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Islanders 2, Red Wings 0: Tired opponent + Sorokin = end of a losing streak

It’s a tale as old as time. The Islanders still can’t score much, but Detroit was shot, and Sorokin was on.

Detroit Red Wings v New York Islanders
SoroKING once again.
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The playoffs are a longshot at this point, but the only thing that could get the New York Islanders back in the race is an extended winning streak, whether it’s consecutive games or doing something like a 10-wins-in-12-games stretch. The Detroit Red Wings came into tonight’s game on a back-to-back and in their third game in four nights, having played the night before in Montréal and getting in late after going through customs, according to ESPN’s John Buccigross.

If ever there was an opportunity to start a heater, tonight was the night. Fortunately, they took advantage and snapped their six-game losing streak. The offense continues to be an issue, as the Islanders managed only two goals yet again. But the exhausted Red Wings hardly tested Ilya Sorokin until after the Islanders’ second goal—which came in the third period, by the way, so that’s another dreaded streak over—and Sorokin came up big when he had to, earning another shutout in his young NHL career.

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

First Period

Early in the game, the Islanders got a power play when Olli Maatta took a hooking penalty. The first unit was atrocious, and the second unit iced the puck to start. When they did set up, J-G Pageau took a slashing penalty to negate the final 18 seconds, which was played four-on-four. The Wings’ power play did better than the Islanders, but Ilya Sorokin stopped what came his way.

The teams went back and forth, but I don’t remember anything especially dangerous. Most plays died crossing the blue line. The Islanders got another power play in the second half of the period courtesy of Joe Veleno, and the first unit looked more dangerous this time, but they still failed to convert, hitting 3-for-61 since December 10(!).

With just over three minutes left in the period, Ryan Pulock fed Anthony Beauvillier on a rush, but Beauvillier lost the battle, seeing his stick smacked away by Gustav Lindstrom. Beauvillier found Mathew Barzal in the circle for a follow-up, but Magnus Hellberg stopped it.

Second Period

Scott Mayfield took a holding penalty at 1:29. The Islanders killed it and managed to generate some pressure out of it, scoring five minutes into the period. Brock Nelson took a shot from the circle with Kyle Palmieri down low to tip it first and Anders Lee to tip it last. Detroit reviewed the play for a potentially missed stoppage but ultimately didn’t challenge it. 1-0 Isles.

Jonatan Berggren took a holding penalty and gave the Islanders another power play, their third of the game. This one more closely resembled the first power play than the second: ugly, bad, no shots. The fourth line looked much better on the shift immediately following the man advantage, though.

It appeared Zach Parise got hooked, but then he held the stick hooking him and got called for a penalty. But Sorokin and co. turned away all four shots. In the final minutes, Matt Martin and David Perron wrestled at the benches and each got roughing minors for four-on-four.

Third Period

With the game still four-on-four, Barzal tripped up Dylan Larkin to go four-on-three for 20 seconds, during which Detroit could not set up. The Islanders prevented them from ever setting up during the remaining five-on-four, as well.

Good kill by the Islanders, and it generated momentum enough for them to score their first third-period goal in 12 games. In the offensive zone, Palmieri worked the puck out to Nelson near the blue line, who found some room and snapped the puck through traffic created by Lee. The relief was palpable.

Shortly after that goal, either the Wings woke up or the Isles fell asleep. Filip Hronek found himself wide open in the Ovi circle, but Sorokin made a wonderful save. He did a lot of that in this period.

Later on, Parise blocked a blast, and the puck went back the other way for the Islanders. Josh Bailey made a nice move to find some space, but he got tripped and drew a penalty. The first unit looked okay, and the second unit got feisty.

The Red Wings pulled Hellberg with more than three minutes left, and they pinned the Islanders in for long stretches. But despite Buccigross’s best attempts to jinx it, Sorokin held onto his shutout, and the Islanders won for the first time in seven games.

Notes and Thoughts

  • Finally, a win, only their third of January. They still only scored two goals, but sometimes that’s good enough with Sorokin (and a tired opponent). And hey, maybe the ESPN jinx is over.
  • I have seen some suggest trading Sorokin if the team wants to be bad. I get the sentiment. He’s going to win games singlehandedly. But Sorokin is not just a franchise player, which is already really hard to come by; I think he has the potential to be one of the greatest goalies of all time, a Hall of Famer if he remains on this trajectory. They simply cannot trade a player like that, I’m sorry. They’d never recover. They need to re-tool, not rip to the studs and rebuild.
  • Goals from the usuals, the only guys who apparently know how to score, Lee and Nelson. Thanks, fellas. It was their line with Palmieri that created all the offense, although the Barzal line did have a couple of chances they couldn’t bury.
  • Palmieri had the primary assist on the two goals, his third and fourth in three games since coming back. Have to wonder if the season goes so far off the rails if he’s healthy all year—not that he’s a savior, but he could have contributed in some of the games the Isles lost by a goal (or one goal plus empty-netter(s)).
  • Hope the Burkes enjoyed the game.
  • Hope the Cohens enjoyed the game, too.

Up Next

Just one more game before some much-needed time away. The Islanders host the Vegas Golden Knights, who lost tonight at the Garden 4-1 to the Rangers. Should be a slog. Normal 7:30 p.m. start tomorrow night.