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Sharks 4*, Islanders 3 (*SO): Chara makes history, and Isles play well, but they lose the gimmick

They deserved to win. But that’s the way it goes sometimes.

New York Islanders v San Jose Sharks
The big man celebrated his big night with a decisive fight.
Photo by Kavin Mistry/NHLI

The New York Islanders hoped to carry over their strong play and success from Tuesday night’s visit to the Seattle Kraken. They certainly carried over the strong play, putting forth one of their best efforts of the season. The Isles created dangerous chances and recorded 47 shots on goal.

But the San Jose Sharks experienced the success. They broke a seven-game winless streak with a win in the shootout, largely due to James Reimer’s excellent goaltending. Sometimes, you just don’t get the breaks.

Big ‘Z’ Earns Another Distinction

Tonight, Zdeno Chara suited up for his 1,652nd NHL regular-season game, passing the similarly legendary Chris Chelios for most games played by a defenseman all-time. It was a momentous occasion, even through the bleary eyes that stem from watching west coast hockey.

His team produced a lovely video for him—and I’m sure will honor him when he returns home—and even the home team offered a tribute.

Lineup Notes

Oliver Wahlstrom returned to the lineup, now 100% healthy. Someone had to be the odd man out, and that man out was Josh Bailey. He was a healthy scratch for the first time since November 2015.

Kieffer Bellows remained in, true to Barry Trotz’s hint. Sebastian Aho also stayed in the lineup with Andy Greene on the sidelines.

Ilya Sorokin started his eighth straight game for the Islanders, while James Reimer manned the San Jose crease.

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

First Period

History was made when the puck dropped in San Jose. Chara, alongside his partner, Noah Dobson—who was born more than two years after Chara’s NHL debut—started the game.

On his second shift, Chara drew a high-sticking penalty by Matt Nieto. But the Islanders did not generate much; if anything, the kill gave the Sharks some juice, culminating in a breakaway for Tomas Hertl. He solved Sorokin, but the crossbar bested him.

Jacob Middleton took down Brock Nelson to give the Islanders’ power play another chance to redeem themselves. They did not, continuing to look a little sluggish. But shortly after the man advantage ended, Casey Cizikas took a fortunate bounce in the slot and put it off the mask of Reimer.

Cizikas’s chance seemed to kickstart the Islanders at five-on-five, and all of a sudden, it was the Sharks who looked a little sluggish. With the Isles pressing and rushing back up ice, Scott Mayfield took a shot from the point, and Nelson won his battle in the slot and tipped it off of Reimer.

Sorokin made a big save right after the goal, but Adam Pelech took a penalty, and the Sharks cashed in quickly. They won the face-off starting the power play, and Alexander Barabanov ripped it over Sorokin to tie the game. Then, only a minute and a half later, Jasper Weatherby scored to give the Sharks a 2-1 lead. C’est le hockey.

Second Period

The second period began with Chara disciplining Jeffrey Viel. I don’t know that you could really call it a fight, despite what the scorecard reads. But Chara did ease up on Viel and gave him a tap at the end.

His fight appeared to have the desired effect, giving the Isles the proverbial boost at five-on-five. Cizikas dipsy-doodled through the slot but missed the net in the Isles’ best chance. Back the other way, the Sharks had three successive chances, each of which eluded both Sorokin and the net.

But then the Islanders re-tied the game with about seven minutes left thanks to Zach Parise’s 400th career NHL goal. Barzal led a rush up the ice and froze on a dime after he entered the San Jose zone. He dropped it off to Aho passing behind him, and Aho carried behind the net, hitting Parise in the slot.

Later, Nieto legally crushed Ryan Pulock, but he drew the ire of both Anders Lee and Jean-Gabriel Pageau, but Pageau actually got him. They gave Pageau an extra two minutes for roughing—I guess it was not quite the instigator, but something more than just two fellas settling their scores.

Whatever the officials saw, the penalty gave the Sharks a chance to capitalize on the fight, and they did; captain Logan Couture rifled it past Sorokin. It was the Sharks’ second power-play goal of the game, and it allowed them to re-take the lead.

For 19 seconds, anyway.

