03/17/2022 vs. the New York Rangers
Sometimes your most dominant game of the season isn't your best game. Why? Well, on March 17th, just a week after Lee scored his first career hat-trick, the Islanders took on their rival, the New York Rangers, at Madison Square Garden, arguably the grandest stage at the NHL level. It was another game where they analytically controlled the game, but it was much closer than their performance against Columbus seven days prior and that's what made it all the more thrilling.
The first period went scoreless as Ilya Sorokin and Igor Shesterkin continued their outstanding seasons. However, the first period should not have ended in a scoreless tie. At 5:22 of the first period, Artemi Panarin received a pass at the right circle and had a wide-open net. It seemed like a sure goal for a player of Panarin's stature, however, Sorokin made what feels like a save of the year snub, reaching back and diving across the crease with his paddle and swatting the puck away in mid-air. It was truly a jaw-dropping save and possibly the most memorable moment of the 2021-22 season.
"Holy, yes! It might have been one of the best, if not the best, save I've seen in a long time, and I've been around a long time. But it doesn't surprise me. He's capable of it and he's showing reasons. He's so athletic. Nothing surprises me with him."- Barry Trotz
On the back of Sorokin, the Islanders took control of the next 40 minutes. Continuing a March to remember, Lee opened up the scoring on the power play just :49 into the middle frame. The Rangers Chris Kreider potted the equalizer on their own power play just over 13 minutes into the second period. Kyle Palmieri had points in five straight games heading into their Thursday night rivalry and he kept the hot hands going doing what he does best below the dots. Ryan Pulock took control of the slot in the Rangers' end, floated the puck towards the net and Palmieri deflected it past Shesterkin at 17:16 of the third period. Sorokin locked it down for the remaining two minutes and change for a thrilling victory over the Islanders' rivals.
"I just thought it was a [heck] of a hockey game, from both teams. That was as fast as you're going to see it, especially the first period. You saw unbelievable goaltending on both sides. You saw commitment on both sides. You saw a good rivalry game. I'm going to say it was the most fun game of the year."- Barry Trotz
What makes this game the Islanders' best performance of the season is threefold. Of their best performances this season, not many came against playoff-bound teams, but the Rangers indeed made it to the postseason and the Islanders kept pace and then took control proving they're still the team many believe they can be. An added sweetener to this performance is the fact that it was a rivalry game. It's always a memorable win over a rival team and you won't find a bigger Islanders rival than the Rangers. And of course, the save. THE SAVE. You can't think of a game against the Rangers this season without remembering Sorokin's Matrix-like save. It wasn't their most dominant performance, but it was the Islanders' best performance in a thrilling game coined the "most fun" of the 2021-22 season.