The New York Islanders were looking to bounce back from a shootout loss but instead played arguably their worst game of the season. They had a 1-0 lead with only 10 minutes left in the game but allowed three unanswered goals to lose to the Minnesota Wild. To make the loss more defeating, the first goal the Islanders allowed, they were on the power play, and the Wild go-ahead goal came two minutes later.
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The Islanders have lost their last four games and have only earned one point in that span with the shootout loss to the Dallas Stars. On the same night when the New York Rangers came back to win their game in overtime, the Islanders collapsed to lose their game. The loss to the Wild was a reminder of how far this team is from competing. While they have strengths that can carry them, their limitations keep them from contending with the league’s best teams.
Sorokin Keeps Game Close
This game was a highlight for goaltender Ilya Sorokin. The team played poorly but they were carried by dominant play in the net. Sorokin saved 33 of the 35 shots he faced and blanked a potent Wild offense through the first 50 minutes of the game. The Islanders haven’t looked like a great team but remarkable goaltending has given them a chance to compete every night.
Unfortunately, this game was a reminder that Sorokin can only impact the team to a certain extent. He can limit opponents but can’t singlehandedly lead the Islanders to victories. The Wild eventually found the back of the net and started to pile on the goals. He gave the Islanders a chance to win but the rest of the team failed to step up and ultimately, it left the team with a devastating loss.
Islanders’ Offense Falls Flat
The Wild have a great defense, allowing only 2.85 goals per game but the Islanders’ offense looked hapless in this game. They scored one goal and it came on a Scott Mayfield shot from the blue line that Wild goaltender Filip Gustavsson failed to pick up.
Related: 3 Takeaways From Islanders’ 2-1 Shootout Loss vs Stars
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The Islanders failed to score in the final 43 minutes of the game and only generated 20 shots on goal, with only 14 shots at even-strength.
The Islanders’ offense has become a liability in recent games. They average 3.10 goals per game but have only scored five goals in the last four games. The team is dealing with a handful of injuries and the absence of Kyle Palmieri and Oliver Wahlstrom is starting to affect the offense. Their best forward has also disappeared with Brock Nelson, who was named an All-Star, failing to score in 11 consecutive games. The offense has let the team down and can be the reason they miss the playoffs unless they turn things around.
Islanders Penalty Kill Steps Up
The other bright spot in the game, aside from Sorokin having a great performance, was the penalty kill. The Wild had five power play opportunities and could have made this game a lopsided one. However, the Islanders stepped up and prevented the Wild from finding the back of the net and limiting them to only seven shots on the man advantage. Highlighted by Pageau and defensemen Ryan Pulock and Alexander Romanov, the unit limited shooting lanes, forced turnovers, and effectively moved the puck out of the defensive zone.
The downside to the strong penalty kill was that the Islanders took five penalties, preventing them from building momentum in the game. For 10 minutes, they had only four skaters on the ice, allowing the Wild to control possession and the pace of the game.
What’s Next for the Islanders
The Islanders continue their five-game homestand with a matchup against the Montreal Canadiens. They have struggled this season with a 17-22-3 record but are coming off a 4-3 win over the Nashville Predators and have the ability to upset any opponent.
The Islanders need to win the upcoming game to remain competitive in the Metropolitan Division. They have a 22-18-3 record but are in sixth place in the division and out of a playoff position. The games from New Year’s Day until the All-Star break tends to separate the contenders from the pretenders. Unfortunately, the Islanders haven’t looked like contenders in their recent games. Instead, they look a lot like the team that missed the playoffs last season with a slow, aging, injury-plagued roster that is hapless on the offensive end of the ice and is heavily reliant on their goaltending.