Off the next face-off, Parise dropped it off for Barzal, and Barzal found Pelech at the point. Reimer didn’t get set, and Pelech’s shot caught him off-guard, especially with Parise in his way. The 3-3 tie carried us into the final intermission.

Third Period

Dobson drew a penalty in the first five minutes of the period as he retrieved a dump-in; Couture took an offensive zone tripping penalty. This time, the Islanders were able to create some offense against San Jose’s staunch penalty kill. They moved the puck more quickly and tried to take advantage of the fact that the Sharks’ power kill leaves open the man in the crease. Reimer kept them off the board, though.

Nelson, going into the commercial break, got around his man going behind the net, drawing out Reimer in the process. But a San Jose defender caught up to him just in time to check his stick and prevent him from completing the wraparound into an open net.

The Islanders dictated play at five-on-five, with the top two lines especially creating chances whenever they were on the ice. They had Nelson’s chance, as I just described, and Barzal led a three-on-two in which he gave a behind-the-back pass to Pelech, who threw it at the crease with everyone crashing. Not to mention, the Sharks did not register a shot-on-goal for the first 14:50 of the period.

Still, the game stayed tied at 3-3. Trotz, recognizing that his team was playing well, stayed more aggressive than they normally would have that late in the game, but it did not result in a goal this time. We needed extra time.

Overtime

The Islanders, to my eye, had better chances than the Sharks in overtime. Barzal was able to waltz in and attempt a backhand short-side. Later, Reimer robbed Nelson, who waited him out; Reimer just timed it perfectly.

With a little more than a minute left, Barzal found Dobson cross-ice at the opposite faceoff dot, but Dobson snapped it off the post. Right after that, the Sharks iced it. The three guys on the ice had all been out there for over a minute at that point, and only one was able to get off before overtime ended.

However, the Islanders, unfortunately, could not capitalize, and we went to the shootout.

Shootout

  • Beauvillier led off, going forehand in tight right off Reimer’s blocker.
  • Couture beat Sorokin five-hole.
  • Barzal went in slow and glanced the puck off Reimer’s stick.
  • Hertl, who could’ve won it there, went backhand, but Sorokin flashed the leather.
  • Nelson shot as he usually does, and the puck squirted through Reimer, but it trickled wide of the net, and the Sharks stole a win. Time for bed.

Notes and Thoughts

  • Congratulations to Zdeno Chara on making history. It’s pretty cool that he was able to do it in the same uniform in which he began his career—okay, not the same uniform; same franchise, though. Whatever we may think of his second Islanders’ tenure, he is a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer on the balance of his career, and it has been nice to watch him on my team as an adult who is now able to appreciate his talent.
  • This was one of their best games. They put 47 shots on Reimer. It was a game that the Isles deserved to win, but the Sharks instead snapped a seven-game winless streak. C’est le hockey.
  • Although it needs to be said that the Islanders are a team that sort of depends on scoring three goals and not conceding more than two goals—they don’t have the offensive talent to rely upon for four goals per night to win in this league. They cannot afford to give up three goals per game.
  • Related to the offensive issues and the less-than-elite goaltending that the Islanders have received lately: They are 1-5 in games that have gone to the shootout, and Dobson, a defenseman, is the only guy with a winner.
  • Nelson has been hot, scoring goals in four straight games. Glad that everyone is finally heating up!
  • Barzal and Parise seem to have some good chemistry brewing, and Kyle Palmieri has been a good supporting cast member.
  • It appeared that Trotz reunited Pelech and Pulock, putting Aho next to Mayfield and leaving Chara with Dobson.
  • Dobson, by the way, is just a couple of seconds in time-on-ice behind Pelech for the team lead, according to the local broadcast. And Trotz also gave Bellows a run in the final shift of regulation. Between these and leaving Aho in the lineup over Greene, perhaps Trotz truly is trusting the progress of the kids he has so slowly brought along.

Up Next

The Islanders continue down the Pacific coast this weekend, making stops in Los Angeles Saturday night at 10:30 p.m. (at [Some Kind of Scam] Arena) and Anaheim Sunday evening at 8:30 p.m.