HOW IT HAPPENED
The NY Islanders got off to a slow start against the visiting Edmonton Oilers, but after the ten-minute mark of the first period, they took control. Like the last time they played in Alberta, a goal was scored within the first 90 seconds of the game, this time from Leon Draisaitl. The Oilers led 1-0 going into the second period, but then the Isles scored two straight power-play goals from Anders Lee on the doorstep and then from Bo Horvat off a great feed from Brock Nelson. Simon Holmstrom continues to be a threat on the penalty kill, scoring another shorthanded to make it five such goals on the season. Ilya Sorokin had his most efficient night since November, making 30 saves on 31 shots leading the blue and orange to victory.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
As stated above, the Oilers imposed their will with their great speed on New York within the first ten minutes of the game, but the Islanders were able to respond by not giving them any good scoring chances. This may have been the best game penalty-killing-wise for the Isles this season, even without the shorthanded goal by Holmstrom. Edmonton had the greatest power-play percentage of all-time in 2022-23, and although it has not been as effective this season, New York killed all four Oilers power plays, including a 5 on 3. The unit did a fantastic job of getting in front of shots and blocking Edmonton's shooting lanes, notably from the blue line. Evan Bouchard of the Oilers only finished with two shots on goal, but those who watched the game saw how many times he attempted to find a way to shoot through bodies but couldn't. The Isles finished with 22 blocks collectively on the night, with Robert Bortuzzo, Casey Cizikas, and Sebastian Aho eating three each.
The power play this season has been a breath of fresh air this season when compared to last, going from the 3rd worst throughout the league in 2022-23 to the 5th best in 2023-24, and you could see why it has been going well for the Isles tonight. The NHL's Third Star of the Week Noah Dobson shows time and time again that he is an elite power-play quarterback, as he is much more composed with his decision-making at the blue line compared to last year. The combination of forwards on the man advantage consisting of Mat Barzal, Horvat, and Nelson are all scoring threats that teams need to prepare for now when that unit couldn't gain any chemistry last season while Barzal was hurt. The much faster pace while a man-up has been very positive for New York this season and has been a huge reason they continue to win games.
WHAT WENT WRONG
The Islanders still lacked speed in transition, but anyone will look slow when they are playing the high-flying Oilers. There were a few long shifts for the lines when Edmonton maintained offensive zone time and cycled with that speed, but the Isles made up for it by blocking shots, forcing penalties, and shots from the outside. There were a couple of bad games from players wearing blue, specifically Pierre Engvall who was a -1 in a 3-1 hockey game and gave away the puck in the O-zone a few times, allowing the Oilers to rush up ice. Julien Gauthier only played 4:33 on the ice and did not do much besides take a tripping penalty in the first period, and then was the reason the Isles received a bench minor for too many men in the third. We'll see if the lineup is shaken up heading into their next game, the likely swap out (and hope for some) being Gauthier for Oliver Wahlstrom.
STATS OF THE GAME
- Bo Horvat extends his point streak to 11 games with his power-play marker. He has 17 points during that span.
- Noah Dobson had one assist against Edmonton, making it 17 points in his last 11 games as well, all being assists.
- Brock Nelson has a five-game point streak of his own, scoring four goals and four assists during that span.
- Mat Barzal had one assist in the win after having no points in the Isles' previous game in Montreal. Barzal has not gone pointless in back-to-back games yet this season.
- This was the first game in which the Islanders scored at least two power-play goals so far this season.
SOCIAL MEDIA MOMENT OF THE GAME
ESPN analyst and former New York Rangers captain Ryan Callahan either felt like being nice towards the Islanders this holiday season or slipped up with his words that his Rangers fanbase won't like.
The Isles will play the second game of a back-to-back as they travel on the road to face the Washington Capitals. Puck drop is at 7:30 PM.
BONUS SOCIAL MEDIA MOMENT
Noted Islanders hater and TNT analyst Paul Bissonnette was a man of only three words on the good guys beating red-hot Edmonton at UBS Arena.