The New York Islanders’ win streak ended with a barnburner, a 5-4 shootout loss to the Boston Bruins that included a combined five power play goals, multiple goals waived off, and a few shootout conversions for good measure.
The Islanders’ six-game homestand began and ended with extra time losses, but in completely different circumstances, sandwiched around four wins to go 4-0-2. While they opened with a galling blown 4-1 third-period to the worst team in the league, tonight they went toe-to-toe in a back-and-forth affair against the conference leaders.
Of the combined seven penalties in the game, five became power play goals, including the two the Bruins used to erase a 2-0 second period deficit, the two times the Isles took back leads in the third, and one of the goals times they lost that lead in the third. The final equalizer that sent the game to overtime was a fluke, but this game could’ve gone either direction, multiple times, for each side.
In the end, the Isles get another point — it’s now points from 14 of their last 15 games, and still one regulation loss over the past month.
After a scoreless first period, the unlikely source of Alex Romanov opened scoring early in the second. It was a nice read and feed from Mat Barzal after a Bo Horvat faceoff win in the offensive zone, clearing a shooting lane for the Isles defenseman after David Pastrnak overcommitted in pursuit of Barzal.
WHAT A SHOT BY ROMANOV. pic.twitter.com/d3cf921jmZ— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) December 16, 2023
Romanov nearly had a second goal, but it was wiped for goaltender interference on Hudson Fasching, who was minding his own business outside the crease, but the contact was real.
A wild sequence late in the period saw the Islanders extend their lead, threaten to extend it further, only to reach the second intermission tied 2-2.
First, Simon Holmstrom made it 2-0 on a nice move after a feed from J-G Pageau sent him in alone at 13:26:
Pageau - Holmstrom - you know how it goes. pic.twitter.com/KZaCjNpkZh— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) December 16, 2023
But right after getting that 2-0 lead, Julien Gauthier took an unneeded and untimely penalty. Still, the Isles’ secret PK weapon almost struck again: Pageau and Holmstrom headed up ice on a two-on-one, Holmstrom faking before feeding Pageau for the shot.
The shot was stopped, but Holmstrom slammed on the brakes and used his crazy long reach to recover the rebound and it looked like he’d make it 3-0. Alas, Linus Ullmark left his leg outstretched just enough to get his toe on Holmstrom’s shot. Sure enough, the Bruins power play converted its first a short time later.
Then the Isles took a too many men on the ice penalty, and the Islanders were so close to getting a critical clear but for some bounces and scrambles that went just against them. Pastrnak tied it at 2-2 with 2:34 left in the period.
The third period was every bit as eventful.
The Isles got a fresh start early in when Kevin Shattenkirk went to the box for tripping Casey Cizikas. Against the top penalty kill in the league, the Isles converted after nearly losing possession out of the zone. Mike Reilly made a critical keep-in just shy of the blueline and fed Brock Nelson, who hit Bo Horvat in his favored spot in the high slot to put the Isles back on top, 3-2.
It was a nice finish from Horvat, as it wasn’t in stride or in one-timer formation, he had to shift his weight and get off a shot from a pass coming toward his inside foot:
POOOOWWWWERRR PLAYYYYY GOOOOOAL pic.twitter.com/I9VmOiyrQO— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) December 16, 2023
The Bruins thought they’d tied it yet again, only to have the goal removed — but with Anders Lee sent to the box for tripping on the play. The Bruins converted on the ensuing power play, their third conversion of the night, to tie it for real, 3-3.
But back, and forth; back, and forth.
The Isles used their power play to again take the lead and again ding the league’s top penalty kill unit. They fed Horvat in the slot again, but this time he shot well wide; fortunately, it took a great bounce off the back boards to Brock Nelson, who potted it from the back door to make it 4-3 at 12:01.
BROCK NELSON ON THE POWER PLAY! pic.twitter.com/qsfST3guET— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) December 16, 2023
They made it almost five minutes before losing the lead again, this time on a complete fluke. After a mad scramble behind the net, Gauthier was tripped semi-inadvertently, allowing Mason Lohrei to scoop the puck toward the net from the corner, unintentionally bouncing it in off Sorokin, who finished the game with 33 saves.
The most concerning part of the game was the final minutes, where we were headed toward overtime but the Islanders were a little too casual and gave up or nearly gave up great chances to the Bruins.
With 17 seconds left, Pastrnak relieved the pressure by tripping Kyle Palmieri, drawing an offensive penalty that he protested vigorously.
But the Isles could never get anything threatening going with the 4-on-3 power play in OT.
In the shootout, Horvat and Barzal waited too long to shoot off their many moves, while Charlie Coyle made a sweet move to beat Sorokin. Simon Holmstrom unveiled yet another fascinating tool in his chest with this set of moves to give the Isles life...but Pastrnak spoiled things by beating Sorokin clean to win it on the next turn.
Still, this one from Holmstrom, whoa:
The homestand is over. It was a most unexpected success. Now they get on a plane to face the Canadiens tomorrow night in Montreal.