Saturday night in St. Louis did not initially have the look of the 6-1 blowout it would become, but after a struggling Jordan Binnington robbed the Islanders early and the Blues scored late in the first period to take a 2-0 lead, the writing was on the wall.
Both teams were coming off late, emotional wins the night before, though the Blues were at home and their win meant something, whereas the Isles were traveling after salvaging something on a tough road stretch of a playoff-less season.
The game opened sloppily on both sides, but the Isles had some early chances that might have gotten them into the game and changed the story. They didn’t convert, there was some Isles aggression that seemed to backfire (Ross Johnston appeared to chase Alexei Toropchenko, he of 21 NHL games and 13 PIM, simply because he’s 6’6”), and the Blues ended up pushing back to take a lead they’d never relinquish.
One lineup note: The Isles were without Casey Cizikas, thanks to a strangely aggressive NHL suspension, and Andy Andreoff was recalled to play in his place. He played 10:36 and was one of the few Isles not to end up on the minus ledger.
First Period: Probably gonna be that kind of night
That sloppy start led to two golden chances for Brock Nelson, both stopped by Binnington, who of course chose tonight of all nights to snap out of a season-long funk. One was when Nelson shot on a 2-on-1, the other was on a great power play setup from Mathew Barzal:
Zdeno Chara was penalized early for a hit on Jordan Kyrou long after the puck was gone, which sent Kyrou into the boards awkwardly. The Isles killed that one, and had chances when David Perron later went to the box on a likely retaliation hit on Chara.
Nick Leddy, who never seemed to shoot enough as an Islander, broke the seal at 14:21 after Rob Thomas’ setup gave Leddy no choice but to shoot.
Semyon Varlamov, who was screened or facing odd-man rushes on most goals, stopped a heavy point shot at 17:10, but Vladimir Tarasenko pounced on the fat rebound and doubled the Blues lead to 2-0 heading into the intermission.
Second Period: Definitely that kind of night
Given all the circumstances and travel, after emerging from that period trailing 2-0 it just felt like things were only going to get worse. They did.
The Blues added two more goals early, both from Justin Faulk on defensive breakdowns — one in-zone, the other on the rush — and that was that. Faulk batted the fourth goal in out of the air on an odd-man rush that came after one of the final stretches of sustained Isles pressure.
That was at 5:41, and the Isles ended up shorthanded before the ensuing faceoff. Barry Trotz was banging a stick on the boards to try to get the refs’ attention for a timeout, but failed, and ended up throwing the stick on to the ice. The refs took exception and gave the Isles a bench minor.
#Isles Barry Trotz clarifies he wasn't made at refs after Blues' fourth goal (second of two by Justin Faulk), he was mad at his team. Chucked the stick to try and get refs attention to call a timeout.— Andrew Gross (@AGrossNewsday) April 10, 2022
There was at least one non-call around the third goal that did peeve him.
The non-calls may include a possibly incidental slewfoot of Kyle Palmieri by Faulk during a net battle and a trip of Mathew Barzal after he slammed on the brakes on the right wing side.
The Isles did kill off the bench penalty, and Anthony Beauvillier even conjured a partial breakaway that Binnington stopped, but the die was cast. The Isles would occasionally get some systemic pressure going, but they’d give up odd-man rushes and get running around their own zone.
So while it was another 10 minutes before the Blues piled on, but the Isles made it easy. Another bit of Isles pressure via pinching led to a clearcut breakaway for Kyrou, who made several moves but didn’t shoot until he got to the goal line to Varlamov’s left. The puck squeaked along the goal line, where Ivan Barbashev spotted it before Ryan Pulock did, and pushed it over the line.
That was at 16:57, and the Isles finally broke the shutout a couple minutes later with Grant Hutton’s first NHL goal. It was a point shot with Anders Lee creating a screen but not deflecting it, allowing the rookie defenseman his milestone.
But thirty-nine seconds later the Blues added one last goal, a nifty exchange between Tarasenko and Robert Thomas. Varlamov was out of the net playing Tarasenko to shoot, leaving Thomas plenty of room to hit.
In a special bit of irony that fit the feeling of the night, the arena was still announcing Hutton’s first NHL goal as he was on the ice getting scored against.
With little to celebrate, Hutton drew the call to do post-game media next to Captain Lee: “It was exciting, obviously. It’s unfortunate what the score was at that point. Lucky goal, just throw it on net with Leesy in front, must’ve hit the defenseman’s stick. But it’s a good feeling.”
#Isles Barry Trotz: "We were brain dead after the first (period) and we didn't have enough fight in the dog. Once they got the third and fourth goal, we just were playing shinny."— Andrew Gross (@AGrossNewsday) April 10, 2022
Trotz liked team's effort in the first period. Went downhill quickly the last 40 minutes.
️ Trotz Postgame Availability ️ pic.twitter.com/p5vGt9Q3Bf— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) April 10, 2022
None of this was really Varlamov’s fault, and I’m glad the Isles kept him in net rather than do the ceremonial pull, when Sorokin played last night in Raleigh. It was just one of those nights that could have gone either way early on, then one team pulled away and never looked back.
The Capitals beat the Penguins earlier in the day to restore their basically insurmountable 13-point lead in the wild card race.
The Islanders now face those Penguins with a home-and-home Tuesday and Thursday, followed by a Canadian trip to face Montreal on Friday and the Leafs on Sunday.