“Ring…ring…ring…” That’s the nonstop sound of Islanders GM, Lou Lmaoriello’s phone these days, as the NHL’s annual Trade Deadline draws ever closer. And by early evening on Monday April 12th we will know just how many of those phone calls Lamoriello found to be fruitful; if any at all.
With Isles Captain, Andres Lee done for the season (and the post-season too) due to a torn ACL, you can bet Lamoriello has been scouring the marketplace for a suitable replacement; preferably a rental one at that so as to not complicate the Nassaumen’s Cap Space beyond this season. Such rumored targets like Taylor Hall and Kyle Palmieri have already been placed in proverbial bubble wrap as the Sabres and Devils anticipate trading them prior to Monday’s deadline. And while a move for Hall seems unlikely, there is a growing sentiment from those in the know that Lamoriello will indeed reunite with Palmieri; especially if the price is right.
A proven top-line winger may be at the top of Lamoriello’s wish list, but it’s hardly the only item as the veteran GM would also like to add some depth to bolster the blue line and perhaps a middle-six winger as well to solidify the offense. And speaking of middle-six offense, multiple sources and publications state that Kings’ pending free-agent forward, Alex Iafallo is one of Lamoriello’s top targets. With the Islanders’ first-round draft pick in play as a potential trade chip, Lamoriello and his staff have the means to get the job done. All that remains is to be patient.
So, with reinforcements potentially on the way, the Islanders went out Tuesday night and faced the Capitals for the second time this month; both of which have been at Nassau Coliseum. And on Tuesday, the Isles beat the Capitals 1-0 thanks to a combination of strong goaltending by Semyon Varlamov, some stout teamwide defense and a timely goal by Brock Nelson.
The first and second periods saw the Boys from Long Island swap defensive stops and offensive chances with the visitors. And for you number lovers, the Isles outshot the Capitals 12-7 in the first, only to then have the Caps turn the tables on them in the second period by the same 12-7 margin.
However, strong defense wasn’t the only thing that kept this game tied 0-0 through 40-minutes. Capitals netminder, Vitek Vanecek also benefited from several post/crossbar shots off the stick blades of the Islanders’ skaters.
Noah Dobson and Jordan Eberle were two such post/crossbar victims, but it still benefited the Caps that Vanecek was “in the zone” as he was then able to follow up those shots with saves like this, when he robbed the Islanders of what looked like a sure-fire goal.
The Nassaumen managed to pull out some strong plays in their own zone as well, one such play being a potentially disastrous blocked shot by Adam Pelech early in the second period. Pelech’s top-pair defense partner, Ryan Pulock had just been bowled over by Alex Ovechkin and moments later Pelech put his body on the line to block a shot. Unfortunately, the puck went off Pelech’s ankle and he barely managed to hobble to the bench, where he was clearly distressed. Luck though for the Isles that he ultimately proved to be alright; otherwise, Lamoriello would have needed to add to his Trade Deadline shopping list.
The game finally opened up in the third period as the Islanders and Capitals each sought that all important first goal.
Carl Hagelin attempted to secure exactly that early in the third off an odd-man rush, but Varlamov stood tall to keep pace with Vanecek.
And while the Boys from Long Island managed to pile on the shots throughout the third period (20 in all), it wasn’t until late in the period — with 6:55 left to be precise — that they managed to break through the wall known as Vitek Vanecek.
Ryan Pulock, who has been unable to buy a goal all year — he could give his lifetime earnings to the opposing goalie and he still wouldn’t be able to fill the goal column on his stats sheet; he’s that snack-bitten — fired a blast on net that Josh Bailey barely managed to jump out of the way of. Vanecek couldn’t corral the puck and Brock Nelson swooped in to clean up the mess; 1-0 Islanders.
With so much time remaining on the clock, the Islanders could not just sit on the lead and play keep away with the puck. So, they kept their collective skates to the gas pedal and continued to press forward. Mathew Barzal had a couple of glorious chances to widen the Isles lead, as did Jordan Eberle, who had a second shot go off the post/crossbar, however, neither managed to add to the team’s 1-0 lead.
Eventually, Vanecek headed to the bench for the extra attacker with just under two-minutes to play. The Capitals were unable to generate much in the Isles zone and the Islanders were unable to secure the empty net goal; thus keeping fans on the edge of their seats all the way until the clock read triple-zero.
Then it was time to bring on the dancing lobsters as the Islanders celebrated their third consecutive win and their ascension back into a first-place tie atop the MassMutual Division, with the Capitals of course.
The Isles went 0-for-2 on the power-play to bring their season tally to 18-for-97…The Isles have won three in a row (two of which were against the Capitals)…Josh Bailey’s assist on Nelson’s goal was the 500th point of his NHL career…Semyon Varlamov’s shutout was his fourth of the season…This was the Isles sixth team shutout of the season; which leads the NHL…Brock Nelson’s goal proved to be the game-winner and was the 24th such goal of his career…The win was Lou Lamoriello’s 1,319th career victory as a GM and tied Glen Sather for second most all-time.
Thursday April 8th Islanders vs Flyers at Nassau Coliseum at 7pm(EST).