Tonight was a big game in multiple ways. The biggest storyline was the fact that the New York Islanders were hosting the Vancouver Canucks just a week and a half removed from executing a blockbuster trade that brought Bo Horvat to Long Island and sent Anthony Beauvillier out west.
But more importantly, the Islanders had a chance to extend their winning streak to five games and pick up more points in their quest to make the playoffs. They were rested, coming off a big win against the Seattle Kraken, and facing a tired Canucks team that played the night before. The Canucks are also not a very good hockey team—although they clearly still have offensive talent.
For a while, the Isles looked poised to take the two points despite not looking their best. But them not looking their best came back to bite them. After going up 4-2, they forgot how to play defense and gave up four straight goals to lose in regulation 6-5. “Unacceptable,” Lane Lambert said. I’ll say.
It was, of course, Bo vs. Beau. But it was also Ilya vs. Delia: Ilya Sorokin and Collin Delia were the starting goalies. Neither played well, but Delia won the duel in the end.
Bo started against Beau, and both guys looked juiced to be playing this game. The Canucks probably had the better run of play to start the game, and they were rewarded with a power play on a somewhat weak tripping call against Zach Parise. Casey Cizikas had an excellent forecheck going against Beauvillier in the Vancouver zone, killing off a lot of the first half. The second half brought zone time but hardly any danger.
It took until the midway point of the period before the Islanders did anything on offense—their first shot only a little flick from the boards by Kyle Palmieri. The passes weren’t connecting at all. But it seemed not to matter, as Palmieri carried the puck over the blue line, halted Oliver Ekman-Larsson, and flung it on net, hitting the toy department.
Kyle Palmieri stops on a dime and absolutely smokes one pic.twitter.com/7YQZ7lLIYL— Isles on MSGSN (@IslesMSGN) February 10, 2023
Just 0:39 later, though, the Canucks knotted it up, and very quickly took the lead. An odd-man rush led to broken coverage by the Islanders, and Ekman-Larsson threw the puck from the blue line. Beauvillier was in front screening Sorokin. Less than a minute after that, Vancouver came right down the ice and allowed J.T. Miller to find Brock Boeser in the bumper spot. Sorokin had been holding the left post watching Miller and got over just too late, with the puck squirting under his leg. All of a sudden, Vancouver led 2-1.
Not to worry, though, as the Islanders have a Brock of their own. Brock Nelson’s 20th goal of the season tied it back up at 2-2. He stole the puck in the defensive zone and led his own odd-man rush, going shot all the way. Apparently, it’s the first time two different Brocks scored in the same game. They did it back to back. And they’re both from Minnesota. Will the parallels never end?
Brock Nelson forces the turnover and makes Vancouver pay, glove side pic.twitter.com/cKjgn36MvF— Isles on MSGSN (@IslesMSGN) February 10, 2023
In the first minute of the middle frame, the Islanders went to their first power play, as Conor Garland got an interference penalty for setting an offensive zone pick. Horvat won the first faceoff, and the Isles went right to work. The puck left the zone only once, but their first shot went in. Noah Dobson fired from the point, and Horvat tipped it in from the high slot for what seemed like a 3-2 lead and a goal for the former Canuck against his old team. However, Rick Tocchet successfully challenged it for goalie interference because Ekman-Larsson and Anders Lee collided with Delia.
The long break meant the top unit was able to rest and come back out for the rest of the power play, though, and the Islanders took advantage. Mathew Barzal held the puck on the half wall looking for a pass, especially to Horvat, but he opted to go to Dobson for a give-and-go, one-timing Dobson’s return feed into the top corner just as the power play expired. The Isles really led 3-2, this time.
Just after the center ice faceoff, Samuel Bolduc got called for tripping. Vancouver did tip one puck off the post but didn’t threaten much otherwise, and Parise nearly converted J-G Pageau’s cross-ice feed on their two-on-one; Delia made a spectacular save. But Sorokin followed that up on the next play by taking contact on a three-on-one and still keeping the puck out. The Islanders were about to go to a second straight kill, as Barzal was initially called for high-sticking Boeser, but the refs gathered and determined it was a follow-through—we’ll take that every time, but I think that was a penalty.
It was around this time that Thomas Hickey ominously noted that the tide had shifted, with the Canucks looking a little tired on the back-to-back. It felt like the perfect time for Horvat to get that goal against his former team, and it was another taste of what the next eight and half years will look like. Barzal danced with the puck down below the goal before finding Horvat with a little space in the bumper spot, giving the Islanders a 4-2 lead. The game was looking good.
