NY Islanders fans can finally exhale that sigh of relief. They finally win a game in a shootout by a score of 2-1.
The Isles outlasted the Washington Capitals in a defensive battle that featured great goaltending and offense being smothered early on. Shots read 7-3 in favor of the Caps after the first period in which neither side allowed any major scoring chances. In the second, the ice opened up, and Pierre Engvall capitalized beating Darcy Kuemper's short side to take the lead 1-0. Conor Sheary responded two and a half minutes later, sneaking a backhander past Ilya Sorokin to tie the game at one. Both goaltenders had great games, with Sorokin making 25 saves and Kuemper finishing with 29. There were great chances for each team in overtime, but neither could convert. Kyle Palmieri grabbed the shootout winner for the Isles to help them secure two king-sized points and create a five-point lead over Pittsburgh in the wild-card race.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
Expectations are never high when the Islanders get past sudden death, but they were able to get it done against one of the most dangerous shootout teams in the Capitals. Evgeny Kuznetsov scored on his signature slow-motion approach which works almost every time, even Sorokin got beat. Bo Horvat provided the answer for the Isles at the bottom of the first inning with a quick finish on Kuemper's short side. Sorokin stopped one of the best shootout performers of all time in TJ Oshie in the second round before Palmieri ripped a shot under Kuemper's glove to take the lead. All that was left was to stop Nicklas Backstrom, and the white whale did just that to close out the victory for the blue and orange.
There were a few other positives that were noticeable for New York. Engvall has shown again that he is a fantastic addition to the Islanders with his speed and willingness to shoot from anywhere, and has been an effective scorer in all spots of the lineup. The Isles also did a much better job covering the middle of the ice compared to the last game, playing tight man-defense and not giving up much space. They took no penalties on the night, which shows their discipline to not give one of the best power plays in the league an opportunity. Finally, the intensity never faltered after taking a few big hits and the team responding with big ones of their own.
WHAT WENT WRONG
The Isles may have won, but the offense still struggles to drive play without their dynamic center Mathew Barzal. It's hard for the Isles personnel to get open considering they lack speed and focus more on getting into the dirty areas, which is not always a bad thing but sometimes the team can look exhausted. The benefit for them however was that this also tired out Washington more. Dobson, who has been under some criticism, had a few good looks offensively throughout the game but often found himself out of position defensively or causing a turnover. They'll need him to clean these issues up as the playoffs loom.
STATS OF THE GAME
According to Eric Hornick in The Skinny:
- While this is only their 1st shootout win of the season, this was the Isles' 89th all-time, which is the current NHL record.
- Before today, Engvall had scored on all of his four career shots against Kuemper. He scored on one of his four shots against him last night.
SOCIAL MEDIA MOMENT OF THE GAME
The Isles on MSG Twitter account posted what was likely most fans' reactions after they won their first shootout all season. The admins must have had this picture in the drafts for months.
The Islanders will continue their final multi-game road trip of the season when they play the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday. Puck drop is at 7:00 PM.