After a week off for the NHL All Star Break, the NY Islanders (20-17-12) return to the ice to face off against the Toronto Maple Leafs (25-14-8) at Scotiabank Arena. Mat Barzal has very little traveling to do, coming off of winning the tournament as part of Team Matthews and playing alongside Auston Matthews himself, as well as Leafs William Nylander, Morgan Riley and Mitch Marner.
Back on January 27th, the Islanders continued their streak of struggling in overtime after a 3-2 OT loss to the Florida Panthers. This was the 18th overtime game for the Islanders this season, and their 9th loss in extra time. The Islanders allowed two power play goals, by Sam Reinhart and Matthew Tkachuk respectively in the Isles third straight loss under Patrick Roy. Simon Holmstrom, who was loaned to the Bridgeport Islanders over the All-star break, scored and Roy was aggressive with pulling Semyon Varlamov with over two minutes left, allowing Kyle Palmieri to tie the game and head to OT. Oliver Ekman-Larsson scored 1:57 into overtime to give the Panthers their 4th straight win.
The Leafs last played on January 24th in a 1-0 overtime win against the Winnipeg Jets. Ilya Samsonov, who struggled with his play earlier this season, made 32 saves in his second shut out of the season. Matthews scored the lone goal with 47 seconds remaining in overtime to give the Leafs their second straight win.
The Islanders are looking to complete the season sweep against the Leafs, winning their previous games 4-3, both in overtime on December 11th and January 11th. Matthews opened the scoring with a power play goal. Brock Nelson and Casey Cizikas both scored to close out the first period with a 2-1 lead. Palmieri gave the Isles a 3-1 lead to start the second period, and John Tavares scored amid many "boos" at UBS arena. This win came amid the Islanders struggles to hold third period leads, especially with only a minute or two remaining. Morgan Riley scored with 7 seconds remaining in the third period to tie the game at 3. With the primary assist, Tavares scored his 1,000 NHL point, the Toronto bench in celebration, which angered many Islanders fans. But, just 46 seconds into overtime, Bo Horvat scored his 10th of the season. In pure Bo fashion, he waved goodbye to the Leafs, mimicking Riley's goal celebration minutes earlier.
On January 11th, Palmieri opened the scoring for his 10th goal of the season on the power play, just 40 seconds. The leafs scored three straight goals, one my Bobby McMann and two by Matthews respectively. Alexander Romanov scored his fourth goal of the season to bring the Islanders within one, and Horvat scored on the power play to tie the game at 3. Barzal scored his 21 seconds into overtime to give the Islanders their second win against the Leafs.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Noah Dobson was hot before heading into a much needed All-star break. The 24 year old was definitely snubbed by the all-star voting, but the young star definitely needed a week off. Dobson has 9 assists in his last 5 games and has 51 points in 49 games this season. Horvat and Barzal are two players who always stand out when playing against the Leafs. "The kid who won the Calder" came in second (arguably should have been first) in the fastest skater competition, and hopefully picked up a few secrets from his Toronto teammates.
Matthews, who won the NHL All-star MVP award, has 6 goals and 2 assists in his last five games. Fellow all-star teammate Morgan Riley has five assists in his last five games.
Anders Lee - Bo Horvat – Mathew Barzal
Pierre Engvall - Brock Nelson – Kyle Palmieri
Simon Holmstrom – J.G. Pageau – Oliver Wahlstrom
Matt Martin – Kyle MacLean - Cal Clutterbuck
Alexander Romanov - Noah Dobson
Mike Reilly – Scott Mayfield
Adam Pelech – Ryan Pulock ( both unconfirmed/game-time decisions)
Matthew Knies - Auston Matthews – Mitch Marner
Tyler Bertuzzi - John Tavares – Kyle Palmieri
Nicholas Robertson – Max Domi – Noah Gregor
Bobby McMann – Pontus Holmberg - Ryan Reaves
Morgan Riley - T.J Brodie
Sam Benot – Jake McCabe
Mark Giordano – Timothy Liljegren