After a weak showing the night before against the Los Angeles Kings, the New York Islanders faced the Anaheim Ducks looking to get back on track. They had to do it without their star player, but they received a lot of help from some of the seemingly unlikeliest candidates, making their case to stay in the lineup: The internal competition is working.
Ross Johnston had two primary assists, each one a beautiful look, and Casey Cizikas celebrated his birthday by converting Johnston’s first assist and setting up his second. To top it off, Ilya Sorokin earned a shutout in what looked to be a return to form. When all was said and done, the Islanders skated away with a 4-0 win in what was mostly a low-event game.
Both Mathew Barzal (lower-body) and Zdeno Chara (upper-body) suffered injuries in last night’s game in LA and are listed as day-to-day, so they sat out tonight. Josh Bailey and Andy Greene, healthy scratches for the previous two and six games, respectively, drew back in. Johnston also returned, taking Matt Martin’s place on the fourth line. Bailey played center for the first time in a while.
#Isles in warmups (No Barzal/Chara)— Andrew Gross (@AGrossNewsday) February 28, 2022
And Sorokin returned to the crease on the second half of the back-to-back. John Gibson missed tonight’s game with a non-COVID-related illness, so Anthony Stolarz started in goal for the Ducks.
First Period: Penalty-Filled Affair
Early in the game, the Islanders went down a man because Brock Nelson high-sticked a Ducks point man, but the Isles killed it off and survived the threats, thanks in part to Sorokin’s stellar play.
They went on their own power play, and in the minute it lasted, they created a lot of dangerous chances right in front of Stolarz. But it was cut short by Oliver Wahlstrom’s high stick on Nicolas Deslauriers. 4-on-4 turned into a minute-long Ducks power play, but again Anaheim failed to convert.
In the back half of the period, Anaheim nearly scored; they had a wide-open net and put it off the post, and then Sorokin got back to make the second save. Right back the other way, the Islanders got on the board. The Triple ‘P’ Line spent about a minute in the offensive zone and created a few chances, recovering the puck again to work it out to Noah Dobson at the point. He blasted the puck off the ice and through bodies to beat Stolarz cleanly.
Noah Dobson continues to shine. Goal #9 on the year, point #26 pic.twitter.com/IVTKau043F— Rob Taub (@RTaub_) February 28, 2022
Late in the period, Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Trevor Zegras took coincidental minors, though Barry Trotz was as confused as the broadcast as to why Pageau got called. But the teams skated four aside for nearly two full minutes before Kevin Shattenkirk took an interference penalty—about which he was incredibly indignant, even though the instant replay showed a classic example of an illegal pick.
The four-on-three lasted fifteen seconds before converting to a standard five-on-four for the rest of the period. In the dying seconds of the period, Nelson banked the puck off the backboards to get it to Anthony Beauvillier at the other wing, but Stolarz somehow stoned him.
Second Period: Ross Shows Who’s Boss
The Islanders had a little bit of power-play time to start the second period, and Jakub Silfverberg broke his stick rendering him a statue, but only Dobson’s blast reached Stolarz. However, the Islanders extended their lead in part due to the pressure that they maintained from the power play.
Johnston led the charge up ice, picking up the puck in his own zone near the benches and confusing the Ducks’ bench enough to draw a too-many-men penalty that never came to fruition. That’s because Johnston deked around Jamie Drysdale in the neutral zone to create the two-on-one, and then he worked around Simon Benoit to get a gorgeous pass over to Casey Cizikas, who celebrated his 31st birthday with a goal. 2-0 Islanders. Ross the Boss, folks. And on his and Cizikas’s next shift, they spent more time in the offensive zone.
Ross gives Casey a birthday gift of a pass pic.twitter.com/yU0JaB3rZz— Isles on MSG+ (@IslesMSGN) February 28, 2022
That was a hell of a pass from Ross Johnston on the Cizikas goal, putting the #Isles up 2-0.— Kevin Kurz (@KKurzNHL) February 28, 2022
Fun fact, Johnston is the only Islanders player I’ve actually met in person so far, last night in the press box
In what was a chippy game throughout, Anders Lee poked an extra time at Stolarz as the whistle blew. Max Comtois, who was weaseling around all night, too, didn’t like it, and the two of them exchanged gloved punches to earn matching roughing minors. Once again, the Isles and Ducks played four-on-four. During it, Sorokin absolutely robbed Shattenkirk, who fired a one-timer in the slot with plenty of space off the rush.
