Can the Isles make it a league-best six in a row with a victory against a struggling Devils team?
Things couldn’t be much better for the New York Islanders, who are one of the hottest teams in hockey right now. Everything is clicking for them and they look like titans in the most competitive division in the league.
They’re heading into a crucial stretch of schedule: on Thursday, they’ll be taking on the New Jersey Devils in the first of three games in a row against their rivals. The Devils are stuck in a rut and have been one of the worst teams in the league lately.
The Islanders have no excuse and must exert dominance in this three-game stretch, especially since their schedule is going to get tougher.
Another advantage the Islanders have? They’ll be welcoming fans back at Nassau Coliseum for the first time in over a year.
This is going to be a special night in which New York will be hosting 1,000 healthcare workers and the general public won’t be back until March 18th, but the players will be excited to finally be able to play in front of their fans.
The only difference in the Islanders’ lineup would be the return of Michael Dal Colle to replace Leo Komarov as the third line left winger. Ilya Sorokin, who’s looked great lately, would be back in net.
1st period: 4th line: A thing of beauty
The Islanders continued the domination that they’ve exhibited lately in the first period. They took advantage of poor defending by the Devils, and that fourth line continues to shine.
A goal by Matt Martin marked the 12th of the season for that line. The “Identity Line” continues to be one of the best fourth lines in hockey and a colossal contributing factor to the Islanders’ success.
Nick Leddy and Adam Pelech continue to show off their offensive prowess, as well. Leddy had an assist on Martin’s goal and Pelech scored the team’s second.
There was some bad news, however. Islanders captain Anders Lee got himself tangled with Pavel Zacha of the Devils. He wouldn’t return to the game and there is concern that it’s a serious injury.
2nd period: 2 more for the fans
The Islanders playing without their captain wouldn’t prevent them from scoring. They were able to add two more goals this period to take a decisive 4-0 lead into the third.
They picked a great game to welcome the fans back. The team looked fantastic from top to bottom, as has been the case.
3rd period: Phew
The Islanders played a pretty bad period in the third, allowing the Devils to score a whopping three goals, but they did add another to their lead and did come away with the win.
Brock Nelson scored the fifth goal of the game and remains on fire, recording his sixth point in five games.
The third period was ugly, but this was another good win for the Islanders. They remain undefeated in regulation at home.
This was a nice win to celebrate, especially in front of fans, but Lee will be in the back of everyone’s mind.
The captain has been one of the team’s best and most consistent forwards all season, and a long-term injury would hurt the Islanders, at least to some degree.
Key Moment: 4th line magic
The key moment of the game for the Islanders was their first goal. It got the ball rolling and led to them scoring another four to win their seventh in a row.
This goal also highlighted the importance of the Islanders’ fourth line and how well they’ve been playing this season. Martin scored the goal for his fifth of the season and his fifth point (third goal) in his last five games.
The “Identity Line” is crucial to the team’s success. The goal also highlighted Leddy’s stellar offensive play this season.
Player of the game: Ryan Pulock
Ryan Pulock, an elite offensive defenseman, has been incredibly unlucky in terms of scoring goals (he has zero so far this season), but is playing the best hockey of his career. He’s been great defensively and is still incredibly impactful in the offensive zone.
This game epitomized both of these facts. Pulock had two assists, including a beauty to his linemate Pelech on the second goal of the game. He’s the quarterback of the Islanders’ blue line and is a huge reason why their defense is as good as it is.
Pulock’s numbers: 19:46 TOI, 2 A, 75 CF%, 0.08 iXG, 1 block, 1.58 xGF, 0.13 xGA, 1.97 GF, 0 GA, 1.25 defensive rating, 2.38 offensive rating, and 1.49 individual rating.