The New York Islanders were outplayed for the majority of Sunday’s game but managed to come out with two points in overtime thanks to an unlikely OT hero.
The New York Islanders played a very strong 24 minutes of hockey on Sunday night at the Nassau Coliseum, the final minute of that performance culminated in Ryan Pulock’s first goal of 2020-21, which sealed the win for the Isles.
Here are three takeaways from the Islanders’ latest win, a 3-2 victory over the New York Rangers.
1. Ilya Sorokin vs Igor Shesterkin
After months of anticipation had sufficiently built hype for the inevitable matchup of young Russian goalies playing for New York hockey franchises, fans were finally given what they’ve wanted all along. Ilya Sorokin. Igor Shesterkin. Islanders, Rangers.
The matchup almost seems scripted when you zoom out and look at it from afar. Two Russian goalies of roughly similar age who concurrently dominated the KHL, the world’s second-best hockey league, for years. Two friends who played on Russian international tournament teams together, finally getting to square off as opposing numbers in one of hockey’s most storied rivalries.
It’s practically a Disney script. And just to add to the drama, the game was pretty much a goalie duel.
First, it was Igor Shesterkin’s turn to face the brunt of the rubber. The Islanders peppered Shesterkin during the first period, doubling up the Rangers in unblocked shot attempts, (22-11) shots on goal, (17-8) and high danger scoring chances, (8-4) and staked themselves to a two-goal lead in the opening frame’s dying seconds on a J-G Pageau one-timer.
Then in the second period, Ilya’s teammates pretty much went to sleep on him. The Rangers out-shot attempted the Islanders 28-11 and out-chanced them 16-8 in a middle frame that was pretty much spent entirely in the Islanders zone. The one-sided period led to the Rangers tying the game 2-2 off goals by replacement-level players defensemen Libor Hajek and Brendan Smith.
Despite the slow second, and what should’ve been a paint-peeling second intermission tantrum by Barry Trotz, the Islanders came out in the third looking just as determined to let Sorokin bail them out again.
The shot attempt and expected goal numbers weren’t terribly lopsided in the Rangers’ favor during the third. But watching the game live it felt like, again, the Islanders were trapped in their zone far too often and allowing way too much from the dangerous areas.
Regardless, Sorokin stood tall and pretty much undeniably faced the more voluminous workout. He’s building himself a very good first season in North America, and this win should endear him to the segment of Islanders fans who are still calling him overhyped.