The New York Islanders took another regulation loss and another potential injury blow as 2024 continued to get off to the wrong kind of start in a 5-2 loss to the Vancouver Canucks. The Isles are winless in five out of seven, including two regulation losses to the division rival Penguins who have shot up the standings.
As for the visitors, with the win the Canucks continued their offensively explosive bounce-back year and completed a three-game sweep of the NY/NJ metro teams, apparently for the first time in their history.
Instead of blowing a third-period lead, the Islanders didn’t even have a chance after 40 minutes, falling behind 2-0 in the first period and 3-0 by the midway point of the game.
Of concern, Casey Cizikas left the game after blocking a shot before the Canucks’ first goal. He returned for a couple of shifts and then was done for the night, so the already slumping Islanders will need to adjust if Cizikas isn’t able to return for the next Daunting Visit, Thursday night when the Leafs are in town.
Adding insult to injury, the Islanders lost to Casey DeSmith, which just doesn’t feel right.
The Islanders did get two goals from Brock Nelson — the pivot on a struggling line that was an early-season strength — including a really nicely worked power play goal to make it 3-1, so there’s that.
And Adam Pelech was back after a long injury layoff, though of course not quite his old self (and I’m not sure we saw his old self as much this year even before the injury).
Lambert on Pelech:— Stefen Rosner (@stefen_rosner) January 10, 2024
"I thought he showed signs of rust. I mean, he's been out for a while. It was good for him to get back into game action. You can skate all you want, but once you get into the game and get against an opposition, you see a difference there."#Isles
Turnovers and a continually bleeding defense — despite efforts to shore things up in practice this week — continued to haunt.
Meanwhile, Ilya Sorokin had another four-goals-against game, on 33 shots. Some underlying stats show he’s facing a heavy high-danger load and doing alright (which would redirect the finger of blame to...?), but it’s hard not to notice his now .908 save percentage and 3.20 GAA, especially in contrast to how Semyon Varlamov has performed when healthy.
Of course, Varlamov is hurt and his apparent re-injuries are unsettling, so the Islanders really need to be able to lean on the “Soroking” version of Ilya. Especially since the sound, shutdown D of the Barry Trotz era continues to elude Lane Lambert’s squad.
Lane Lambert, Nelson, Palmieri and Pelech Postgame Media Availability.— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) January 10, 2024
The Toronto Maple Leafs visit Thursday, then the Isles head on a Midwestern trip to Nashville, Chicago, Minnesota and Winnipeg.