• Isaac Brendel

Islanders Edge: Sorokin stellar, Isles dominant in game four rout of Penguins

photo credit: Bruce Bennett, Getty Images

With their Stanley Cup hopes on the line and a screaming Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum crowd - the New York Islanders delivered.

Down 2-1 in the series headed into Saturday’s game four, the Isles knew they needed a decisive victory and would do whatever it took to get exactly that.

Saturday’s matinee showed me, you, and all Isles fans what this team is all about.

After a shaky game three performance, Semyon Varlamov would not be in the crease for Barry Trotz’s Islanders. Instead, young stud Russian goaltender Ilya Sorokin, who started game one for the blue and orange, and would have another chance to prove that the net is his. Sorokin’s game one performance was excellent, and his game four performance was even better.

The first period was one where neither team scored, but overall the boys in blue and orange held their own, and Sorokin made a few key saves. Penguins goaltender Tristan Jarry played a solid first twenty minutes, but that changed in the second frame, where New York peppered him with shots.

The scoring was opened up by Josh Bailey, who scored 8:07 into the second period. Brock Nelson, who had himself a great game, was credited with the primary assist, which is his second assist of the postseason. Anthony Beauvillier also picked up his second assist of the playoffs. 14:51 in, Ryan Pulock made it 2-0 New York. Oliver Wahlstrom (2) and Nick Leddy (1) picked up assists.

In the third period, the Penguins showed no discipline after going onto a power-play. What was supposed to be Pittsburgh’s chance to get back in the game turned into New York calling the game and saying thank you very much. Initially, the Pens went to the power-play. That didn’t last very long, and four-on-four hockey ensued. The Pens went back to the box, giving New York a four-on-three man advantage. Pittsburgh’s lack of discipline is something that New York must take advantage of as we advance.

6:04 into the third, Wahlstrom capitalized on the man advantage, giving New York a 3-0 lead. The goal was unassisted. The Penguins were playing games, and New York took the game, kept their composure, and didn’t engage. This allowed them to take the game easily. Just twenty-four seconds after the Wahlstrom goal, Jordan Eberle beat Jarry and made it 4-0 New York. Mathew Barzal (3) and Jean-Gabriel Pageau (3) were credited with assists on New York’s second power-play goal.

Zach Aston-Reese scored a shorthanded goal 17:25 in, but Isles fans only expressed love for Sorokin after the goal. “The White Whale” was spectacular and turned aside twenty-nine of thirty shots faced. “Ilya” chants rang through the Coliseum all day, and it goes without saying that he should be the game five starter.

New York’s impressive 4-1 win was not only exactly what they needed, but it now gives them a chance to have a clinching scenario in front of the raucous Coliseum crowd on Wednesday in game six.

The Isles are for real. Even without their captain Anders Lee, they are a tough team to play against. We are seeing a preview of what we can expect in a year or two. As the young guys develop, another special era may await this franchise. Whatever happens in this series will happen, but Isles general manager Lou Lamoriello has to be happy about where his team and organization stand long term. If they play like they did in game four, there isn’t a single team they can’t beat.

When asked about a packed building, Sorokin said, “finally seeing fans at games, it’s very exciting because we play for fans.” Evidently, the blue and orange faithful raising the low to the ground Coliseum roof doesn’t go unnoticed. Trotz also praised the fans multiple times in his postage presser. “I think we came out with a really good mindset,” Trotz said of his team. “I’ll tell you what, what a great atmosphere, and it’s hard not to {come out with a good mindset} with the crowd. They gave us some juice tonight, they were fantastic,” Trotz said of the Isles faithful, who did, in fact, rock the barn. “You come out here, and you hear them chanting, it’s a fun place to play. We fed off their {the crowd’s} intensity right from the puck drop and got a lead,” Eberle said after the game.

More efforts and full games like these are needed in deep playoff runs. If the Isles want it, which they do, nothing is more important than rest and playing exactly how they did in game four.

These two teams will square off again in game five, which will take place in Pittsburgh on Monday night. Puck drop is set for 7:00 PM Eastern Time.

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