Isles look to break brief losing streak against an underwhelming Sabres team.
The New York Islanders have looked much better since their season was put on pause. However, they went into their game on Monday night against the Buffalo Sabres having lost their last two to the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Islanders are heading into a lengthy home stand: nine of their next 10 games will be played at Nassau Coliseum.
Fans aren’t present but if they can take advantage of playing on home ice and come up with a good amount of wins over this stretch of games, they could find themselves sitting pretty in the standings.
Austin Czarnik, who had featured in just one game for the Islanders this season on Jan. 31, would rejoin the lineup on the third line and Semyon Varlamov would start in net.
1st period: Sabres don’t look like a struggling team
In this period the Sabres didn’t look like the worst team in the division. They were more offensively dominant and generated more scoring chances. They even had the chance to show off their power play, which is one of the best in the league.
However, the Islanders have one of the best penalty kills in the league, and that unit prevailed.
Even so, the Sabres were able to get on the board in the game’s opening 20 and the Islanders would have to play much better hockey in the final 40 minutes of the game.
2nd period: At least the Cap’n came through
Head coach Barry Trotz called captain Anders Lee the team’s most consistent forward, and he isn’t wrong. Lee proved his value to the team by tying the game on a great goal that he scored in front of the net, where he thrives.
The Islanders were given their first power play of the game this period, but that didn’t go well for them. T
his period wasn’t great but was better for them and they had more than one great scoring chance, but their recent lack of puck luck was evident.
3rd period: Martin, Pageau come through!
Heading into the third, this was a 20-minute game. Who was the player to give the Islanders an early lead?
Why, Matt Martin, of course. The infamous fourth line didn’t see substantial playing time in the second, but came through for their team in a big way early in the third.
As of late, Martin’s been far less hesitant to shoot, and that’s what allowed him to score in this one.
Unfortunately, a reckless and unnecessary penalty by the same guy who scored their first proved to be detrimental.
The Sabres who, again, have one of the most dangerous power plays in the NHL, were dominant on the man-advantage and Sam Reinhart ended up tying the game for his team with a highlight-reel goal.
Mathew Barzal’s elite speed isn’t only good for scoring. Unfortunately for the opponents of the Islanders it seems like, more often than not, the only way to stop one of the fastest skaters in hockey is by committing a penalty.
The Islanders have been solid on the power play, as of late, and this power play in particular was no different.
Jean-Gabriel Pageau, who had been good in the face-off circle all night, scored the game-winning goal on the man-advantage. He now has three goals in three games against Buffalo.
Varlamov also had a strong game in net, especially in the third, and deserves recognition for keeping his team in the game.
This was an important game for the Islanders and a great way for them to break this skid and get some momentum rolling as they get ready to play host to multiple teams for the next few weeks.
Key Moment: Pageau’s game-winner
The key moment of the game was Pageau’s game-winning power play goal. It epitomizes the Islanders’ recent success on the power play and how well Pageau himself has been playing, especially as a goal-scorer.
This goal allowed the Islanders to come out with two crucial points in regulation time.
Player of the game: Ryan Pulock
The Islanders’ best player was their star defenseman, Ryan Pulock. Pulock was good offensively and even recorded an assist, but was a formidable defensive presence on the ice for the Islanders.
Pulock’s numbers on the night: 17:13 TOI, 73.91 CF% (led NYI defensemen), two blocks, 0.98 xGF, 0.22 xGA, 0.92 GF, 0 GA, 0.65 offensive impact (2nd among NYI skaters), and 1.39 defensive impact (led team).
Having a blueline leader and player such as Pulock play this well is a recipe for success.
Stats are courtesy of Hockey Stat Cards and Natural Stat Trick.