Can Ilya Sorokin, the Islanders’ new number one goaltender, remain undefeated and give his team the series lead?
The New York Islanders lost a tough one in Game 3, when things began to look bleak for them. They’ve displayed multiple offensive weaknesses, but have needed their usually brilliant goaltender, Semyon Varlamov, to be better.
Heading into Game 4, Varlamov was in net both for both of the Islanders’ losses. Barry Trotz realized that Varlamov hasn’t been himself in net and decided to turn back to the rookie, Ilya Sorokin.
Game 4 went as well as possible for New York. They showed off their offensive potential, were defensively elite, and Sorokin was brilliant.
The net is now Sorokin’s to lose. Game 5 would be a crucial one and could be huge for the Islanders down the stretch. Winning in Pittsburgh against one of the best offensive teams in the league is no easy task.
So, was Sorokin able to remain undefeated to begin his NHL playoff career?
1st period: We’ll take it
The Islanders had a flat-out bad opening period. The were sloppy in the defensive zone, committed turnovers at the blueline, and generally spent far too much time in their own zone.
The Penguins were able to take advantage of the Islanders’ sloppiness early on. They were given a chance on the power play after a Josh Bailey slashing penalty, but the odds were in the Islanders’ favor.
The Penguins, who had a top-four power play during the regular season, had been held by the Islanders, a top-six penalty killing team during the regular season, to just one-for-eight on the man-advantage in this series.
Unfortunately for the Islanders, they gave up another here. A great wrist-shot by the dangerous Evgeni Malkin as well as poor defending by Scott Mayfield allowed the Penguins to take an early 1-0 lead.
Sorokin was forced to make some big-time saves to begin the game and appeared to be the only player who actually showed up.
Not long after the goal, a great heads-up play by Leo Komarov in front of the Penguins’ net almost led to Kris Letang getting the puck past his own netminder.
The Islanders looked pretty lost out there until the final minute of the period. Some excellent puck movement and a particularly solid pass from Bailey to Anthony Beauvillier allowed the latter to get into good position to score.
He used his speed and ability to get past Jake Guentzel and Sidney Crosby and lift the puck over Tristan Jarry while Pittsburgh’s defensemen were caught in the Islanders’ zone.
The Islanders played poorly in the first, but the fact that they’d head into the second tied at one is impressive and lucky. How did they regroup during the break?
2nd period: How did it get worse?
The Islanders were somehow even worse in the second period. They were awarded their first power play of the game in the first half of the second period, but things might have been better if they remained at even-strength.
It was an incredibly poor power play: the Islanders couldn’t maintain possession of the puck, got zero shots off, and even conceded a shot.
The Penguins had all the momentum on that penalty kill and were rewarded with a goal shortly after. The fourth line was on the ice when the Penguins took the lead and deserve much of the blame for this goal.
The three of them were caught on one side of the ice and left Bryan Rust practically wide open. This line was at fault, but Sorokin isn’t free of blame, either. His positioning wasn’t great and this is a goal he might want back.
The Islanders had been struggling in terms of passing all night long, and this was epitomized on their second PK. Jean-Gabriel Pageau registered a takeaway and the Islanders found themselves in a three-on-one situation while shorthanded.
Pageau attempted to pass the puck to Cal Clutterbuck, but it went well past him. Bad passing will never have good results, especially in a playoff game.
A significant contributing factor the Islanders’ struggles in this one was their lack of physical play. Other than the “Identity Line”, the players really weren’t using their bodies and allowed the Penguins to win practically all the battles along the boards.
Once again, they committed too many turnovers and weren’t skating well. The Islanders were outshot a whopping 20-4 in this period and are incredibly lucky to go into the third down just one goal because they certainly don’t deserve it.
Sorokin could’ve been better on the second goal, but he’s the sole reason his team is still in this one.
The rookie has shown great poise and confidence in the few playoff games he’s played and has been one of the team’s absolute best players this postseason, maybe even the best.
3rd period: OT? We’re not complaining
The third period was the Islanders’ best, although that isn’t saying much.
The Islanders’ second line, the one that had scored the team’s sole goal of the game, was far and away New York’s best line and created more chances than any other line.
Even though the Islanders looked better here, it seemed as though they were destined to take the loss. That is, until Penguins-killer Jordan Eberle tied things up.
We’ve mentioned that the Islanders were noticeably less physical in this one and were losing battles along the boards, as a result. This goal exemplified the importance of physicality in the game of hockey.
A great forecheck by Pageau along the boards led to a Penguins turnover and a nice pass by Komarov to Eberle allowed the Islanders to miraculously tie things up.
Unfortunately for the fans, the happiness wouldn’t last. Shortly after the goal, Mike Matheson crushed Oliver Wahlstrom into the boards in an ugly collision. Matheson had his stick around Wahlstrom’s neck, and the whiplash he experienced looked scary.
The fact that a penalty wasn’t called was surprising. Wahlstrom had to be helped off the ice and went straight to the locker room.
It really was a miracle that the Islanders were able to tie the game and take it to overtime. They truly didn’t deserve it. This game was the quintessential example of a goalie carrying his teammates when they’re down.
The Islanders would have kissed a win goodbye very early on had it not been for Sorokin’s phenomenal play.
1OT: Big improvement
To no one’s surprise, Wahlstrom didn’t come out for overtime, but it wasn’t all bad news for the Islanders. The score remained tied after the first overtime, but that was the best hockey the Islanders had played all night.
It wasn’t particularly eventful, but the Islanders did well here and would carry some momentum into the second overtime.
2OT: Heyyyy, Josh Bailey!
Thankfully, this didn’t last long! The Islanders, particularly Bailey, took advantage of a mistake by Jarry to score the game-winning goal less than one minute into double overtime.
Jarry passed the puck straight to Bailey, who shot it past Jarry for his second-career overtime playoff goal, both of which have come against the Penguins.
It’s nothing short of shocking that the Islanders are heading back home with a win in this one, but that’s playoff hockey for you. Even so, they played badly and must make adjustments and improvements if they hope to end the series in game six.
Key Moment: Ilya Sorokin?
You can’t talk about the key moments of the game without talking about Sorokin. His outstanding play throughout the game, especially early on, is the main reason the Islanders got as far as they did and won the game.
He stood tall and carried his teammates on his back while waiting for them to wake up and remember that they’re playing in a playoff game.
Player of the game: Josh Bailey
Sorokin was, by far, the Islanders’ most important player in this one, but Bailey was the best.
Aside from scoring the game-winning goal, Bailey also recorded an assist and was defensively solid, as well. Bailey is a key component to the Islanders’ success and must produce as he did today if they hope to go far.
Bailey’s numbers: 23:34 TOI, 1 G, 1 A, 30.77 CF%, 0.06 iXG, 0.37 xGF, 0.85 xGA, 2.07 GF, 0 GA, 2.12 Game Score, 0.31 defensive rating, 0.47 offensive rating, and 1.48 individual rating.
Stats are courtesy of Natural Stat Trick and Hockey Stat Cards.