Licking Their Wounds
Isles finishing strong; defeat Caps 5-1 at UBS Arena
Good Morning, Islanders Country.
This season hurt.
The pain was unexpected and came out of nowhere. But the Islanders plan to be back, just as Adam Pelech returned after being cut by Robin Salo’s skate. The wounds from this season are temporary, and the healing process has begun. For the second-consecutive game, the Islanders handled the playoff-bound Washington Capitals playing without Alexander Ovechkin and will look to end the season on a positive note when the season concludes tonight vs Tampa Bay.
Coming up, the Islanders want to finish like pros as a stomach bug works its way through the dressing room. Noah Dobson hits the 50-point mark, Kyle Palmieri reaches 200 confirmed goals, Anders Lee passes Derek King and we remember an Eric Cairns TKO against the Leafs in the 2002 Playoffs. But first, we recap last night’s route of the Caps.
Let’s dive in.
🏒 IN SHORT: Mathew Barzal had three assists and Semyon Varlamov made 26 saves as the Islanders swept a back-to-back against the Washington Capitals with a 5-1 win on Thursday night at UBS Arena. Brock Nelson and Anders Lee had first-period goals for the Islanders (37-34-10) and Kyle Palmieri scored his 200th career goal. Josh Bailey added a goal and an assist. Noah Dobson’s two assists gave him 50 points on the season. Varlamov's shutout bid was ended by Axel Jonsson-Fjallby with 41.4 seconds left. Vitek Vanecek made 21 saves in defeat for the Capitals (44-25-12) in the loss.
🔑 KEY MOMENT(s):
🔷 Back in the lineup, Brock Nelson scored his team-leading 37th of the year on the power-play. Mathew Barzal bought time, created space, and floated a cross-ice pass to Nelson for the one-timer and the early lead.
🔶 The Islanders’ power-play struck for the second time, this time on a 4-3 man advantage and it was Barzal again making a perfect pass to Anders Lee for the deflection and a 2-0 lead. For Lee, it was his 212th career NHL goal surpassing Derek King (211) for sole possession of 10th place on the Islanders’ all-time list
Noah Dobson picked up his second secondary assist of the game on the play to reach the 50-point mark for the first time in his career.
🔷 As the Islanders killed off an Adam Pelech double-minor, JG Pageau chased down a loose puck, went from back-hand to forehand, and snapped a shot passed Vitek Vanecek for a 3-0 third period lead.
❶ ENDING ON THE RIGHT NOTE: "We're certainly not going to give up," Josh Bailey said. "You want to end things on the right note, regardless of the situation you're in. That's what we intend to do and at least go out and give a good effort every night. I think we owe it to the fans with their support this year has been great, like every other year."
❷ POWER PLAY STAYS HOT: "Our power play did a great job," Brock Nelson said. "It started in Washington and I thought we did a good job and then carried over tonight. Good puck movement, finding open guys you know, staying patient, but also aggressive at the same time and capitalizing on a couple big moments."
❸ WANTED THE SHUTOUT: “I really wish that he would have got a shutout tonight. He deserved it, Barry Trotz said of Varlamov. He played really solid...They had a couple of in-tight looks that he made look very easy, which is telling you that he's, you know, he's playing pretty well.”
⏭ NEXT UP: The Islanders’ season will once again end against the Lightning. The Isles host Tampa Bay on Friday night. Puck drop is 7:30 PM.
📰 NEWS: Zdeno Chara and Brock Nelson were back in the lineup after missing Tuesday’s game due to a non-COVID-19 illness working its way through the Islanders’ dressing room.
◾️ Ryan Pulock, who had power-play goals in his previous two games, was the latest to catch the bug and missed the game. Pulock’s absence allowed for Robin Salo to remain in the lineup after being an emergency recall from AHL Bridgeport.
◾️ Anthony Beauvillier returned after missing four games with an upper-body injury. Ross Johnston (non-COVID illness) missed his first game since April 15th.
◾️Washington star Alexander Ovechkin missed his second consecutive game against the Islanders. The 36-year-old, who has 50 goals and 40 assists this season, suffered an upper-body injury on Sunday.
