New coach, but yet another overtime game for the 2023-24 New York Islanders.
This time, the Isles got the last grin, and a game-winning game puck for Patrick Roy in his debut behind their bench, as Bo Horvat finished on the opening shift of overtime to give the Isles a 3-2 win. The Isles #14 scored with a backhand on a breakaway after a bank pass from Mat Barzal, who had just made an outstanding one-on-one defensive play against Matt Duchene during 3-on-3.
The result certainly could’ve gone either way, including ending in regulation with zero points, but it was a solid and spirited effort from the Isles in front of the new coach they learned about just over 24 hours prior.
First Period: Isles strike first
The Stars registered the first few shots, but the Islanders notched the first goal, on a nice counterattack after Noah Dobson made a great one-on-one defensive play in the Isles zone. That enabled Alex Romanov to ignite a rush, jumping up in the play for a give-and-go with Mat Barzal, then sniping that shot he’s revealed this season inside the near post.
After that, there were some hairy shifts as the Isles ran around in their own zone and had failed clears that kept Stars pressure alive. Roope Hintz was stopped point-blank by Ilya Sorokin. But nothing came of it, and the Isles eventually started getting a few chances of their own.
The Isles by no means dominated the chances, but they had a couple of the best ones that required big saves from Scott Wedgewood, who was starting on back-to-back nights due to what was assumed to be an illness for Jake Oettinger, who was technically dressed but not on the bench.
One of the chances was not an official shot: Noah Dobson found Brock Nelson at the back door for an empty net, but Nelson couldn’t quite redirect it on net.
Wedgewood made a save on J-G Pageau after a shorthanded rush started and fed by his PK running mate Simon Holmstrom.
Scott Mayfield took the first penalty, a soft but legit holding he committed right in front of Roy and the Isles bench. Anders Lee took the second nine minutes later, a trip that maybe shouldn’t have toppled big Jani Hakanpää. The Stars logged four shots across the two power plays (and gave up two), but couldn’t solve Sorokin.
For his part, Roy was direct and emphatic at times when addressing players on the bench, per his reputation. It’s going to be intense.
Second Period: Stars flip the score
The Stars lost Craig Smith after five shifts in the first period, so they played with a shorter bench.
It was a quiet first half of the second period, but at 8:49 Nelson was called for holding as he battled in the corner and tried to get away with hanging on to Sam Steel’s stick.
After the Islanders killed that, they had a rush that created a wide-open look for Hudson Fasching, but Hakanpää lifted his stick to prevent what would’ve been an easy tap-in. The Stars went back the other way twice immediately afterward, the first time forcing a great save from Sorokin, but equalizing on the second opportunity, a nifty move by Jason Robertson at 11:35.
Things quieted and slowed down after that, and it was looking like a sleepy descent toward the second intermission when Nils Lundkvist’s not-very-threatening shot from the point went through Joe Pavelski’s legs and eluded Sorokin. That put the Stars up 2-1 with just under five minutes to go.
Third Period: Tied off Fasching’s leg
It didn’t take the Isles too long into the third to get the equalizer, and they continued to have a solid period afterward.
They broke through with a good forecheck, which led to a Dobson point shot that went in off Fasching to tie it 2-2 5:23 into the period. As time wound down and the Stars played a very passive no-forecheck in the neutral zone, the Islanders didn’t join them in sitting back. In the final couple minutes, Dobson alone pinched down the boards three times to keep pucks in the Stars zone and keep the top line circulating.
But in the end, both teams were surely content to reach the end of regulation with a point, given their circumstances.
The Stars had the first passive possession setup of OT, and as noted, Duchene thought he had a good isolation against the Islanders forward. But Barzal was ready, doing his best Pelech to take the puck from Duchene’s move and then scoot up ice. With Duchene in pursuit and just about to potentially knock the puck away, Barzal played the perfect angle off the boards from his own zone.
That sent Horvat in to do the rest.
WINNNER WINNNER CHICKEN SUNDAY NIGHT DINNER pic.twitter.com/kANRZHPd10— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) January 22, 2024
As the last of the Isles left the ice, Anders Lee and Matt Martin remembered they forgot one thing: Lee went back to the net to retrieve the game puck for the new boss.
The Isles have three more games before the All-Star break/bye week, starting Tuesday night at home when the Golden Knights visit. They’ll finish at home Saturday against the Panthers, but between those two will be a massively covered visit to Roy’s home province and the Montreal Canadiens.