Courtesy Twitter: @Capitals

The Islanders take on a fellow top team in a battle for the number one seed in the division.

The New York Islanders are looking to end their losing streak at two games, but it wouldn’t be an easy task. The Islanders would have to get it done against the Washington Capitals, who are first in the division.

Thursday’s game is important because the Islanders can tie the Capitals for first place in the division in points and can put some more space between themselves and the red-hot Pittsburgh Penguins.

The only change to the lineup would be Noah Dobson’s return to the blueline after missing eight games with COVID-19. Semyon Varlamov would get the start in net.

1st period: What is happening?!

The first period of this game wasn’t anything short of eventful. 30 seconds in, Capitals goaltender Ilya Samsonov left the game and was relieved by Vitek Vanecek. He did, however, return with just under three minutes left in the period.

The Islanders looked lost to begin the game and ended up conceding a goal 61 seconds in.

However, Mathew Barzal shortly got going and helped his team take complete control. The first goal of the game began with his elite playmaking (and thanks to a great pass from Leo Komarov to Jordan Eberle).

Barzal gave the Islanders the lead with another “goal of the year” candidate.

Samsonov was welcomed back to the game with a turnover by his own defenseman that the Islanders took advantage of to take a two-goal lead.

The Capitals went on to score another goal, but so did the Islanders. Barzal got his second of the night to end the period, another great one. It marked four goals within three minutes in a wild period.


2nd period: The battle of… bad defending?

The Islanders got back to scoring goals early in the second. Great forechecking by the “Identity Line” led to yet another goal for Casey Cizikas. That fourth line continues to produce offense for the team.

Samsonov was looking rough since returning and even though Vanecek gave up a few goals, keeping him in might have been a better idea.

Barzal had a chance to record a hat-trick on a breakaway, but Samsonov came up with maybe his best save of the night.

A questionable “too many men” call on the Islanders resulted in a bad Capitals power play goal. Samsonov hasn’t been great, but neither has Varlamov for the Islanders.

This was a high-scoring game that didn’t look like a meeting between the top-two teams in the division, at least not defensively.

Eberle scored his second of the game and gave the Islanders more room on an odd-man rush. It was a good feed from Barzal, who was having his best game in some time.

The Islanders looked bad defensively to end the period, leaving John Carlson open to make it a 6-4 game.


3rd period: Hatty for Matty

This was a pretty even period that wasn’t particularly eventful, especially compared to the first 40 minutes of the game. The Islanders made it 7-4 with a Josh Bailey goal, but that wasn’t the moment of the period.

Barzal scored the final goal of the game for his third career hat-trick. It was another great goal: he swung the puck into the net in mid-air with his stick, maybe in honor of MLB’s opening day.

This was an uncharacteristic game for the Islanders. They scored a whopping eight goals, but looked quite poor at the blueline and in net.

Even so, games like this will happen, and it’s very important that the Islanders were able to come up with a win here.


Key Moment: Barzy gets them going

The key moment of the game was the Islanders’ first goal. It tied the game and got the Islanders going. They wouldn’t look back.

It also marked the beginning of Barzal’s incredible night. He got the secondary assist on the goal, which doesn’t happen without his elite zone entry and playmaking.


Player of the game: Mathew Barzal

Obvious, isn’t it? Mr. Hat-trick was the best player on the ice. The Capitals didn’t look good in this one, but who knows what the result would have been without Barzal.

His team needed a game like this from him, and he’s going to have to keep producing this way in Anders Lee’s stead.

Barzal’s numbers: 17:42 TOI, 3 G, 2 A, 61.11 CF%, 0.91 iXG, 1.38 xGF, 0.44 xGA, 4.84 GF, 0 GA, 7.63 Game Score, 0.52 defensive rating, 3.13 offensive rating, and 4 individual rating.

Stats are courtesy of Hockey Stat Cards and Natural Stat Trick.


Leen has written about the MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL, and international soccer. She is currently the primary NHL writer for ESNY. Leen's work has been featured on Bleacher Report and she was formerly a contributor for FanSided's New York Mets blog, Rising Apple. She is a co-host of the Yankees-Mets Express podcast.