HOW IT HAPPENED
YES YES YES! THE NY ISLANDERS FINALLY WIN A GAME! Oliver Wahlstrom ends the NY Islanders' 7-game skid with a bullet of a shot in the fourth round of the shoot-out to give the Isles a 5-4 win over the Calgary Flames. Fans, players, and coaches all left the game smiling for the first time in months following tonight's win. It may not have been pretty, and many mistakes were made, but they did it.
The Flames opened the scoring with a goal by rookie Martin Pospisil a little over halfway through the first. A few minutes later, Hudson Fasching scored an absolute rocket for his much-needed first goal of the season. The Islanders and Flames took a handful of penalties throughout the second period. Kylie Palmieri ended his nine-game goal drought with a power play goal to open the second period. Mat Barzal scored from above the circles to extend the Islander's lead to 3-1 midway through the second period. A huge misplay by Scott Mayfield right in front of the net allows Blake Coleman to net his 5th of the season to bring the Flames within one. The Islanders were caught puck-watching as MacKenzie Weegar tied the game at 3 bouncing a shot off of the stick of Alexander Romanov only three minutes into the third. Brock Nelson didn't let the Flames celebrate for long, netting his 8th goal of the season only 19 seconds later.
Not to sound like a broken record, but the Islanders continued to make crucial mistakes at crucial times in the defensive zone, as Wahlstrom completely misplays the puck, leading to a Yegor Sharangovich goal to tie the game. Both teams had great chances during the 5-minute overtime, but strong goaltending sent the game to a shootout. The Islanders and Flames scored in the shootout's opening round, but goaltenders stood tall and stopped the next two. Ilya Sorokin stood tall to stop Connor Zary in the fourth round before Wahlstrom was sent out for the Isles. Wahlstrom did what he knows best and fired an absolute rocket that Jacob Markstrom couldn't stop to end the game and the losing streak in Calgary.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
The win wasn't perfect, and there is definitely room for improvement, but tonight was the best the Islanders have looked in a long time. They traded chances, sustained pressure in the neutral and offensive zone, and got solid chances of their own. For the most part, the Islanders played well defensively and finally did not let up a power play goal. Palmieri finally getting the monkey off his back wasn't the only great part of his game tonight. He was great on the forecheck, had a solid defensive game, and garnered five shots on the net. For a player who has struggled to stay relevant in the lineup as of late, tonight was a much-needed breakout performance.
The Islanders were finally able to control their struggling penalty kill unit and understood that having a good power play doesn't mean your penalty kill has to suffer. The Islanders killed all three of the Flames' power plays and were able to score a power play goal of their own. Not only did the Islanders successfully kill these penalties, but they didn't look tired or panicked during the kill and were able to put some pressure on the Flames' power play to get a few seconds of time in the offensive zone.
Sorokin, who has struggled in his last few starts, looked much more comfortable in his net and stood strong to make a few timely saves to bail the Isles out. The Sorokin everyone knows and loves is slowly making a much-needed comeback.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Many, including myself, are starting to wish that the Islanders brought back their "boring hockey days" if it means no longer sitting on the edge of your seat and biting your nails every time the Islanders were in the defensive zone. Three of four Flames' goals were deflections deep in the Islanders' zone that easily could have been stopped if the defenseman hadn't completely missed the puck or were watching the players and not the puck. Too often, the Isles were bailed out by Sorokin when they were caught puck-watching. They must improve at raising sticks and winning those battles before the net. Too many sloppy turnovers and misplays leave Sorokin and Semyon Varlamov out to dry. Too often, bad goals are let in because of bad moves by the skaters. The Isles allowed three deflection goals and one goal on a breakaway, all of which came from bad defensive plays. These small mistakes lead to bad outcomes and must be corrected or punished by head coach Lane Lambert. A message must be sent to the locker room that consistently bad defense is not okay.
STATS OF THE GAME
Per Eric Hornick in The Skinny, The Isles have scored four goals in two shootouts after scoring only three shootout goals all last season. Ilya Sorokin improves to 6-9 in his career in shootouts. Despite going 4-13 in their last 17 shootouts, the Isles still have an NHL record of 90 shootout wins.
Barzal extended his point streak to 4 points in his last 5 games with his 4th goal of the season. Noah Dobson and Bo Horvat got the assists on Palmieri's goal, extending their point streaks to three and five games, respectively.
SOCIAL MEDIA MOMENT OF THE GAME
Did an Oliver Wahlstrom goal really happen if it wasn't followed by that one meme being posted all over X? And yea, he's an amazing hockey player.
The Islanders make the much-needed trip back home to Long Island to take on Metropolitan rivals Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday, November 22. Puck drop at UBS arena is at 7:30 EST.