The Islanders went in to this game on a two game losing streak and were looking for answers on what has been a disappointing season. However, despite starting slowly, the Islanders had an explosive third period, scoring 7 goals (a franchise road record), winning the game 7-4 denying the Canucks a much needed two points. For Vancouver, the two points would have put them one point ahead of Winnipeg, though the Jets have a game in hand on the Canucks.
The Canucks also sit 4 points back from the Dallas Stars, who have 3 games in hand.
Aside from a Vancouver Canucks goal, the first period was uneventful as teams seemed to be flat coming out of the gate. Teams would trade power plays, both of which seemed to be out of sync as neither team got much rubber towards the net, but only Chris Higgins would find the back of the net after the Islanders defense collapsed down low leaving the open man to find a loose puck.
Overall, the Islanders offensive zone pressure was limited. The Canucks defense blocked shots and kept the Islanders to the outside not allowing the puck to be carried towards the front of the net or out of the corners.
First period notes for the Islanders coming out of the first: Anders Lee and Brock Nelson continue to play a physical game, using their size down low to cause some trouble for opposing teams. With both players’ offensive upside, the two will be vital in coming seasons. Finding players with grit, size, and a scoring touch is hard to find.
The defense also played a generally solid period despite giving up the power play goal after a collapse down low The defense was poised and quickly transitioned back up ice as both teams’ neutral zone play was sloppy.
Ryan Strome continues to find his game at the NHL level and was a part of a number of good shifts where the Islanders found themselves putting pressure on the Canucks defense and Mike Halmo also seems to be fitting right in throwing his weight around on the fourth line, something I hope we see for a long time to come.
Travis Hamonic also showed some of his own speed and flash as he danced down the boards cutting towards the net. I think I speak for everyone when I say it would be great to see more of that from him.
The second was much of the same, except the Canucks would find the net two more times. The Islanders defense continued to look lost at times, scrambling in front of Evgeni Nabokov, which led to a Henrik Sedin goal followed by a power play goal. The Islanders had no jump and looked deflated. Islanders only had 7 shots with 6:27 remaining in the second period, though a late power play closed the gap to 19-13 at the end of the second. Neither teams’ zone entries were very good, but the Islanders defense was unable to keep the puck out in the neutral zone leading to a number of chances for the Canucks throughout the period as their defense tightened up.
Second period notes: Grabner left the game from what appeared to be an upper body injury. Arthur Staple tweeted a possible shoulder injury.
The third period was all Islanders as they out scored Vancouver 7 to 1 in the final frame.
A carry over penalty lead to the Islanders first goal, as Matt Donovan threaded the needle to Josh Bailey, giving him his first goal since January. Shortly after, the Islanders got a gift in the form of a 5 on 3, which they capitalized on after good movement on the power play tying the score at 3 with goals from Strome and Calvin de Haan.
After the power plays, the Islanders led in shots 20-19.
The Canucks had even more penalty trouble, and Frans Nielsen netted his 20th of the season as the penalty expired to put the Islanders up 4-3. This is the first time in his career hitting the 20 goal mark.
Shortly after, the Canucks and Islanders would trade goals as a point shot got through Nabokov, but a strong forecheck by the fourth line would lead to a Matt Martin goal, his 5th of the year, making it 5-4 Islanders.
Anders Lee would also get on the board as the Islanders kept swarming. Eddie Lack appeared to be fighting the puck all game and the Islander forwards took advantage of the loose pucks in the slot. As the game went on, Vancouver’s defense also became sloppy, allowing Islander forwards to penetrate the slot and get pucks towards Lack.
Cal Clutterbuck sealed the game with an empty net goal to make it 7-4.
The 3rd period offensive push by the Islanders showed they could score goals without Thomas Vanek and John Tavares. It was a huge boost for the kids recently brought up who are playing a much larger role at the NHL level than they would on most other teams. For fans, myself included, it makes for a bright spot in a pretty dull season.
Casey Cizikas, who did not have his named called out by Jiggs or Butch much during the game, continued to quietly play his role. I believe he can be a 3rd line center option in the future. His passion, grit, and speed are an amazing asset. Love how excited he was after Martin’s goal. Shows his head is still in the game, and at 23, it appears he has matured quite a bit over the years.