The British rock band, The Who, sang it best, “The Kids Are Alright.” Little did Roger Daltrey, Pete Townshend, Keith Moon and John Entwistle know that their 1965 song, on the “My Generation” Album, would one day aptly describe an NHL team called The New York Islanders.
Thursday night at Nassau Coliseum, the Isles triumvirate of kids — Ilya Sorokin, Oliver Wahlstrom and Noah Dobson — to say nothing of young veterans — Mathew Barzal and Anthony Beauvillier — outplayed the Sabres in a 5-2 victory to keep pace with the Washington Capitals in the fight for First-Place in the Eastern — MassMutual — Division.
In what can only be described as a one-sided affair in the first period, the Islanders and “their kids” outplayed the Sabres from pillar to post while building up a 2-0 lead.
First came Mathew Barzal doing what he does best; controlling the puck and creating plays. Just over halfway through the period Barzal carried the puck into the neutral zone before dishing it to Jordan Eberle.
Eberle carried the puck into Buffalo’s zone and camped himself just below the left face-off circle before finding a streaking Noah Dobson flying into the slot. Dobson received Eberle’s pass and wired a wrist shot inside the far post, past Jonas Johansson’s blocker for the 1-0 Islanders lead.
Dobson used his “beyond his years” hockey IQ to smartly jump up on the play and it led to a goal, which will encourage the young defenseman to do so more often.
“But I know sometimes I must get out in the light.” — Roger Daltrey, The Kids Are Alright.
Not to be upstaged, but veteran Matt Martin scored arguably the most unlikely goal of his career 5:56 after Dobson’s marker.
They say you’re only as old, or as young, as you feel and Martin was feeling quite youthful when he fired the puck from below the Sabres’ goal-line — to the left of the net — and somehow managed to have the puck deflect off Johansson’s helmet and into Buffalo’s net for the 2-0 Isles lead. For a right-handed shot, it’s an impressive shot. For a LEFTY like Martin, it’s a near impossible angle and yet…good things happen when you get the puck towards the net.
Matt Martin shared his thoughts on the goal after the game: “No one really came to me. Initially, I was looking to find Case or Clutter around the net, they weren’t open. I took a look at the goalie and saw that he was down… I was lucky to hit that spot.”
The Boys from Long Island carried their 2-0 lead into the second period and looked to continue to control the pace of play as they had outshot the Sabres 18-6 in the opening period. And the Nassaumen would have the benefit of a carry-over power-play to start the second period — 1:34 was left on Rasmus Ristolainen’s holding penalty from the end of the first period.
It was the Isles second power-play of the game and just like the first — which occurred just 40 seconds after Dobson’s goal in the opening period when Buffalo was caught with too many men on the ice — the home team failed to score, although it did manage to rack up several quality shots and scoring chances.
Oliver Wahlstrom in particular was out there for the entire 1:34 of the carry-over power-play to start the second period and the confident rookie sent beautiful seam passes across the ice to his teammates in an attempt to extend the Isles’ lead to three. You can see how with each and every game, Wahlstrom is feeling more and more confident with the puck and even if it doesn’t show up on the scoresheet, it shows up on the gametape.
Taylor Hall gave the Sabres a brief glimmer of hope at 3:08 of the second period when he scored his first goal since the opening game of the season to cut the Islanders’ lead to 2-1, but that brief spark didn’t last long.
Even though the Sabres did a much improved job of defending the middle of the ice after Hall’s goal, they were still outshot 14-5 during the second period by the Islanders. And the Boys from Long Island got their goal back when 14:50 after Hall scored, Anthony Beauvillier answered with a tally of his own.
Rasmus Ristolainen stickhandled at the Isles’ blue line and Josh Bailey forced him to cough up the puck with some nice stick work before getting the puck over to Beauvillier, who broke in behind Ristolainen for a breakaway on Johansson.
Beauvillier went forehand-backhand and snuck the puck past Johansson’s outstretched leg for the 3-1 Islanders lead.
“Sometimes, I feel I gotta get away.” — Roger Daltrey, The Kids Are Alright.
Beauvillier certainly got away from Ristolainen on his breakaway.
After the game Beauvillier said: “It felt good. It always feels good to score goals. Great play by Nelly and Bails.”
With a 3-1 lead going into the third period, the Nassaumen were feeling reasonably confident they would take their lead to the bank, but first, Jordan Eberle reminded the kids he was still present and a force to be respected when he forced a Buffalo turnover within the Sabres’ zone and then cleaned up the rebound created when Anders Lee’s shot on Johansson rebounded out to him for a second chance opportunity.
Eberle’s wrist-shot from the slot beat Johansson glove side and extended the Isles’ lead to 4-1 at 3:14 of the third period. (Who wants pie?)
4:09 later, Ristolainen attempted to atone for his earlier gaffe when he scored on a rebound in the crease to bring the Sabres within 4-2, but that was as far as they would get.
The Boys from Long Island weren’t willing to give the Sabres any life and 7:05 after Ristolainen’s goal, Matt Martin went hard to the net along the goal-line, got his own rebound and then cashed in on the second chance opportunity to balloon the Islanders’ lead to 5-2. It was Martin’s second goal of the game (only the third time in his career he’s had a multi-goal game).
Head Coach Barry Trotz gave Martin a couple of late chances as time wound down to try and get his first career hat-trick, but it wasn’t in the cards. Who knows, maybe next time?
Trotz later told the media in regards to the fourth line’s success: “They’re physical. They don’t cheat the game, that’s what I love about that line. They force you to go through them, that’s really important. It was great that they got rewarded tonight.”
Case Cizikas spoke glowing about Martin after the game: “When he gets in those areas, he’s lethal. He has a hell of a shot and he can pick his spot and he showed that tonight.”
As Butch Goring joked on the MSG Networks broadcast afterwards, “Whatever Sydney (Martin’s wife) has been feeding him; keep feeding him.”
For the kids: Sorokin earned his third straight win; Dobson finished with a goal and a plus-2 rating in 18:40 of ice time; Barzal had an assist; Beauvillier a goal; and Wahlstrom finished with two shots on goal in 15:38 of ice time, which included a team-high tying 4:17 on the power-play.
Yes, indeed, “The Kids Are Alright.”
The Isles went 0-for-3 on the power-play to go to 14-for-57 on the season…Oliver Wahlstrom’s five-game points streak and Nick Leddy’s five-game points streak were both snapped…Anthony Beauvillier played his 300th career NHL game. Beauvillier later remarked: “It feels like yesterday it was the first time playing here. I wouldn’t call myself an older guy. I’m still young at heart. It’s been a fun ride.”…The Isles did not give Buffalo a single power-play opportunity…The Isles put up a season-high 45 shots on goal…The Isles remain the only team in the NHL to not suffer a regulation loss to home (8-0-2 on the season at Nassau Coliseum)…Andy Greene finished the game with a plus-4 rating…Sorokin earned his third straight win. And after the game, Trotz couldn’t say enough positive things about his young netminder: “I think Ilya has earned the trust of his teammates and everybody and the schedule will dictate that. I have a number in my head and we do have a little bit of a plan. It’s sort of a two-week plan of what we might do.”
Saturday March 6th Islanders vs. Sabres at Nassau Coliseum at 1pm(EST).