That win was just what the doctor ordered.
The New York Islanders rebounded nicely from a 7-0 drubbing against the Pittsburgh Penguins, a team whose number they seemed to have, by thoroughly and comfortably defeating a team that seemed to have their number, the Washington Capitals. Hockey is a funny game.
The Isles closed out their season series against the Caps with a 5-1 win that was mere seconds and an unfortunate bounce away from a clean 5-0 shutout for Ilya Sorokin. With the win, the Islanders won the season series: They went 2-1-1 with two regulation wins, good for five points, as opposed to the Capitals’ 2-2-0 record totaling four points. Head-to-head is the fifth tiebreaker and rarely comes up these days, but it’s nice to have that one in the back pocket given Washington’s refusal to drop out of the playoff race.
It was a massive night for the third line with Julien Gauthier back, in for Oliver Wahlstrom, with J-G Pageau and Simon Holmstrom. Pageau scored twice and recorded four points while Gauthier notched two goals in 18 seconds to clear up any doubt about the outcome.
Now the Islanders can feel good about their immediate rematch with the Pens tomorrow night, New Year’s Eve, at 6:00 p.m.
About last night:
- A feel-good win in front of a holiday break crowd. [LHH]
- It was Gauthier’s first two-goal and three-point game of his career. Also, Noah Dobson scored, and Bo Horvat recorded two assists. [3 Takeaways]
- That’s the kind of response you need to a clunker. [Newsday]
- Not just feel-good, but convincing. [NY Post]
- This game even made the NHL site’s list of headlines. [NHL]
- This was Dobson’s 17th straight game over 25:00 of ice time, extending his own club record. [NYI Skinny]
- Semyon Varlamov didn’t practice Thursday or dress last night, so they recalled Ken Appleby. The Islanders have two great NHL goalies, but their depth beyond that is concerning. [Newsday | NY Post]
- It would seem that Gauthier has bumped Wahlstrom from contention, although he seems to pop off from a benching. He started to disappear after a few consecutive games in the lineup last time, so let’s see if he can maintain it. [THN]
- New defensemen Mike Reilly and Robert Bortuzzo want to help the team and contribute now and aren’t worried about their status as the Isles’ defense gets healthier. I, for one, don’t think Reilly can come out. I would go Romanov-Dobson, Pelech-Pulock, Reilly-Mayfield if all nine were healthy—which may never happen, frankly. [Newsday]
- Last night was the official opening of The Park, and it seems to be a big hit. [Islanders | Newsday]
- New minority owner and COO John Collins sees The Park as key to helping the Islanders and UBS land “tentpole” events like the All-Star Game. [NY Post]
- Isles legends shared their perspective on how the current squad is doing. [THN]
- Mathew Barzal and Ilya Sorokin are two of New York’s 24 biggest sports stars going into 2024, according to Neil Best. [Newsday]
- The Isles have two prospects playing for Team USA at World Juniors, fourth-line linemates Quinn Finley and Danny Nelson. Finley notched two points in the U.S.’s domination of Switzerland. [Islanders]
- Speaking of the prospects, check out the moves Ruslan Iskhakov put on to earn the B-Isles an overtime win last night. I’m not sure who he could replace, but I’d love to see what this guy can do at the NHL level.
Last night’s NHL scores include the Rangers losing in regulation to the Panthers but the Flyers getting yet another point and the Devils soundly beating the Senators.
- Ilya Samsonov’s struggles continued last night after a long time off to try to gather himself, and it looks as though his time in Toronto could be coming to an end. It is honestly unbelievable that the Leafs never figured out the goalie thing in all this time. [Sportsnet]
- The Caps officially signed Ethan Bear to a two-year contract. Both he and Max Pacioretty were aiming to make their team debuts last night, but ultimately did not. [TSN]
- Former NHLer Nick Ritchie lost his mind in a Liiga game and got himself suspended eight games for giving gloved punches to someone’s head while he was turtled on the ice. [TSN]