The New York Islanders finally snapped their 11-game losing streak with a 5-3 victory over the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday night. After a tough start to the season, the victory not only got them off the ground but provided a blueprint for a successful campaign moving forward. The Islanders now have a four-game point streak and, in a competitive Metropolitan Division, every point counts in the push for a playoff spot.
The victory over the Senators, however, was arguably the first that the offense led the way. Their five-goal performance was the Islanders’ second-highest output this season. Moreover, it was only the third time that they scored over four goals in a game, which could mean last night’s game was an outlier as the offense tries to find its rhythm. However, the win should serve as a reminder to head coach Barry Trotz that their offense can find success as they hope to turn the season around.
Anders Lee Found His Spot
Anders Lee last found the back of the net on Nov. 6 in the 5-2 loss to the Minnesota Wild when he scored both the Islanders’ goals. In their recent victory, Lee again found the back of the net twice but also established himself in front of Senators goaltender Filip Gustavsson to collect loose pucks in front of the net and finish off scoring chances.
With Lee in front of the net, the rest of the offense should open up, particularly Mathew Barzal on the wing and the defensemen on the point. It will also allow the Islanders to have a goal scorer in the center of the offensive zone. Against the Senators, Lee found those scoring opportunities. Moving forward, how the Islanders generate offense will revolve around their ability to get shots on net – 27 against Ottawa – but also allow skaters to find space in front of the net to collect loose pucks and missed shots.
All Four Forward Lines Stepped Up
In the third period, the Islanders kept their foot on the gas and maintained pressure in the offensive zone for shots on goal. This was highlighted by Austin Czarnik, who found the puck along the boards, saw 23-year-old Kieffer Bellows darting to the net with only the goaltender Gustavsson to stop him. Bellows netted his first goal of the season with a top-shelf shot.
The goal was also thanks to Oliver Wahlstrom creating pressure on the Senators in the offensive zone, who, like Bellows, found the back of the net with a quick goal in the second period to give the Islanders a 2-1 lead. Wahlstrom has played on a few lines this season while Trotz tries to find the ideal combinations to maximize his skill set. But with three goals in the last three games – including two on the power play against the Red Wings – the 21-year old forward has proven he can score in bunches as long as he’s given the space to put accurate shots on goal.
Jean-Gabriel Pageau finished the scoring late in the final period to cap off a great offensive performance by the Islanders, but more importantly, proved that the team can find offensive production throughout the forward group. All four forward lines created scoring opportunities and stepped up in the offensive zone. That formula carried the Islanders to the Stanley Cup Semifinal last season, and if they rebound this season, the scoring depth and four potent forward lines will be the reason why.
The Senators Have One of the Worst Defenses
The Senators are struggling, especially on defense, this season. They were the perfect opponent for the Islanders – and many other struggling teams – to figure things out. The Sens have averaged 3.88 goals against per game, and outside of Thomas Chabot and Artem Zub, don’t have the defensemen to create turnovers or limit their opponent from carrying the puck into the offensive zone and finding open shots on net.
The Senators are still a young team searching for success, and the Islanders took advantage. The Isle created quick passes and open shots in the offensive zone, but the five-goal performance can also be credited to Ottawa’s glaring weaknesses.
Other Islanders Notes From The Victory
The Senators found plenty of scoring chances throughout the game to finish with a 5-3 loss, but Islanders goaltender Ilya Sorokin put together another strong performance, especially early in the game with a few crucial saves to keep his team in it. Sorokin saved 30 of 33 shots and continues to be the team’s most valuable player this season. The Senators found the back of the net late in the game and kept the score close. But in the end, the 26-year-old goaltender preserved the lead and the momentum in New York’s sixth win of the season.
The upcoming games will be tougher as the Islanders face the Nashville Predators and New Jersey Devils, who both defeated the Islanders earlier in the season. But the losing streak is over, and the roster is ready to string together a few wins to make up ground in the Eastern Conference.
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Mike Fink joined The Hockey Writers in November 2020 and covers the New York Islanders. In addition to covering the Islanders, Fink writes about the NHL at large and contributes as a weekly guest to The Hockey Writers Podcast. Follow Mike on Twitter @Finks_thoughts for more Islanders and general hockey insights.