Islanders Edge: Late collapse costs Isles important 2 points
photo credit: Kathy Willens - staff, AP
For the New York Islanders, a fast start was necessary on Thursday night to dictate the pace of play and stay on the right track - and even maybe get hot after a very slow start to the 2021 season. In the tenth anniversary of the Isles vs. Penguins brawl game at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, both teams would be hungry for the two points at stake. Out of the gate, the Isles looked solid. 5:39 into the first twenty minutes of play, Casey Cizikas scored a dazzling goal from his knees. Cal Clutterbuck and Ryan Pulock both recorded their fourth assists of the season. Both teams exchanged chances, and overall the first period was pretty evenly matched. 11:47 in, Bryan Rust tipped one past Isles goaltender Semyon Varlamov to cap off a brilliant passing play started by Jake Guentzel and Sidney Crosby. Just a few minutes later, New York went to the power-play. It started as arguably the worst power play so far this season, but the Isles were able to pick it up and eventually get things going. At the 16:40 mark of the first frame, Jean-Gabriel Pageau scored his second goal of the season. Nick Leddy picked up his fifth assist of the season, and Josh Bailey his third.
The second period was one of the sloppier periods the Isles have played thus far in this young season, resulting in the lone goal of the period being scored by Staten Island native Zach Aston-Reese. This was Aston-Reese’s first goal of the season. Teddy Blueger notched his fifth assist this year, and Brandon Tanev his second. The Isles were able to establish their game again in the third period. It was a back and forth period until Mathew Barzal scored one of the nicest goals you’ll ever see at 13:35 in, giving New York the lead again at 3-2. Things looked great for the Isles until the foreboding moment when the Isles undoubtedly would have sealed the deal with an empty-net goal. This was until the net came off of its moorings, and the play was blown dead.
With their net empty, the Penguins did a great job creating chances. For the most part, the Isles kept them to the outside and closed lanes on the 6-on-5, but it all went downhill when Evgeni Malkin scored his third goal of the year with 18 seconds remaining. Kris Letang and Bryan Rust got the assists. It was an eventful overtime, but the 3-on-3 extra session did not settle the back and forth matchup between these two division foes. To the shootout we go!
Barry Trotz elected for his team to shoot first, and Casey DeSmith denied Jordan Eberle. Semyon Varlamov returned the favor on Jake Guentzel.
Round Two: DeSmith stopped Mathew Barzal on a backhand attempt, and Pens captain Sidney Crosby waited out Varlamov and backhanded the puck into the back of the net.
Round Three: DeSmith denied Josh Bailey, and the Penguins walked out of the contest with the two points that were up for grabs.
Though the Isles point streak grows to five games, leaving points on the table is never good. The Isles should have won this game and ultimately came up short. It is senseless to blame the refs for the net being dislodged. New York is known for their powerhouse defense, and need to tighten it up as we advance. The Isles’ next opponent is the top team in the MassMutual East Division. They beat them earlier in the year and will need another solid sixty-minute effort (at least) to beat the big bad Boston Bruins again. These upcoming games are a big test for Trotz’s Isles, and the boys in blue and orange better be ready for all that lies ahead. As of now, the Islanders are still in 4th place and latching onto a playoff spot.
Bruins (9-1-2) vs. Islanders (5-4-3) will take place at the Nassau Coliseum on Saturday. Puck drop is set for 7:00 PM Eastern Time.