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Islanders 6, Canucks 3: Five-goal first period keys Isles win in first game post-All-Star break

Barry Trotz switched up his lines, and it paid immediate dividends.

NHL: FEB 09 Islanders at Canucks
Awesome for Barzy to score in front of family and friends.
Photo by Derek Cain/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Following their awful loss to the Seattle Kraken last Wednesday going into the All-Star Break, Barry Trotz blasted the New York Islanders, which he rarely does. Seems like the message was received.

Against the Vancouver Canucks, the Islanders raced out to a 3-0 lead before the game was four minutes old and took a 5-0 lead in the first period before the Canucks could score.

The Canucks, of course, were going to press after getting embarrassed like that and watching their goalie, a former Islander, get yanked. They made it close, shortening their deficit to two goals. But they got no closer, and the Islanders added a little insurance late to seal the deal.

Lineup Notes

Before the puck dropped, when the Islanders came out for warm-ups, Trotz rolled out four lines that infuriated everyone, myself included.

“I mean, what are you supposed to do with that?” I wrote during warm-ups, foolishly.

Ilya Sorokin started for the Islanders, while old friend Jaroslav Halak made a rare start against a former team—talk about foreshadowing.

[Game Sum | Event Sum | NHL Gamecenter | Natural Stat Trick | HockeyViz]

First Period: Wow

To say that the Islanders got off to a quick start might be underselling it just a little bit. And you had to flip to TruTV to find it because the Nashville PredatorsDallas Stars game ran a little long. A lot happened while the game was still on TruTV.

First, Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Matt Martin escaped on a two-on-none, but Martin could not beat Halak. Halak did not have to make too difficult a save on Martin’s floater, but it wasn’t long before it became clear as to why Halak doesn’t start against his old teams. (I don’t remember off the top of my head if he had a similar meltdown as an Isle.)

On the next rush down into the Vancouver zone, Noah Dobson cruised behind the goal and found Zach Parise. Halak stopped Parise’s first try, but Parise pushed it through. 1-0 Islanders only 3:25 into the game.

Right after the goal, Ross Johnston fought and bloodied Luke Schenn. Following the very next whistle, Adam Pelech fired a shot from the point that was deflected on the way by Brock Nelson but was originally credited to Pelech. That goal, which was eventually awarded to Nelson, came just 18 seconds after the first goal.

But that wasn’t all. Only 13 seconds after the second goal, the Islanders made it 3-0. Cal Clutterbuck got the puck to Ryan Pulock, who threw the puck toward the goal. It bounced off of Anders Lee’s skate and past Halak.

Somehow, despite conceding three goals in just 31 seconds, Halak did not get the hook when Canucks coach Bruce Boudreau called timeout. That did not work out in the Canucks’ favor. Oh, and it was time to flip back to TNT.

Casey Cizikas was next up on the scoresheet. With under seven minutes left, Anthony Beauvillier won the battle on the forecheck and sent a beautiful pass from the right half-wall to Cizikas waiting on the left post. Cizikas basically deflected it with his backhand over Halak. Four-to-zero Islanders.

And then, for a little more insult to injury, Mathew Barzal converted a mini-breakaway after catching a little tip pass from Lee, catching the puck on edge and tipping it off Halak’s shoulder and in. 5-0 Islanders with more than three minutes remaining in the period.

Boudreau gave in and pulled Halak for Thatcher Demko, who played just one night before. The Canucks, finally awake, got one goal back before the end of the period. There was a little chaos in front of Sorokin, and a rebound popped out to Oliver Ekman-Larsson. He wound up and let go as Nils Höglander screened Sorokin, who never saw it. 5-1 into the intermission.

Second Period: Uh-Oh

Early in the second period, with the puck on edge, Oliver Wahlstrom went for the lacrosse-style goal, or “The Michigan.” Unfortunately, the puck rolled off his stick blade before he could complete it.

With the score at 5-1, it would make sense that the Canucks started to press—score effects, as they call it. But the Islanders took a too-many-men bench minor to give Vancouver the first power play of the game, which they killed.

Around the middle of the period, Zdeno Chara went to the box for interference. Cizikas and Clutterbuck nearly combined for a shorthanded chance, but then Parise and Pageau actually did combine for a shorthanded chance, a two-on-none. Parise carried the puck and dished to Pageau at the last second, but Demko sprawled out to make the save.

