Lane Lambert is gone, but the New York Islanders continue to suffer some of the same problems that cursed them during his tenure.
Two power play goals conceded and another overtime loss to the Florida Panthers put a disappointing exclamation point on the fourth game of Roy’s time as Lambert’s replacement. The team has shown signs of improvement under Roy, but #hockeygods happen and the team is still caught in a mid-season shift and subject to the variables of hockey.
So with a four-game stretch against mostly tough teams before the bye week, the Isles went 1-2-1, with a win in one of their weaker efforts, regulation losses against a Cup champion and a bottom feeder, and finally an OT loss against last season’s Cup runner up.
Saturday night, they concluded that stretch by at least getting a point thanks to a late tying goal with the goalie pulled, before losing 3-2 in overtime to the Panthers.
It was an even but kind of a low-energy first period. The teams exchanged late penalties, with the Islanders’ power play producing nothing and the Panthers’ advantage bridging the intermission.
After the Isles killed off the rest of Pierre Engvall’s penalty, they really pushed the pace and had the better of play for the first extended stretch in the first. They weren’t rewarded, but there were posts hit, some big saves by Anthony Stolarz, plus some golden chances that could’ve been handled better (Bo Horvat, looking at you skating in all alone).
The Panthers pushed back though, and their lethal power play got them on the board first. It was a dizzying exchange, as Carter “the one who got away” Verhaeghe picked up a rebound off the left wing boards and rimmed immediately to Matthew Tkachuk behind the net on the opposite side. Tkachuk immediately scooped the puck and sent a no-look pass to the slot for Sam Reinhart, who one-timed his 20th power play goal of the season. Multiple teams do not have that many.
The Panthers had another scary power play when Kyle MacLean went to the box, but the Isles killed that off — and even had a couple of dangerous Simon Holmstrom-J-G Pageau shorthanded looks — which left things open for Holmstrom to get the tying goal later at even strength.
HOLMSTROM! 1-1 late in the second. pic.twitter.com/pwT9hc9ynY— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) January 28, 2024
It came on a broken play after an Oliver Wahlstrom faceoff win, with faceoff-ejectee Pageau’s shot blocked while Wahlstrom picked up the rebound from the low slot. That tied it at 1-1 with 3:31 left in the second period. That created hope going into the third.
Alas, the Isles took another penalty early in the third period, and they suffered the consequences. Samuel Bolduc wiped out trying to check Mackie Samoskevich — it looked like what I imagine I would look like trying to check an NHL player — but he did enough to disrupt the rush along the left wing boards. Alas, his stick stayed in between the legs of Samoskevich, who either legitimately tripped over it or saw that his angle was eliminated and decided to go down.
Tkachuk deflected a point shot on the power play to put the Panthers up, 2-1.
It was looking dire for the Isles the rest of the way, as they couldn’t mount much at 5-on-5, weren’t getting any power plays, and had a tough time competently getting Varlamov off for a sixth attacker.
After nearly blowing it a couple of times, they finally got Varlamov off. Barzal had trouble skating the puck in, so he finally backhanded a dump-in and the Isles did well to keep the Panthers from clearing.
Then it was a fabulous albeit nail-biting play high in the zone, with Barzal in a phone booth slipping the puck to Noah Dobson, who glided down the right wing and found Kyle Palmieri for a one-timer to tie it with 89 seconds left.
I think the Isles were still a little too casual as time wound down. But they made it to the end of regulation. They got a poiny.
Overtime belonged mostly to the Panthers. Brock Nelson had a decent enough chance from the left side, but Stolarz cut off the angle — and instead of freezing, he gloved the puck to Evan Rodrigues, who flew up ice, caught the Isles on a change, and fed Oliver Ekman-Larsson for the winner.
Butch Goring noted that Mike Reilly probably didn’t play the 2-on-1 the best way, and I think he’s right. He didn’t cut the pass off well, which required Varlamov to be caught in between, and then Ekman-Larsson had too much room to shoot for the winner.
It’s alumni weekend, with several interviewed during pregame, Bryan Trottier did some time live on air during the game with Butch and Brendan (when Trots was very pleased about Patrick Roy), Patrick Flatley was on for the second intermission, and there were other sightings, too:
Josh Bailey in the house as part of Alumni Weekend...and "The Josh Bailey Song" is heard at UBS Arena.#Memories— Andrew Gross (@AGrossNewsday) January 28, 2024
#Isles Hall of Famers Denis Potvin, Bryan Trottier, Pat LaFontaine and Pierre Turgeon out for ceremonial puck drop on Alumni Weekend.— Andrew Gross (@AGrossNewsday) January 28, 2024
Also, the late Clark Gillies and Mike Bossy recognized to crowd.
The Isles’ bye week begins. They won’t be back in action until they head to Toronto a week from Tuesday. But we’ll continue to have posts and threads for us to debate the primary sources of our misery.