Although the New York Islanders blew multiple leads last night against the Carolina Hurricanes and generally looked pretty bad and played like a bunch of assholes, they pulled out an overtime win thanks to stellar performances from Mathew Barzal, who had four points and the OT winner, and Semyon Varlamov, who made 39 saves. Noah Dobson recorded three assists and continued to look excellent, and Bo Horvat has been earning his contract. If you can believe it—I can’t—the Isles are 4-1-1 in their last six games and have points in seven of their last eight games.
Look, leads in the NHL are more precarious than they’ve been in a long time, possibly ever. Blown leads are trending upwards league-wide. But the Islanders have looked like they expect to blow any third-period lead they might have, and then they overthink, causing mistakes. It has been like a self-fulfilling prophecy.
That OT goal was a huge relief. You could see it on their faces. During the second intermission, Barzal spoke with ESPN+’s Steve Levy, who asked Barzal why the Islanders have been blowing so many third-period leads and what they were going to do to prevent it again (they didn’t, of course). Barzal, normally confident and self-assured in front of a camera, stumbled over his words and struggled to find an answer that wasn’t some version of “I don’t know.” He looked befuddled, almost shaken; you could see it in his eyes and hear it in his voice.
Hopefully, entering December, that kind of win gives them the confidence they need to gain when they’re leading a game, the confidence many of these same guys had with a lead when they were playing under Barry Trotz—especially since it came against the Hurricanes, who seemed to have broken their brains in Game 6 last April.
I don’t know about a full team effort, but I hope it brings the full team together.
About last night:
- Dom’s tone mimics how I felt after the game ended: glad and/or relieved the Islanders got the win, but still pretty annoyed that they let a lead slip away again, especially by giving up a goal with two seconds left in regulation. [LHH]
- Besides the strong individual performances noted in the first paragraph of these Bits, the Islanders’ special teams had a good night, as well: They scored power-play and shorthanded goals and killed off all their penalties. [3 Takeaways]
- “Mathew Barzal removed the headphone after his postgame television interview, looked skyward and blurted out, ‘Thank god.’” [Newsday]
- Lane Lambert, whose job may have been saved last night but should frankly still be in jeopardy, switched up the defensive pairings last night. [Newsday]
- They did get dominated last night, honestly. But a win is a win. [THN]
- Dobson is at a point-per-game, and Barzal is over that mark. He’s earning his keep, too. [NYI Skinny]
Mathew Barzal scored the overtime winner to cap off a four-point night, accomplishing a feat that hasn't been done by a @NYIslanders skater in nearly 30 years.#NHLStats: https://t.co/MSXwCWQssK pic.twitter.com/5h3F4tVrlE— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) December 1, 2023
- That game was Anders Lee’s 700th in the NHL. He wants to and looks forward to scoring more goals. [Newsday]
- The Islanders appear to be the NHL counterpart to the new PWHL’s New York franchise: The new women’s team will play four home games at UBS Arena, and the rest of their home games at Total Mortgage Arena, where the B-Isles play. [THN]
Last night’s NHL scores include the New Jersey Devils also blowing a third-period lead but winning in OT against the Philadelphia Flyers, and the Pittsburgh Penguins erasing a 2-0 deficit against the Tampa Bay Lightning to win 4-2.
- But of course, the big story from the Pens’ game was Tristan Jarry scoring a goalie goal. It only happened because Josh Bailey wasn’t on the ice to intercept it. [NHL]
- The Calgary Flames finally got rid of disgruntled Nikita Zadorov, sending him to the Vancouver Canucks without retaining salary—because Vancouver got cap space from dumping Anthony Beauvillier—for two mid-round picks. [NHL]
- That at least means the Toronto Maple Leafs didn’t get him. But they need to find a defenseman soon. [Sportsnet]
- Especially since Mark Giordano is now out week-to-week with a broken finger. [NHL]
- Chris Tanev, another Flames defenseman, is tough as nails: He blocked a shot with his face and barely missed a shift. [Sportsnet]
- In the written 32 Thoughts, Elliotte Friedman talks about Corey Perry and Patrick Kane.
- Sam Gagner and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins were each viewed as saviors for the Edmonton Oilers when they came in. Now, in their 30s, they have carved out different roles for the team that drafted them. [Sportsnet]