HOW IT HAPPENED
In what was probably the most exciting game of the season for the NY Islanders, the Isles came back from a 3-1 deficit to take out the Maple Leafs 4-3 in overtime. Mathew Barzal, with a goal and three assists, and Noah Dobson, with four assists, each had four points on the night. Barzal now has 45 points in 40 games this season, on pace for his first 90-point season. Dobson, meanwhile, has 42 points in 41 games. Ilya Sorokin made 32 saves in the win, while Auston Matthews scored twice for the Bad Guys, putting him on pace for a 70-goal season.
The game started well enough for the Isles. Kyle Palmieri scored a power play goal just 40 seconds into the game. The Islanders continued to push hard for the rest of the period, but could not score again. Meanwhile, 12 minutes into the period, Bobby McCann tied the game for the Leafs after a defensive breakdown by the Isles left him wide open to finish a one-timer. While the Islanders played really well, the first period ended 1-1.
Matthews then scored his two goals early in the second period to give the Leafs a 3-1 lead. But the Islanders continued to push the play, and Alexander Romanov cut the Leafs' lead to 3-2 only a few minutes after Matthews' second goal with a snipe of his own. Later in the period, Bo Horvat would tie it, setting the stage for an exciting finish.
The third period was a back and forth affair, but alas, there were no goals, so on to overtime. Jake McCabe tried to spring Matthews for a hat trick attempt, but ended up icing the puck only a few seconds into overtime. On the ensuing offensive zone faceoff, Horvat won it back to Dobson, who found Barzal near the crease. Barzal didn't get much on the shot, but he didn't need much- the puck bounced past Martin Jones and over the goal line.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
The line changes Lane Lambert made after the injury to Casey Cizikas worked out very well for the team. The Islanders always had an advantage by having five centers on the roster, so one going down isn't a total disaster. Barzal's move to center and to different linemates clearly did not faze him, as he put up a goal and three assists on the evening. Noah Dobson- more on him later today- had 4 assists. Dobson joked after the game that he really had five assists after turning the puck over the Matthews for his second goal. The confidence with which Dobson has played this season is exceptional.
Romanov's snipe is a reminder that he's not just a defensive defenseman, and with the Islanders still missing Ryan Pulock, any additional offense from the blue line helps. Additionally, Palmieri's early goal on the power play really set the tone for the evening. Sorokin had some shaky moments, but was good enough to win.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Oliver Wahlstrom played a mere 8:03 tonight. When asked about that in the postgame, Lambert responded "...who?" Now, I will admit, it did sound a little like "Holmstrom" when the reporter was asking the question, but the whole thing felt very emblematic of Wahlstrom's season thus far. He's been a frequent healthy scratch, and then when put in the lineup, barely plays. It appears Wahlstrom could be running out of rope on the Island. A change of scenery for him might not be the worst idea for all parties.
Matt Martin and Cal Clutterbuck both were banged up at parts of the game, which serves as a constant reminder of their fragility. The Isles cannot afford any more injuries, so keeping everyone fresh the rest of the way is extremely important.
STATS OF THE GAME
- Mathew Barzal is now tied with Connor McDavid and Mitch Marner for the most four point games in the NHL this season.
- Noah Dobson only skated 26 minutes tonight. Having been over 30 minutes per game the last few months, better health from the defense corps should allow Dobson to settle in at a more manageable TOI number, which already appears to be happening.
SOCIAL MEDIA MOMENT OF THE GAME
The Islanders welcomed four players from the inaugural PWHL New York hockey team: forwards Jessie Eldridge and Paetyn Levis, and defensewomen Jaime Bourbonnais and Olivia Zafuto. PWHL New York has gotten off to a 1-2-0 start. Hopefully they can make some noise this season so I can finally root for a champion (for a Mets and Islanders fan born in 1989, it's been a rough ride).
The Islanders head to Nashville to visit Barry Trotz and the Nashville Predators tomorrow night. Puck drop is at 8:00 PM ET. Let's Go Islanders!