The New York Islanders looked poised to win their second game in a row, boasting a 3-0 lead in the second period. Then came the Alexander Ovechkin hit on Jean-Gabriel Pageau, sending him into the boards and out of the game for the rest of the period. Whether the hit was legal or not, it changed the game. The Washington Capitals scored three unanswered goals to send the game to overtime and then scored the game-winning goal to hand the Islanders another tough defeat.
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The Islanders earned a point with the game going to overtime. However, the loss was a tough one for a team looking to remain competitive in the Metropolitan Division and the Eastern Conference. They’ve lost four of their last five games and are 1-1-2 on their current homestand, a stretch where they were looking to string together a few wins. Moreover, the Islanders’ loss was another collapse, one that mirrored the defeat against the Minnesota Wild where they allowed three goals in the final 10 minutes of the game to lose 3-1. They are struggling to close out games and unfortunately, they are starting to look like a team unworthy of making the playoffs.
Islanders Defensemen Fuel Offense
Sebastian Aho scored the first goal of the game with a shot from the point that zipped through the traffic and into the back of the net. It was his fourth goal of the season and 27th from the defensive unit, which scored only 32 goals last season. Aho has been a great puck-handling defenseman but isn’t known for his shot. However, with the Islanders needing a spark and the young defenseman finding an open shot from the blue line, he sent the puck to the net and it paid off.
To cap off the strong first period, Alexander Romanov took a shot from the point and the puck was re-directed by Matt Martin, giving the Islanders an early 2-0 lead. The forward unit has struggled in recent games with a handful of the best skaters on the team failing to find the back of the net. However, the defensive unit continues to add a spark to the offense with their playmaking abilities from the point.
Pageau’s Absence Dooms Islanders
The hit on Pageau and the subsequent aftermath caused the Islanders to lose a game that looked like it was going to be an easy victory. They had a three-goal lead but were playing without one of their best defensive forwards and a center that can control the pace of play. The Capitals immediately took advantage of his absence by controlling the puck in the offensive zone and finding the back of the net. Then came the Romanov fight with T.J. Oshie, which resulted in four-on-four play and another Capitals goal.
By the time Pageau returned to the game, the Islanders lost all the momentum. They had a one-goal lead entering the third period but the Capitals found their rhythm and were playing a significantly better game, especially in the offensive zone, allowing them to tie and eventually win the game. Losing Pageau in the second period was a tough blow but the response was lacking. The Islanders allowed the Capitals to take advantage of the hit and crawl back into the game and steal two points in a divisional matchup.
Fasching & Martin Step Up
Martin scored his fourth goal of the season with his deflection in the first period and helped wrap up a strong first period. To start the second frame on the right foot, Hudson Fasching scored the Islanders’ third goal of the game and his third of the season with a shot from a tough angle that caught Capitals goaltender Darcy Kuemper by surprise. The goal gave the team their first three-goal game since the Jan. 3 win against the Vancouver Canucks, providing optimism for an offense that has looked hapless otherwise.
In a game where the top-six struggled, the forwards on the later lines stepped up. Brock Nelson, Mathew Barzal, and Anders Lee struggled to generate offense but Fasching and Martin put together one of their best games of the season.
Sorokin Keeps Islanders in Game
Ilya Sorokin didn’t have a great game in the net, allowing four goals including three in the final 31 minutes of the game. It was the first time since he allowed three goals in a game since the Jan. 5 loss to the Edmonton Oilers and a performance that was underwhelming for a Vezina Trophy front-runner. However, he allowed the Islanders to earn a much-needed point in the game.
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Sorokin saved 31 of the 35 shots he faced. Moreover, in the final five minutes of the game, the Capitals applied pressure and created plenty of scoring chances but he stepped up and made multiple big saves. It wasn’t his best performance but one that showed why he is still one of the top goaltenders in the game, allowing the Islanders to earn a point.
Other Takeaways From the Islanders’ Loss
- The fourth line put together a great game and was arguably the best trio for the Islanders. Martin, Casey Cizikas, and Cal Clutterbuck scored a goal and two assists but also combined for 20 hits, allowing them to set the tone and limit the Capitals from controlling the puck.
- The Islanders lost in the shootout three times this season but this was the first game they lost in overtime. Entering the game against the Capitals, they were 3-0 in overtime but unfortunately couldn’t come away with the win in this one.
What’s Next for the Islanders
The Islanders wrap up the homestand against the Boston Bruins, who are one of the best teams in the NHL with a 34-5-4 record. The Bruins beat them 4-3 earlier this season but the Dec. 13 game was at TD Garden where they are 21-1-3 and the upcoming game will be at UBS Arena. The Islanders then face the Buffalo Sabres on the road, a team that has looked promising with a 21-19-2 record but more importantly, they have a high-powered offense that averages 3.85 goals per game.
The recent loss was a tough one for an Islanders team with playoff aspirations. They have a 23-18-4 record but are in sixth place in the Metropolitan Division and on the outside of the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference.