The New York Islanders arrived in Montreal on the second half of a back-to-back after a potentially season-altering homestand and looked like a tired team that just didn’t have it.
For 40 minutes they let the Canadiens dictate play, they made sloppy decisions in the neutral zone that made their task tougher, and then in the final minute of the second period they turned a still-salvageable 2-0 deficit into a “good night, see you next time” 4-0 hole.
Yet in the third period, whether from waking up, or from wounded pride, or from guilt for hanging Semyon Varlamov out to dry for two periods, they surged back to make it a close one.
Brock Nelson scored twice in the first four minutes of the third to make it interesting, and Bo Horvat scored with six minutes to go to make it a game. Ultimately, they never mounted a threat with the sixth attacker and Christian Dvorak scored in the empty net with 20 seconds ago to close the books, but there’s some solace in the Isles not packing it in for the final 20.
Per @NatStatTrick , high-danger chances were 19-3 for the Canadiens through two periods in all situations. In the third period, in all situations, high-danger chances were 11-1 for Isles.— Andrew Gross (@AGrossNewsday) December 17, 2023
For a little change of pace, Simon Holmstrom shared the shorthanded love with someone other than Pageau:
- Noah Dobson assisted on all three goals, he’s up to 27 on the season in 30 games played, and he’s tied for the team lead in points (32).
- Injury concern: Horvat looked to be favoring his left arm or wrist after a final-minute collision with Dvorak; hopefully that is not serious and also doesn’t linger.
- Varlamov faced 36 shots in the opening two periods. He made some huge saves, and got some help from the iron, and still they were down 4-0 after two. (It was not, in any way, on him. They were outshot 36-16 in that span, but narrowed it to 41-33 with their third-period surge.)
- The Canadiens’ goal horn is far too high a pitch and goes on for far too long. That’s always been weird, especially for a “traditional” market.
- I don’t know if this is a Lane Lambert effect, or a Horvat-Barzal effect, but man the Islanders have been scoring on more offensive zone faceoff plays this year. Horvat’s goal tonight was another — not directly off the set play, but off the rebound it created.
- This game always held danger in the schedule, being a traveling back-to-back at the end of a season-long homestand. On balance, going 4-1-2 over the last seven games is a welcome record, but of course after the home stretch went so well, you’d greedily like them to have gotten a point or two here.
- After getting torched by the Bruins power play last night, they killed the only two opportunities tonight — and got a shorthander from Nelson for their first goal.
#Isles Lane Lambert: "I just don't think we had a lot of juice in the first 40 minutes."— Andrew Gross (@AGrossNewsday) December 17, 2023
Also: "I thought we were really good in the third period. Had we played that way in the first 40 minutes, we'd be singing a different tune right now."
The team gets an overdue off day Sunday, so any injury updates will circulate Monday. Then on Tuesday they face the Oilers, who have rebounded fiercely from their season-opening slump. Of course.