Mat Barzal finds an open Bo Horvat who buries one against the Vancouver Canucks, his former team pic.twitter.com/yT4EWM3cLz— Isles on MSGSN (@IslesMSGN) February 10, 2023
But then the Canucks again got one right back. Dobson and Alex Romanov both slid, leaving the slot wide open for Phil DiGiuseppe to connect with Nils Aman to make it 4-3. There were a couple of hairy moments in the defensive zone, and the Islanders escaped the period still up one, but that late Vancouver goal came back to bite them.
Just under two minutes had passed when Nelson led another odd-man rush and tried to mimic his first goal. Delia made the first save—it wasn’t as strong a shot as his goal because Ekman-Larsson stick-checked him—but Nelson just missed putting the rebound behind the Vancouver netminder.
Then, the Canucks threatened enough to force an icing and ensuing high-sticking both by Adam Pelech on Garland, and Vancouver made the most of it, tying the game at 4-4. Elias Pettersson unloaded his Hardest Shot-winning blast from the blue line through Miller and Sorokin.
As so often happens, a late goal in the second period for a trailing team leads to momentum, goals, and a lead change in the third period. Sorokin was off all night, and perhaps no more apparently so than on the goal that put the Canucks ahead 5-4. It was Pettersson again, and it was on the rush, but he got a piece of it and still let it through. After leading the game 4-2, the Islanders had conceded three straight.
The Islanders went back on the power play midway through the period, with Nelson drawing a penalty. They had chances—the man advantage does look much better with Horvat on it—but they couldn’t score, as Delia came up with some big saves.
After that, they shot themselves in the foot. They couldn’t stop giving away the puck to save their lives, and then Pelech took his second penalty of the period, a frustration cross-checking penalty away from the play, putting the Isles a man down with less than five minutes left. Predictably, it led to yet another goal against, with Beauvillier tipping the puck in front and getting his first as a Canuck to make it 6-4. It was written. We all knew it was coming.
Quinn Hughes flipped the puck over the glass to give the Islanders a power play and allow them to go six-on-four. Dobson got them back within one to make it 6-5, and that’s how the game ended. Beauvillier gets the game-winner, and the Islanders shamefully walk away with zero points.
Notes and Thoughts
- Nelson hit 20 goals and extended a nine-game point streak, with five goals and assists each in that span.
- Happy that Horvat got to score against his former team, making him just the 40th player in NHL history to score against 32 teams. At the time, it seemed like a huge goal to put the game out of reach against a tired team and clinch the Isles’ fifth straight win. As he said post-game, the loss to this specific opponent and in this specific manner stings.
- Unfortunately, the defense and goaltending fell apart. Pelech is supposed to be the team’s top defensive defenseman, but he took two stupid penalties in the third period, the first of which was the direct result of him icing the puck and the last of which was an inexcusable display of frustration in a one-goal game. Samuel Bolduc made some smart plays but also some soft plays. Same with Dobson. Romanov just made soft plays, as did Mayfield.
- And behind them, Sorokin had a bad night. After Sorokin’s shutout streak ended, he sort of fell apart. It’s rare for him to have an off night like that, but I think I remember it happening earlier in the season after a similar multi-game shutout streak was snapped. Anyway, he probably will want back at least two or three of those six goals.
- The Islanders scored five goals against a bad team playing on the second half of a back-to-back and still lost. That can’t happen any time, let alone when you’re on the edge of the playoff bubble. They needed to win this game coming in, and they really needed to close it out after going up two goals.
- Random note: I’ve noticed that some of the guys—Nelson and Pelech, to name a couple—have a bit of facial hair to show. Could be a medical condition or something, but is it possible that Lou has relaxed on that? Is it a mild protest of some sort? Are they growing playoff beards already, since the rest of the season is basically playoff hockey if they want to make the actual playoffs? So many possibilities.
- Now, for Beauvillier: He did a long interview with Shannon Hogan before the game, he started the game, the Isles gave him a nice tribute video, and he notched his first as a Canuck for the game-winner. Big game Beau strikes again. Although I’m ecstatic to have Horvat, I’ll still miss Tito. Thanks for all the memories, good luck, and congratulations on a big night in your very immediate return. (Seriously, how tough must it be to have to come back to your old home arena before ever playing a home game for your new team? Gotta ask John Tonelli.)
The Islanders pop up to Quebec for a 12:30 p.m. game against the Montréal Canadiens. It has to be two points.