Parise both got a piece of the puck before Beauvillier cleaned it up and put it home with just 0:03 left on the power play. Tie game, 1-1, heading into the first intermission.
Tied at 1! pic.twitter.com/PsmIeAhT84— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) February 2, 2022
Five-hole. pic.twitter.com/CUOmgBJ9wF— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) February 2, 2022
Second Period: More Strong Play
New York did not let up into the second period, in part because Sorokin gave them a boost. With the game still tied, Alex Formenton blew past Pulock and deked Sorokin to get him moving side-to-side. However, Sorokin went into a split to get his glove on the shot to keep the game knotted at 1-1.
Sorokie flashes the leather pic.twitter.com/d2MKFSwlt0— Isles on MSG+ (@IslesMSGN) February 2, 2022
Then, they received some offense from the Old and the Young. Dobson got the puck to Zdeno Chara, who fired on Forsberg. Wahlstrom tipped that shot, but Forsberg made the initial save. However, Wahlstrom gathered the rebound and tapped it past the Ottawa goaltender to give the Islanders a lead they would not give up.
Wahlstrom in front. Boom. 2-1. pic.twitter.com/hy7KTsGCsj— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) February 2, 2022
They added to their lead somewhat unexpectedly; it shocked me, at least. Anders Lee battled along the boards until he could find Scott Mayfield at the right point. Mayfield spotted Barzal at the lower edge of the left face-off circle and fed him a seed that Barzal could not help but one-time. It was so gorgeous. I could watch it over and over again.
ONE-TIMER ALERT— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) February 2, 2022
ONE-TIMER ALERT pic.twitter.com/mb8ln9ISw8
The vision. The goal. pic.twitter.com/MAmkLzJOFJ— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) February 2, 2022
The Islanders entered the last intermission sitting pretty with a two-goal lead.
Third Period: Elementary
The third period largely belonged to the Islanders, despite the shot counter. It did not feel like Ottawa ever really threatened anything serious.
For a little icing on the cake, the Islanders’ current top pair (I think?) combined for another pretty goal.
The teams skated four-on-four after a curious chain of tripping penalties incurred by Bishop against Dobson and Matt Martin against Bishop. With the open ice, Mayfield had the chance to earn another worthy primary assist, this time finding his defense partner cutting across the middle. Pelech cruised toward the crease from the left point, took Mayfield’s pass, put it on his backhand, and roofed it over Forsberg.
┻┳|— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) February 2, 2022
┻┳| •.•) Psssst.....
┳┻|⊂ﾉ PELECH BACKHAND
Notes and Thoughts
- As I have said a lot over the last few weeks, I’m glad that the Islanders have won the games that they have needed to win against some of the weaker teams on the schedule. They needed to win those games to have a shot at the playoffs. The problem remains that they have not won the games that they maybe shouldn’t have won, the games against actually good teams.
- Pulock looked a little rusty, but that’s understandable. Glad to see him back on the ice.
- Palmieri took a needless minor penalty for the second straight game. He also played a team-low 11:34, even less than Wahlstrom.
One more Islanders game before the break: They host the Seattle Kraken tomorrow night at 7:00 p.m. to make up for the game that wasn’t on Saturday afternoon.