I’ve probably made clear by now that I do not have faith in this New York Islanders team as currently constructed, and an unlikely and elusive wild card spot would be just a ticket for first-round disappointment (although if it gets the owners some needed playoff revenue, that’s fine, I guess?).
That said, I don’t think it’s my role to discourage enjoyment of this team, and last night provided a very specific type of joy: Delicious, third-period comeback, extraction of Penguins tears. For the second time in four days, no less.
To see the Islanders (and Ilya Sorokin, most of all) absolutely torture the Penguins and their followers with another third-period theft of a regulation win was the kind of delight we tune in for even when much else seems lost. The pile-on (see: “Hextall” trending on Twitter) that ensued was delightful. To see Tristan Jarry re-enact his 2021 playoffs puck-handling masterclass was icing on the cake.
And of course, any night you see Evgeni Malkin act like a dirty punk — jumping in as third man in only to turtle when Ross Johnston calls him to account, then jumping in again as third man in and throwing a bunch of half-punches at Ryan Pulock once Johnston is in the box — well, that’s good for a laugh, too. Oh, Evgeni: So few wear their desire for violence mixed with a hesitation to get their hands dirty as well as you
Whether it’s Travis Hamonic, or Leo Komarov, or any other series of Isles over the years, you can always count on Malkin to duck away from any 1:1 conflict only to reappear as the tough guy when his target is already tied up with a teammate. It’s a predictable drill with him, thankfully his bite is mostly inert.
- Somehow, the Islanders finish the night in the first wild card spot, with Florida occupying the second. Jenny recounts the action and the fights. [LHH]
- “Islanders rally to defeat Penguins for second time in 4 days” is why we’re here. [NHL]
- 44 saves and a beauty from Ilya Sorokin. [Newsday]
Ilya Sorokin throwing his hat in the ring for save of the year! pic.twitter.com/VljIq9dPoB— NHL (@NHL) February 21, 2023
- Parise: “We played our asses off and got a much-needed win.” [Post]
- More impressive is that the Islanders did it without Mathew Barzal, who is out indefinitely... [Isles] ...or is he out week to week? [NHL]
- The upshot is that they hope Barzal can return this season. [Newsday | Post]
- Ross Johnston was asked about that scrum with Malkin. “I don’t know what started it.” [Post]
- “It’s just camaraderie.” [Isles]
- “Nelson’s two points gave him 444, passing Billy Harris (443) for 14th all-time.” [NYI Skinny]
- Lane Lambert wants to see more from Simon Holmstrom, who wants to see more from himself. He got a chance on the top line last night. [Newsday]
- 7 Facts about Arnaud Durandeau, who had a really nice NHL debut. He had some good chances, he drew some penalties, and he went all out to block some shots. [Isles]
- Perseverance and a strong AHL season led to the young man’s recall. [Newsday]
In last night’s other NHL results, if you can believe it, Sorokin’s performance was not the high point. Playing on back-to-back nights, Winnipeg’s Connor Hellebuyck made 50 saves to beat the Smurfs, 4-1. The Jets are the Isles’ next opponent. And John Gibson made 51 saves in an OTL to the Panthers.
- John Tortorella is rolling through healthy scratches of high-paid Flyers, and his latest is Travis Sanheim, in Calgary in front of friends and family. [Inquirer]
- And maybe it worked? The Flyers beat the Flames, who fall victim to familiar issues. [Sportsnet]
- Alas, the Flyers lost Travis Konecny to an upper-body injury. [TSN]
- The Canadiens have taken steps to modernize the franchise, so good for them. [Sportsnet]
- The Predators placed Mark Jankowski on waivers. Strange career for the now-28-year-old. [TSN]