Shortly after the Islanders killed the second power play, Clutterbuck crushed former Islanders draft pick Kyle Burroughs, who has bounced between the AHL and NHL this season. But on the same shift, Elias Pettersson’s excellent individual effort put the Canucks within three goals. He carried from behind the net and danced around both Pulock and Sorokin, flashing some of the brilliance he initially displayed when landing in the NHL.

Just a minute and a half later, the Islanders gave up another goal, this time to Schenn. He floated a shot from the point, and Cizikas deflected it past Sorokin. The Canucks then sat only two goals behind the Islanders, who again at one point led 5-0.

Now buzzing, Höglander, Vasily Podkolzin, and Tyler Myers all in quick succession had chances that forced Sorokin to move side-to-side. These chances came around the 3:00-minute mark. In the final minute, Pettersson had another scary chance, one that went off Sorokin’s mask and popped off a strap. All the while, 38-year-old Andy Greene was on the ice during a three-and-a-half-minute shift.

Third Period: Phew

Sorokin made two big saves on successive chances early in the period, and then he robbed Alex Chiasson in tight.

As Pageau went to battle in the corner, he collided with J.T. Miller, earning himself a tripping penalty. However, as Miller fell, his stick caught Pageau up high and cut him. In the end, Pageau went to the box with a minor for tripping while Miller went to the box with double-minor for high-sticking—gotta maintain control of your sticks, guys—and the Islanders got a power play, their first man advantage of the game.

The Islanders generated some opportunities, but Demko was there to stop them all, and Sorokin had to stop the Canucks on a three-on-two as the power play ended. But New York seemed to have regained control of the game after that chance, skating out good shifts for the first time arguably since the first period.

And then, sweet relief: Cizikas caught Myers sleeping a little chasing down a non-icing clear and lifted his stick to steal the puck. Martin followed behind Cizikas, and Cizikas found him all alone in front of the crease. Finally, the Islanders solved Demko and got some insurance.

6-3 was the final score.

Notes and Thoughts

  • That was a wild first period. I believe those three goals in 31 seconds were the fastest three goals in team history, It was the Islanders’ first five-goal period since 1996 against the Winnipeg Jets—you know, the old Winnipeg Jets, who are now the Arizona Coyotes. Relatedly, man, Halak really does not like playing his former teams.
  • UPDATE: Brendan Burke was right on the broadcast, even though his network’s graphic was not—that was the second-fastest three-goal spurt in Islanders history, as they pulled off three goals in 27 seconds in October 1983 against the Rangers.
  • I’m happy that Barzal scored in front of his family and friends. He pointed to them when he did score, and it was the first time you could hear anything resembling cheers in the building tonight. When the TNT crew interviewed him post-game, he seemed in high spirits. He was trash-talking Paul Bissonnette’s skating and Matt Martin’s front-running Super Bowl pick and was ready to challenge Jordan Kyrou for Fastest Skater. Love to see the personality, too. He had the desk cracking up, Wayne Gretzky especially.
  • Now, normally, when a team takes a 5-0 first-period lead, the game is in the bag. And arguably, this game was never in doubt. But I will say that after Vancouver made it 5-3, I could clearly envision a third-period collapse, perhaps even accelerated if the Canucks managed to grab another one before the second period ended. I am glad that my fears did not come to fruition. I am not glad about how close this game was despite the early throttling.
  • However it happened, the Islanders got back to NHL .500 at 17-17-6. They have nine games in hand on the Washington Capitals, who have had goaltending troubles, and four games in hand on the Boston Bruins, who are without Patrice Bergeron due to injury, Brad Marchand due to his never-ending stupidity, and Tuukka Rask, who decided he just doesn’t have it anymore. I don’t think it’ll happen, but you never know.
  • I am a fan of the TNT broadcast, though it may have something to do with the fact that two Isles MSG+ broadcasters—Brendan Burke and Anson Carter—worked tonight. Not to mention Carter and Rick Tocchet still believe that the Islanders have a chance at a playoff spot.

Up Next

The Islanders continue their swing through Western Canada with a weekend in Alberta. Friday, they’ll visit the Edmonton Oilers at 9:00 p.m. ET; Saturday, they’ll face the Calgary Flames at 10:00 p.m. ET.