On a Saturday afternoon in Montreal ([checks notes] yeah, that’s right) the New York Islanders blew another one, losing against a bottom-tier team for the second game in a row, coughing up points against teams they can least afford to hand them to.
This time they at least salvaged one point, but the 4-3 overtime loss to the Canadiens was another confounding performance from an inconsistent team. They twice gave away one-goal leads in the third period, looking all the while like that’s exactly what would happen before the Canadiens finally made it so.
The Islanders had a power play in overtime but still could not get the win, then a tired unit gave up the winner after Mike Hoffman came out of the box, and his approach over the blueline — which caused a comically long offside review — led to the game winner by Mike Matheson.
In the end, the Isles got what they deserved, with an extra twist of the NHL Wheel of Rulebook Fortune knife for good measure.
First Period: We’re starting like this again?
It was not the start you’d hope for the Islanders, who were finishing a three-in-four-nights stretch and could use a good start against a bad team. The Canadiens, coming off their bye week, showed lots of zip in front of a matinee home crowd.
The Islanders killed a penalty to J-G Pageau — Bo Horvat getting some work on the PK in his stead — and Anders Lee hit iron soon afterward to almost give the Isles a lead. Instead, going the other way, Nick Suzuki finally opened scoring for the home team at 12:57. Rafael Harvey-Pinard pounced on a corner battle to take a loose puck from Noah Dobson and find Suzuki wide open at the back door. Easy conversion for Suzuki, sloppy defense from the Isles.
That would be a theme.
But the Isles escaped the period with a 1-1 tie, thanks to a Brock Nelson deflection three minutes later. His equalizer came with five minutes left in the period, which was five more minutes for the Isles to try to give it back.
Second Period: A little better, another goal for Bo
The only goal of a much less eventful second period came in its dying seconds. It was on an Islanders power play — though not a particularly good one — on a “why not?” heave by Bo Horvat from the corner behind the goal line. Anders Lee was at the post creating a nuisance, but the puck went in off Sam Montembeault’s pad.
That gave the Isles a 2-1 lead heading into the second intermission, after a decent period for the Isles where they outshot the Canadiens, 10-5. Would the leverage their good fortune with their best period of the game? Not likely.
Third Period: Predictable
If there were any hopes that the Islanders would shut the game down with a one-goal third-period lead, those were dashed quickly, as the home team tied it at 2-2 just four minutes in.
The Islanders forwards were caught on an eluded forecheck, leaving them vulnerable to a counterattack and a Habs defenseman joining the rush. That defenseman was Justin Barron, who had lots of room to pick his spot on Varlamov.
The crowd rejuvenated, the Canadiens mounted a few good pressing shifts in a row, and the Isles looked on the verge of lost defensively.
But hockey’s a funny game; the Isles fourth line took the lead back with a simple forecheck and a simple play. They worked the puck deep, back to the point, Scott Mayfield across to Alex Romanov, and Romanov’s shot was tipped just enough by Matt Martin to make it 3-2.
Another messy play gave the Habs a golden chance to tie it: A missed seal at the point by Sebastian Aho, who was caught in between on a sloppy Noah Dobson pass, led to a 2-on-1 counterattack that should have been a tap-in for Evgenii Dadonov off of Nick Suzuki’s perfect pass. Dadonov lost the handle, or mis-timed his push by his bottom hand, because he squibbed the pass harmlessly wide of a gaping net.
The Isles continued to be completely unconvincing defensively, however, and that eventually cost them yet again. The Canadiens tied it at 3-3 with 3:16 left, off another easy re-entry. A point shot was headed wide, but Kirby Dach kept his stick free of Adam Pelech and gave the puck a good 30-degree redirection through Varlamov’s legs.
Overtime: A frustrating endeavor
Overtime began with a golden 2-on-1 chance for the Canadiens, the kind of play that makes you want to hate this team. But Varlamov made the save, the Isles recovered and eventually mounted some pressure. Aho drew a slashing penalty on Mike Hoffman with half of OT left.
The Isles controlled the puck well with the extra attacker on the delayed penalty, and then again on the 4-on-3 power play. But their one-time setups were always a bit off. They never forced tiring work out of the Habs PK, nor a big save from Montembeault.
Then an interesting play ended the game, though not before a lengthy, lengthy, lengthy video review where you could almost hear the powers that be in Toronto debating what exactly the rulebook calls for.
The facts of the play on replay were not in doubt. (NOTE: To me, that is. Apparently the league situation room declared otherwise, which I find comical in our frame-by-frame-turned-metaphysical-debate world. But see Brendan Buke’s tweet below.) Watching a replay that over and over showed Hoffman’s skates preceding the puck over the line, I figured the only thing to decide was what the rule is. If that’s your guidebook...you’ve still got work to do. Lane Lambert and most of the Isles had actually left the ice before being called back to the bench. A lengthy review that changed nothing added to the indignity of the afternoon.
The league claims the video we were watching does not show what I thought it did:
For everything we said about possession, the league never got that far. NHL couldn’t find video evidence that Matheson was in the zone before the puck. Can’t argue. I didn’t see it either. #Isles pic.twitter.com/kmmyIxDITj— Brendan Burke (@brendanmburke) February 11, 2023
Anyway, how the goal happened: Noted dirty punk Mike Matheson sent a nice pass up to Mike Hoffman, who took it off his back skate at the blueline. Live, the play looked offside to me, and on the replays it looked offside since his skates preceded the puck over the line and did not have the puck under what I would all “control.” However, I’d love for the league to clarify that once and for all, because I’m all for more goals rather than razor-thin offside calls where a guy clearly tried to stay onside.
#NHL Rulebook— Eric Hornick (@ehornick) February 11, 2023
Control: "The act of propelling the puck with the stick, hand, or feet"
Control of the puck is not lost when contact with the puck is made by an opponent, the boards or the net, provided the player in control of the puck continues propelling the puck. #isles #Habs
Anyway, Hoffman’s shot was stopped by Varlamov, with Pelech tumbling by, and Matheson jumped up into the play ahead of Barzal — who was already tired and coughed up the puck in the offensive zone after the power play — and perfectly placed the rebound upstairs.
With just 22 seconds left in OT, the Canadiens had ended it, and deservedly so. I don’t get this team.
Lambert Postgame Availability pic.twitter.com/eJc5tbspBG— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) February 11, 2023
After a busy week, the Islanders have a couple of days before their next game, Tuesday at home vs. the Senators.
#isles will not play a 4-game week (Sun-Sat) again this season. Pittsburgh and Buffalo each have 4 of them left.— Eric Hornick (@ehornick) February 11, 2023
Note: The image library feed was not working at the time of this post. Probably laid off the person in charge.