For the second game in a row, Saturday night at Belmont the New York Islanders built a 3-0 lead that did not quite reflect their substandard performance. This time around, however, their luck did not last and their considerably better opponent wasn’t having it.
Starting 32 seconds after the Isles’ third goal at 7:46 of the second period, the Carolina Hurricanes chipped away at the Islanders lead, tied it on a power play late in regulation and scored the 4-3 winner in OT after a Canes “sure that’s a pick but we don’t call those” set up a smooth five-hole finish by Sebastian Aho The Lesser.
It sucks, but it wasn’t that surprising, and it provides another chin-scratching data point for a season that is now 10 games old, with a decent record but some underlying concerns.
Typically, you see a blown 3-0 lead and call it a “collapse.” In this case, it felt more like the Islanders’ recent standard of play remaining constant, the result finally catching up to them. The same thing could’ve easily happened the other night in D.C., but Semyon Varlamov and some luck didn’t allow it. Likewise, another against-odds win could’ve happened tonight, but the Canes started finishing their chances, and 47 shots is maybe a tad much to concede, even if its 47 Hurricanes-style, kitchen-sink shots.
The Islanders are a 5-2-3 team that is playing like a .500 team. They’re leaning heavily on defensemen not named Samuel Bolduc (who logged 9:25), goaltending — though Ilya Sorokin hasn’t had his typical run of jaw-dropping performances this year — and some decent 5-on-5 offense that thankfully might be sustainable.
With all of that, there were some nice signs Saturday night, so it’s hard to go all “Everything is wrong” but also hard to feel great. All of the reactions apply:
- Frustration that they blew a 3-0 lead, at home, to lose.
- Relief that they got a point, on a night you might not have expected it.
- Befuddlement at what this team is. What are they, exactly?
- Pleasure at seeing another great rush play by Simon Holmstrom (seriously, if he can start putting things together like that...), plus Barzal-Horvat buzzing, and Noah Dobson with another assertive, creative play on offense.
With that, let’s post those highlights for posterity:
Barzal, who was playing hurt last playoffs in the loss to the Canes, was lively on his edges all night. Young Dobson did this. He should do that more often:
WHAT A GOAL BY DOBSON. pic.twitter.com/Vlk8LN4THi— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) November 5, 2023
Second game in a row where Holmstrom showed really good offensive intelligence and deft hands on the rush. This time it was on a shorthander, and man was that huge that he poked the puck just beyond Wolfman Burns’ desperation dive in the neutral zone. Also really huge that J-G Pageau passed back right away...even if setting up Holmstrom was the obvious play here, the goaltender has to respect a possible shot from Pageau, so him sending the puck back to Holmstrom right away is what created the wide opening:
Now that was beautiful. pic.twitter.com/apFzoc2Aiv— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) November 5, 2023
Although concern lingered, I confess at 3-0 I hoped that was enough. Still, seeing Horvat and Barzal do this stuff was nice:
The pass from Horvat and the goal by Barzal. pic.twitter.com/BNKFDk6Xgl— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) November 5, 2023
Okay, then some other crap happened that I’d rather not talk about. (I mean, we’re gonna talk about it in every comments thread until the Wild visit Tuesday, but I don’t need to dwell on it or give Carolina any love here.)
The Minnesota Wild visit on Tuesday. They don’t have Ryan Reaves anymore, so surely they arrive without any heart and soul. However, they did just reverse a 3-0 deficit against the Smurfs to win in a shootout, so there is that.