The final minute saw Stolarz come out to play the puck and promptly give it away to Pageau. He went cross-ice to Kyle Palmieri, but by then, Stolarz and Anaheim had recovered. It led to some sustained offense to end the period, but the score remained 2-0.
Third Period: More Insurance from Johnston, Cizikas, Greene(?!), and Bellows
The third period began as slowly as most of the game had been, but the Ducks seemed to wake up when they ran out their three offensive kids: Zegras, Troy Terry, and Massapequa native and diehard Islanders fan Sonny Milano. Sorokin had to be sharp to stop the chances that they created.
Shortly thereafter, I believe it was Lee who picked off Shattenkirk and sprung Nelson on a breakaway, but Stolarz got his glove on Nelson’s try. Kieffer Bellows also picked off a Duck near the blueline and created his own chance, and on the same shift, he was able to get off another shot.
The Islanders finally got the insurance that they needed taking advantage again of Stolarz leaving his net. Palmieri chased down a lob from Parise, forcing Stolarz to come out. Cizikas raced into the other corner and won the puck, getting it out to Johnston in the slot. He had a decent shot, but Greene cruised in on the other wing wide open. Johnston fed him a seed, and Greene clutched and rifled the puck top shelf short side over Stolarz. Gotta love Johnston and Greene returning to the lineup after long strings of healthy scratches and scoring.
a BEAUTY from Andy Greene. pic.twitter.com/GVfKpi1wQf— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) February 28, 2022
Wahlstrom battled and won the puck along the boards in his own zone and found Bellows with some space. He took off with a burst of speed and this time, he didn’t miss. He went top shelf glove side over Stolarz.
We love everything about this. pic.twitter.com/Z64CIFudjB— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) February 28, 2022
The rest was elementary. Johnston and Greene nearly combined for another goal, but other than that, it was all about preserving Sorokin’s shutout. They did, and the final score was 4-0 Islanders.
Notes and Thoughts
- Dobson has blossomed since December—it reminds me actually of John Tavares’ third season. Over the first two seasons, you could see the talent, but it wasn’t yet put together. Into his third season, he still wasn’t dominating. But by that December, he was taking over games. Dobson has nine goals this season, all since December. Let’s hope he never looks back.
Dobson might score 15 goals this season. Such an exciting future for him.— Andrew Gross (@AGrossNewsday) February 28, 2022
- Johnston, like Bellows, is also ready to be in the fold full time. It will be difficult to say goodbye to the old Identity Line because they have been through so much together, but Johnston really seems to be more effective than Martin at this point. He also pissed off Anaheim captain Ryan Getzlaf by coming together with Zegras.
- Bellows looked good tonight, and he was rewarded with a goal. And Sebastian Aho quietly has put together a five-game point streak.
- I didn’t write it until the game ended, but it looks like a night off to reset himself did a world of good for Sorokin, who won his fifth shutout of the season. As Butch Goring and Brendan Burke pointed out on the broadcast, he seemed locked in and wasn’t wasting any movement.
- It is abundantly clear that playing the young guns over the veterans and letting them actually earn some games toward veteran status might be working. If nothing else, it’s just a little freshness for a team that had gotten just a little stale.
- Happy birthday to Zeeker; he is only the fourth Islander in the last fifteen years to have scored a goal on his birthday. He added an assist for a distinction he shares with Roman Hamrlik.
Casey Cizikas became the fourth @NYIslanders player in the past 15 years to score on his birthday, joining Cal Clutterbuck (Nov. 18, 2014), Tim Jackman (Nov 14, 2009) and Mark Streit (Dec. 11, 2008).#NHLStats: https://t.co/GNHXXy2rPW https://t.co/pO9YUlpgso— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) February 28, 2022
- There were tons of Islanders fans there. Two separate meetups, the LA Meetup Group and the San Diego Meetup Group, packed into the upper bowl. They made tons of noise on every goal and even sang the Bailey song. We love to see it.
The Islanders wrap up this road trip Tuesday night in Denver when they visit old friend Devon Toews and the Colorado Avalanche. Puck drop is 9:00 p.m. ET; after that, the Islanders have only one more game outside the eastern time zone for the rest of the season, thankfully.