The New York Islanders played their first game since officially being eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs on Tuesday (April 19). They played a strong game overall against Florida Panthers, who boast the best record in the Eastern Conference but ultimately, came up short, losing 3-2 in overtime.
The Islanders outplayed the Panthers for a large part of the game and looked poised to return to the win column following a 4-2 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs. However, a few mistakes ended up costing them and a few glaring weaknesses were once again exploited within the roster, allowing the Panthers to force overtime and win their 11th game in a row.
The Islanders took five penalties against the Panthers. They are generally a disciplined team and have been in head coach Barry Trotz’s tenure with the team and with a top-five penalty-killing unit in the league, the penalties generally haven’t been too consequential. However, they have committed crucial penalties throughout the season that not only have prevented them from building momentum but have allowed opponents to easily find the back of the net.
The Panthers scored both their goals in regulation with Islanders skaters in the penalty box. The penalties in particular allowed the Panthers to keep the ice tilted and the puck in their control throughout the game. Moreover, the Islanders’ defense was overwhelmed throughout the game and as a result, the team fell apart in the third period and ended up losing in overtime. They haven’t often played games shorthanded but the rare times that they have, it’s costed them games that could’ve easily been won.
Barkov’s Hat Trick Costs Islanders
Aleksander Barkov leads the Panthers in goals scored this season with 37 and is one of the most talented forwards in the NHL. The 26-year-old forward had the Islanders’ number and carried the Panthers’ offense as he scored all three goals in the 3-2 victory. The hat trick was a testament to his ability to find open shots and catch opposing goaltenders out of position.
The two regulation goals were scored with Barkov generating a shot from the point, allowing the traffic and chaos in front of the net to help the puck find the back of the net. Islanders’ goaltender Ilya Sorokin was putting together a strong performance in the net, but he couldn’t do much to stop the two shots. Barkov ultimately finished the game with an overtime goal where he found a quick shot on the rush, once again, catching Sorokin out of position. The Panthers are a great team led by some of the best goal scorers in the NHL and this recent game was an unfortunate reminder for the Islanders.
Sorokin’s Big Night
Sorokin has recently garnered Vezina Trophy consideration around the league, as he’s established himself as one of the league’s elite young goaltenders. The 26-year-old has a .927 save percentage (SV%) and a 2.32 goals-against average (GAA) on 1,542 shots along with seven shutouts with the most recent being against the Montreal Canadiens in a 3-0 victory. The game against the Panthers, however, was one of the best of the season for Sorokin.
Sorokin saved 39 of the Panthers’ 42 shots and with the defense allowing the opponent to find plenty of scoring chances, the young goaltender stepped up and kept the Islanders in the game. Moreover, his performance came against a Panthers offense that averages 4.19 goals per game and had scored six goals in each of their last two games. He did allow three goals but helped his team earn a point in overtime with multiple remarkable saves against a potent opposing offense.
Other Notes From Islanders’ Loss
26-year-old defenseman Sebastian Aho scored his second goal of the season, taking advantage of a delayed penalty. In the few games he has played this season for the Islanders, he has proven that he is a great skater and has the potential to elevate the offense from the point. However, he has also proven he can be a liability to the defense, making it unclear what his future will be with the team.
The Islanders’ next game will be against the New York Rangers with the team hoping to win the fourth and final game of the season series. They have a tough schedule to close out the season, but with the team eliminated from the playoffs, the hope is that these games will prove that they can still remain competitive next season with a talented roster.
Mike Fink joined The Hockey Writers in November 2020 and covers the New York Islanders. In addition to covering the Islanders, Fink has written for multiple sports blogs and platforms covering the NHL, NFL, MLB, and college sports. Follow Mike on Twitter @Finks_thoughts for more Islanders and general hockey insights.