This was a game that the New York Islanders needed to have against a cellar-dwelling team in the Anaheim Ducks. Too many times this season, that sentence has been followed by “unfortunately...” Through 20-30 minutes, despite decent play, it looked like that might happen again.
But after Hudson Fasching knotted the game back up, the new second line turned it up a notch, taking the lead late in the second before a three-goal explosion in the third period. The second line, consisting of Pierre Engvall, Brock Nelson, and Kyle Palmieri, combined for eight points, four of them Palmieri’s.
On an individual level, it was the first four-point night of Palmieri’s career, and it came against the team that made him a first-round pick. Engvall scored for the third consecutive game, although it wasn’t the first of the game and the Islanders didn’t miserably fall apart after that one. And finally, Nelson scored two goals to hit 30 goals for the second consecutive season and the second time in his career.
On a team level, the Islanders took two huge points in the playoff race to keep the challengers at bay a little while longer—and they were especially important with the Sabres and Capitals going to a shootout for a three-point game. Also, it must be said that Islanders fans did great showing up in a visiting arena tonight: There were loud yells from the TV every time the Islanders scored, and I think I even heard a “Yes! Yes! Yes!” erupt toward the end.
#Islesnation reppin in Anaheim YES YES YES!!— Isles on MSGSN (@IslesMSGN) March 16, 2023
Jersey tank tops, Bridgeport 3rd, gear in Cali rn is pic.twitter.com/1jqTlOoAo5
Somewhat shockingly, Ilya Sorokin got the start on back-to-back nights, facing off against John Gibson. Josh Bailey got the healthy scratch as Simon Holmstrom returned to the lineup.
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Just 0:25 into the game, after the Islanders lost a defensive zone draw and then forgot to play defense, a wide-open Max Jones gave the Ducks a very early 1-0 lead. That one had me heated and also nervous: It had that eerie feeling of another loss to a lowly team that would be the difference in the playoff race.
Fortunately, the Islanders were able to get one back as they started to take over the game. Adam Pelech led Engvall with a nice stretch pass to begin an odd-man rush, and Palmieri finished off Engvall’s gorgeous cross-ice pass for his first point of the night.
Pierre Engvall with the perfect cross ice pass to find Kyle Palmieri to tie it for the #Isles pic.twitter.com/BlyFyhaCll— Isles on MSGSN (@IslesMSGN) March 16, 2023
The Islanders continued to control, but one mistake and a saucy play by Trevor Zegras allowed Kevin Shattenkirk to restore the Ducks’ lead at 2-1 to go into the intermission.
Undeterred by the late goal, the Islanders kept up the pressure until finally, the dam broke. Nathan Beaulieu lost the puck in his own zone, springing Fasching on a three-on-one. He opted to keep the puck, banking it off Gibson’s five-hole and in.
Fasching ties it for the #Isles at 2 in the 2nd pic.twitter.com/U8dHpMcQp7— Isles on MSGSN (@IslesMSGN) March 16, 2023
To close out the period, with just 0:23 on the clock, Nelson from the circle one-timed Pelech’s pump-fake pass over Gibson to give the Islanders a 3-2 lead going into the third period and some sweet relief to Nelson, who had just one goal in his last six games, a now-paltry number for the long Minnesotan.
Brock Nelson with the picture perfect blast to give the #Isles a 3-2 lead pic.twitter.com/1cy2lhAoSr— Isles on MSGSN (@IslesMSGN) March 16, 2023
tonight's mood pic.twitter.com/FTHegIOXrn— Isles on MSGSN (@IslesMSGN) March 16, 2023
Win a period, win a game, right? The Islanders maintained their game despite this being their sixth period of hockey in two nights, all of which came across the continent. And it resulted in some breathing room, courtesy of Engvall. He found soft space on the rush over the blue line, getting behind a Ducks defender as he received Palmieri’s pass, sniping it under Gibson’s arm.
Pierre Engvall places it perfectly under Gibson's arm for the 4-2 #Isles lead pic.twitter.com/JsTtVkIO1A— Isles on MSGSN (@IslesMSGN) March 16, 2023
At 4-2, Islanders fans everywhere let out a sigh of relief. A calmness finally washed over me. But just for good measure and to hit a personal milestone, Nelson capitalized on a strong Islanders forecheck and made it 5-2, cutting into the slot as Palmieri sent him a perfect pass coming from behind the net. That was Nelson’s second goal and Palmieri’s third assist of the night.
Brock Nelson's 2️⃣nd of the night and 3️⃣0️⃣th of the season pic.twitter.com/R3mMngji9U— Isles on MSGSN (@IslesMSGN) March 16, 2023
And as a reward for his hard work, Zach Parise scored a goal when the initial rush try by J-G Pageau popped up into the air and landed beside a sprawling Gibson, leaving Parise to tap it home.
PARISE LIGHTS THE LAMP. pic.twitter.com/hpWQeH1W3W— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) March 16, 2023
Shattenkirk added another goal on a late power play for Anaheim, but that was elementary, my dear. (I’m sorry, I’m delirious.) The Isles took care of business, earning a 6-3 win and two points.
The Islanders close out their California swing Saturday night in Northern California, visiting the San Jose Sharks for a 10:30 p.m. start. It’s another late night, and another game against an opponent tanking for higher odds to draft Connor Bedard, meaning another two points the Islanders simply must have.