Having Ilya Sorokin in net is a luxury for the New York Islanders, but not one that they can take for granted. Sorokin had to be spectacular yet again, stopping 45 of 47 shots in a 3-2 win over the Ottawa Senators on Thursday night at UBS Arena to end a three-game winless streak.
The Islanders won their first two games of the season, surrendering just 42 shots on goal, including a stifling defensive performance where they allowed just 14 to Arizona in a 1-0 shutout. Since then, however, the team has allowed 168 shots in their last four games, the most in any four-game span since February 2018, when Doug Weight was the coach and they allowed the most goals in the NHL.
Contributing to the problem is the amount of undisciplined penalties the Islanders are taking, which totaled eight on Thursday. The good story out of the game was the team killing seven out of eight Senators' power play opportunities, but head coach Lane Lambert knows that that had more to do with Sorokin's play than anything else.
“Our goaltender was our best penalty killer,” Lambert said. “The penalty kill was good, and I thought they did a great job all night long, really. That was basically the reason we won the game.”
The Isles can ill-afford to give strong offensive teams that many opportunities with the extra man. Not only that, but it takes away from the offensive 5-on-5 flow of the game, leading to a number of players staying on the bench for a long time and breaking the rhythm of the line combination.
"We definitely want to be better in front of him," Bo Horvat said. "That [means] staying out of the box and playing five on five. And when you take those penalties, it's going to be tough on your goaltender, but he was a brick wall again tonight."