Did you hear that? The sound of glass shattering? If you didn’t, you may want to listen harder. If you did, then you know the glass shattering was caused by the Isles’ Stanley Cup expectations going through the roof. There are no more excuses for a team that has made precious few. And what few weaknesses the Islanders had have now been addressed through the acquisitions of Kyle Palmieri and Travis Zajac from the Devils.
Thursday night at Nassau Coliseum, the Islanders and their new toys extended the team’s win streak to four-straight as they took care of business against the Flyers in a 3-2 shootout victory that was ignited by two quick goals early in the first period by familiar names, Brock Nelson and Jordan Eberle before ultimately being decided in the shootout by Nelson’s fifth-round wrist-shot. And more importantly, the Isles’ win, coupled with the Capitals’ loss to the Bruins, put New York in sole possession of first-place in the MassMutual Division.
They can’t all be pretty and this one certainly wasn’t, but there were still some positive developments to come out of this one.
The Boys from Long Island entered the game with a lot of hype and excitement thanks to the acquisitions of Palmieri and Zajac; however, those feelings were slightly dampened during warmups when rookie sensation Oilver Wahlstrom was discovered to not be on the roster (he’s on the Taxi Squad). Immediate speculation was that Wahlstrom was banged up after taking some rough shots the past two games and there was no word during the game as to whether that speculation was accurate or not.
However, after the game, Barry Trotz addressed Wahlstrom’s absence from the roster by saying it was essentially a seniority numbers game as Wahlstrom didn’t need to be on the roster (he’s waiver exempt), which makes juggling the new acquisitions a drop easier for the time being. But Trotz did admit that Wahlstrom was also a bit banged up, so take this explanation however you want.
“I’ll be honest with you he was a little bit…if we had to play yesterday he would probably not be in the lineup,” said Trotz. “But I think he’s close enough now that if we played tomorrow he could jump in the lineup.”
Regardless, this game initially looked like a chance to integrate the new guys without having to worry about doing so against a hot team; especially with the Flyers barely treading water over the past six-weeks.
However, that’s hardly what transpired in Uniondale.
Almost immediately, the Islanders went to work against the shaky Flyers before Brock Nelson cashed in at the 6:10 mark of the first period.
Ryan Pulock carried the puck through the neutral zone and into Philadelphia’s zone before circling behind the net with speed. Pulock came out from behind the net and passed the puck through the slot to Brock Nelson, who quickly went top-shelf with a wrist-shot through traffic for the 1-0 Islanders lead.
And just 1:03 after Nelson’s goal, Jordan Eberle doubled the Nassaumen’s lead to 2-0 when he finished off a pretty passing play from “Uncle Leo,” Leo Komarov.
Mathew Barzal harassed Ivan Provorov into coughing up the puck along the boards. Komarov swooped in and carried the puck behind the Flyers’ net before reversing course and passing the puck to Eberle who deposited it short-side past Carter Hart for the quick 2-0 lead.
At that point the Boys from Long Island were assumed to be off to the races; up 2-0 just 7:13 into the game.
And to make matters even worse for the Flyers, 14-seconds after Eberle’s goal, Samuel Morin was called for boarding Casey Cizikas and was sent packing for the night with a five-minute major and a game-misconduct.
Woah! The Isles were up 2-0 and headed to a five-minute power-play where they could score as much as they wanted! That sounds like a great set-up on paper.
Unfortunately, games aren’t played on paper.
The Nassaumen struggled to get anything going during their five-minute power-play and only registered three shots on goal. Meanwhile, the Flyers were able to gather momentum for themselves with two Grade-A short-handed scoring chances; both of which were turned aside by Ilya Sorokin.
After that, that’s when the game turned and not for the better in regards to the Islanders.
Coming out of the power-play the Isles looked discombobulated and struggled to piece together any offense, all the while, the Flyers began to build up a head of steam on offense. And at the 13:53 mark of the first period, Nicolas Aube-Kubel was credited with a goal when Ilya Sorokin mishandled the puck and allowed it to roll up his arm and into the net to bring the Flyers within 2-1.
That’s where the score remained until the 3:22 mark of the second period when Philadelphia’s Jakub Voracek netted his seventh goal of the year to tie the game at 2.
From there the Flyers continued to control play for large stretches of time, allowing the Islanders just a combined 12 shots on goal between the second and third periods. Meanwhile, Sorokin regained his form and held the Flyers off the board the rest of the way; stopping a cumulative 23 of 25 through the end of regulation.
But before we get to the overtime and shootout, it’s important to point out that once again the Islanders power-play woes were a key factor in this game and not just in regards to their five-minute major.
The Boys from Long Island were given another power-play at the 15:15 mark of the second period and failed to convert or do much of anything then too; which extended their run of power-play futility to 18-for-99 on the season.
Perhaps Kyle Palmieri might be of some assistance in that department once he gets fully integrated into the Isles’ system? After all, he did garner a modest 3:57 of total power-play time in his Isles debut.
And as for his buddy Travis Zajac, Zajac immediately went to work on the Isles penalty-kill, which was a pristine 2-for-2 on the night with its new toy accumulating 1:05 of total penalty-kill time.
Now, on to the overtime and shootout with both teams tied at 2.
Neither team mustered up much during the five-minute overtime; with each generating just two shots on goal. The Isles even had their third power-play of the game late in the period, but could not find a way to convert.
So, the hockey portion of the evening was complete as New York and Philadelphia went to the skills contest (Shootout) to determine a winner.
Sorokin stopped all five shots he faced from the Flyers; in order, they were — Sean Couturier, Nolan Patrick, Claude Giroux, Travis Konecny and Joel Farabee.
On the other side, the Islanders were unable to get anything going with their first four shooters — Jordan Eberle, Anthony Beauvillier, Mathew Barzal and Josh Bailey. However, their fifth shooter, Brock Nelson, delivered another of his patented wrist shots to beat Carter Hart and put the game in Sorokin’s hands.
Sorokin stared down Farabee and made the timely save to shut the door on the Isles 3-2 shootout victory and their fourth-straight overall.
The Islanders may be tired of going beyond regulation with the Flyers as they have done so five times this season, however there’s no rest for the weary as they get right back at it Friday night against the Rangers in a matchup that’s sure to have everybody on their toes.
The Isles went 0-for-3 on the power-play to bring their season tally to 18-for-100…Ilya Sorokin earned the win to improve to 7-0-0 at home in his young career and he’s now 4-0-1 against the Flyers this season…Brock Nelson scored the shootout winner in the fifth-round of the skills contest; it was the only goal scored by either side…The Islanders have now won four-straight games…The win was the 1,320th in GM Lou Lamoriello’s career, which moved him past Glen Sather for sole possession of second-place on the all-time list.
Friday April 9th Islanders vs Rangers at Nassau Coliseum at 7pm(EST).