When the obituary on the New York Islanders 2021-22 season is finally approved for publication, the first footnote should cite March 3, 2022, Elmont, New York.
In a maddening 4-3 loss to the Vancouver Canucks, the Islanders were alternately uplifting and deflating, organized and self-sabotaging, rising to the occasion and then collapsing in the blink of an eye.
It was a nice night for Semyon Varlamov in some moments, “are you kidding me?” in others. That applies to most of the lineup, Varly’s just an easy symbol as the goalie. Just as sure as the Isles “found their game,” in the parlance of our times, they threw it out like a candy wrapper from a car window back before humans discovered litter doesn’t just magically disappear like Josh Bailey’s scoring touch.
There were no goals in a first period where the Isles were outshot but played reasonably well coming off a long road trip. With a flawed opponent, hope was high heading into the second period and things seemed to start well.
Noah Dobson, now officially one of the few bright spots to this lost season, notched his 10th goal with another seeing-eye non-blast goal from the point at 3:37. The Isles continued to roll afterward and it seemed like a schedule victory might bear out.
For about four minutes, at least.
Then Sebastian Aho was harassed while trying to escape behind the Isles net and fell. Fans and teammates wanted a penalty (but upon replay retrospect, none was warranted). In desperation, a prone Aho swiped at the puck to send it up the boards just as Anthony Beauvillier was about to take it off his blade to safety. Aho’s swipe went right up the boards to Brad Hunt at the point; the Cancuks point man one-timed past an oddly off-balance and stumbling Varlamov. Tied 1-1.
Varlamov bounced back with a couple of big saves immediately following. But 4:31 after that howler of an equalizer, the Canucks were in the lead. That’s how the whole night went. This time it was J.T. Miller nicely deflecting a Quinn Hughes shot from the high slot, something Varlamov couldn’t be expected to read and react to in time.
You Down with P-P-P (P-P)? Yeah You Know Me
But wait! A new line and meme could be born! The Isles had been trotting out a P-P-P line of Zach Parise and Kyle Palmieri around J-G Pageau, and late in the second period they lined up for an offensive zone faceoff with Adam Pelech and Ryan Pulock. I’m at the point in a lost season where I’ll look forward to Broadcaster “Our Own Oddities” moments like this.
The result was a thing of beauty, a play Butch Goring rightly said evoked memories of countless Mike Bossy goals. The Isles won the faceoff to the point, Pelech wound up for a presumed shot, then passed to Palmieri who’d moved straight to the left side of the slot for a one-timer.
Sweet shot, 2-2 tie game at 18:20. The Isles were back in business!
Third Period Fatality
Yeah, you might think they were back in business, especially when Beauvillier opened the third period with the go-ahead goal, pressuring Brock Boeser into a turnover and following it up with a series of moves on Thatcher Demko before the puck trickled over the line the way Aho’s should have a couple of nights ago in Denver.
But the Islanders took their foot off. The Canucks rallied and mounted pressure. The tying goal and winner occurred 45 seconds apart at the midway point of the final period. A failed clear led to good Canucks pressure and a great deflection Varly had no chance on to make it 3-3. Scott Mayfield coughed it up at center ice and the Canucks had another pinpoint shot off a great Bo Horvat feed for the winner.
The Isles pulled Varlamov for a sixth attacker with around two minutes left and had some nice work, some nice chances. Dobson, as he did all night, was a big part of the best moments.
But it simply wasn’t to be for the Isles. Not this night. Not this season.
The Isles host the Blues Saturday at 12:30. Anything can happen!