The New York Islanders were heavily outshot again but offered a much better effort as they won their second game in a row to conclude this three-game Eastern trip.
They did it without Mat Barzal, who missed the game with an illness, and without ever trailing in their 4-3 victory over the Florida Panthers. This one included another two-goal third-period lead, and while they gave one back it was not the maddening lead-protecting (or abandoning) effort we’ve seen so much of this season.
Ilya Sorokin made 42 saves in a strong and busy performance, but not one where he had to stand on his head all night. Overall, it was good to see him steady and sharp, as he’s yet to recapture his all-world form of last season.
A sluggish start seemed to get a boost from Anders Lee’s power play goal at 12:36, even though that 1-0 lead lasted barely over a minute.
O Captain! My Captain! pic.twitter.com/D7n7vYT4Od— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) December 2, 2023
The Islanders got two goals in under a five-minute span in the second period to take a 3-1 lead, off two different kinds of promising play.
On Pierre Egvall’s to make it 2-1, the Isles kept up good pressure and battle on pucks inside the Panthers’ zone.
On Simon Holmstrom’s seventh of the season, he showed good, elusive positioning to get a rebound after driving the net on a well-played Isles rush. There’s no third assist, of course, but if there was it would be earned by Samuel Bolduc, who intercepted in the high slot of the Isles zone and started the breakout all in one action.
When you need him, Holmstrom will be there. pic.twitter.com/JHAvAuofEb— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) December 3, 2023
The Isles let Matt Tkachuk make it a one-goal game again with just his fourth goal of the season with just under seven minutes left in the second.
More scarily, a minute after that goal Brock Nelson’s knee bent the wrong way and he left the ice, not to return for the rest of the period. So the Isles finished the second down an important center and under a bit of fire.
But they made it to the second intermission still leading 3-2, Nelson returned for the third, and then Julien Gauthier restored the two-goal lead just 3:43 into the third. It was Gauthier’s first as an Islander, a nice high shot off a faceoff win from Bo Horvat.
Julien Gauthier swears he wasn't attempting to do that over-the-top celly. He actually tripped and went to his knees and that's what it looked like.— Andrew Gross (@AGrossNewsday) December 3, 2023
With Barzal out, Gauthier got some quality time on the line with Horvat and Lee, using his speed effectively, after Oliver Wahlstrom got the first look in that spot but was dropped after a period.
After the Panthers made it a one-goal game again at the mid-point, the Isles survived over three minutes finishing out the game against a sixth attacker. They bent, and there were a few scary moments, but backed by an in-form Sorokin, they did not break.
The win brings the Isles to 10-7-6 before a big six-game homestand. They are in this middling bubble of Metro teams, almost all of whom are surely frustrating their fans on an every-other-night basis.
It’ll be an interesting stretch here: The very beatable Sharks, Blue Jackets and Ducks will be visiting, as will the Kings, Leafs and Bruins.