Kyle Palmieri scored two goals that made the difference, and Ilya Sorokin returned to doing Sorokin things as the Islanders banked two crucial points with a 5-1 regulation win over the division title-contending New Jersey Devils on Long Island.
The two points restored the Islanders’ three-point lead for the first wild card spot, and Florida’s regulation loss in Ottawa meant their overall wild card cushion grew to six points.
Almost as important, the Islanders’ performance was a reassuring rebound after dropping three of four winnable points in back-to-back games over the weekend.
With two empty net goals following Palmieri’s insurance goal late in the third, the final score masks how close this one was. A would-be equalizer by Tomas Tatar midway through the third was waived off by the on-ice officials, and confirmed by league video review, for a distinct kick of the puck at the back door behind Sorokin.
Back in the second period, the Isles were pushing to build insurance on Pierre Engvall’s first-period opener — itself a tap-in after a Palmieri break-in — when they hit the post on the power play. Alas, late on that power play, Brock Nelson’s pass back for Noah Dobson at the point was intercepted by Erik Haula, who went around the tired Dobson for a breakaway move that beat Sorokin to tie it at 1-1.
But Palmieri — who was the one quoted saying the Isles didn’t come ready to play in the OT loss in Columbus — took charge to regain the lead late in the second with a ridiculous, around-the-net-and-slot orbit on his backhand before slicing a sick shot to the top corner.
Palmieri goes around the world and buries a sick backhand up in the toy department! pic.twitter.com/OCaYUXyKur— Isles on MSGSN (@IslesMSGN) March 28, 2023
The Islanders and Sorokin were under siege for much of the third period leading to Tatar’s overruled goal. But they responded to that second chance by breaking out of the siege, and it was a good forecheck that led to the first insurance goal.
At 15:25 of the third, Palmieri pounced on a hopeful and dangerous pass from the corner to the middle by Ondrej Palat. The former Lightning was looking for Jack Hughes on the play, but Brock Nelson made a crucial stick lift to keep Hughes from being able to handle the pass, allowing it to arrive right into Palmieri’s wheelhouse.
Trailing by two, the Devils pulled Vitek Vanecek early, and New Jersey generated some pressure and shots. But Anders Lee fought off a check in the neutral zone, then Casey Cizikas made the selfless play to help Bo Horvat break his goal drought with an empty-net tap-in to make it 4-1.
After Ryan Pulock took a puck over the glass delay of game penalty, the Devils pulled Vanececk again, and Zach Parise buried the fifth goal from center ice right before the buzzer.
High Praise for Cobra
"That was one of the best hockey games I've seen him play," said Lane Lambert about D Adam Pelech, who played a season-high 25:02 and was a plus-3 with four blocked shots.— Andrew Gross (@AGrossNewsday) March 28, 2023
The first of two upcoming meetings with the Capitals comes Wednesday night in D.C., before the Islanders then go on a weekend, back-to-back swing through Tampa and Carolina.
It’s a tough schedule ahead, so banking a regulation win tonight felt all the more important.