As the reality of a season without playoffs came into focus, the Islanders have preached having pride in their game regardless of their position in the standings. The results haven’t always matched that proclamation, but there has been no questioning the team’s work ethic. There have been a lot of things for Barry Trotz to be disappointed in this season, but that is not one of them.
◾️DON’T CHEAT ANYBODY: “Our fans have been fantastic, said Barry Trotz. “Don’t cheat anybody. Don’t cut any corners. We have lots of time to rest up and recover and recharge and all the other things that you need to do so we’ll be ready and hungry for next year.”
Defenseman Noah Dobson reached the 50-point milestone on Thursday, but Trotz emphasized that he would not let personal milestones dictate lineup decisions and playing time with two games left in the season.
◾️PAID TO WIN THE GAME: “The No. 1 thing is we’re paid to win the hockey game, plain and simple,” Trotz said. “That overrides any personal stuff. If someone has a milestone and they need one more goal, I’ve got to put the best lineup on the ice say in the last minute of a game thinking I’ll get this guy a goal so he gets his personal milestone when he’s not in that situation 81 other games out of the year, I’m doing the other guys a disservice.
The Islanders’ power-play has been a surprising bright spot as the season winds down. After struggling mightily during the first half of the year, the unit’s recent efficiency has it in the middle of the league rankings. Per Greg Picker, the power-play was ranked 22nd on April 16th, but after going 9-of-18 chances since, they have moved up to 14th in the league.
◾️ The Isles scored three power-play goals for the first time in the Barry Trotz era. They last did so on March 22, 2018, in a 7-6 loss to Tampa Bay
◾️The Isles scored five power-play goals in a two-game period for the first time since March 15-18, 2018 (vs. Washington and Carolina).
◾️The Isles scored five power-play goals over consecutive games against the same opponent for the first time since December 2-4, 1980, vs. the Colorado Rockies; the only other time was on March 13-15, 1979 (6 goals) vs Boston.
📚 SOUND SMART: Per Eric Hornick in The Skinny, last night’s win guarantees the Islanders an above NHL-.500 record for the 4th straight year; it is the second-longest streak in club history (14 years from 1974-75 to 1987-88). The Isles had 26 shots on goal for the third consecutive game, matching the club record for having the exact same shot total. It has been done eight previous times, last in 2016.
Kyle Palmieri is the 77th active player with 200 career goals (including five current Islanders). When a reporter asked Palmieri about hitting the 200-goal mark, Brock Nelson chimed in with “206th,” a quip about all his disallowed goals this year.
🗓 ISLE REMEMBER: On April 28, 2002, the Islanders staved off elimination and defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-3 at a raucous Nassau Coliseum. After losing Michael Peca and Kenny Jonsson to injuries, an inspired Isles team jumped out to a 2-0 lead with goals from Mariusz Czerkawski and Alexei Yashin. Defenseman Adrian Aucoin broke a 2-2 tie 1:35 into the second and then Kip Miller and Czerkawski scored 38 seconds apart to extend the lead to 5-2. However, perhaps the most memorable moment came when Eric Cairns landed blow after blow against Shayne Corson in a heavyweight bout near center-ice.
🔗 Islanders Need To Find Right Forwards For Barzal by Mike Fink, The Hockey Writers “Mathew Barzal didn’t have the star-caliber season for the New York Islanders that many expected he would. While he scored 13 goals and had a team-leading 40 assists, the expectation was for the 24-year-old forward to take a big step and continue to establish himself as one of the best skaters in the game.”
🔗 Barry Trotz expects Islanders to go out playing like pros by Andrew Gross, Newsday “Just play it out That’s what coach Barry Trotz wants to see as the Islanders conclude their disappointing season — their first out of the playoffs since 2018 — with back-to-back games at UBS Arena. “Just play the right way,” Trotz said. “Play with the effort and commitment that’s professional, which has Islander standards, if you will. Don’t cheat each other.”
And we leave you with this ….Brian Compton told fans that Thursday was his last game covering the New York Islanders in his usual capacity and he moves on to ‘more of an editorial role” at NHL.com. Compton has covered the team regularly for 13 years in a ‘beat-writer’ type capacity for the site. We wish him all the best in his new role!
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