Islanders Overwhelm Canucks With 5-Goal First Period

The New York Islanders started their Western Canada road trip in style with a 6-3 victory over the Vancouver Canucks as they desperately try to make up ground in the Metropolitan Division and the Eastern Conference. It was crucial to beat the Canucks, a team that has shown promise but, for the most part, has struggled in the 2021-22 season.

Related: New York Islanders Takeaways From Games vs. Senators & Kraken

The Islanders entered the All-Star break with arguably their worst defeat of the season, a 3-0 shutout loss to the Seattle Kraken. In their first game back, they made a statement, and the first period was a reminder of their offensive talent and their ability to create scoring chances.

Islanders’ Early Goal Scoring Surge

With three goals in the first four minutes of the game and five by the end of the period, it was the first time since 1996 that the Islanders have scored five goals in the first. The Canucks responded with a late goal in the first, but the game was already out of reach.

The Islanders’ early goals were generated by a strong offensive zone presence, the forwards crashing the net, and notably, the defensemen generating shots through traffic. Noah Dobson set the tone as the young defenseman carried the puck into the offensive zone and centered the puck to veteran Zach Parise who found the back of the net. Aside from Dobson, the Islanders’ next two goals came from Adam Pelech and Ryan Pulock firing shots from the point and allowing Brock Nelson and Anders Lee to redirect the puck into the net. Canucks goaltender Jaroslav Halak was replaced by Thatcher Demko at the end of the period.

Noah Dobson New York Islanders
Noah Dobson, New York Islanders (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The scoring surge also showed the team’s forward depth with six goals scored by six different forwards. Even the final goal that put an end to the Canucks’ comeback, was after Casey Cizikas forced a turnover in the offensive zone and found Matt Martin for a quick shot on net. The Islanders’ offense has struggled for most of the season, averaging under 2.5 goals per game, but the first period provided hope for the second half.

Trotz Shuffles the Lines

Head coach Barry Trotz made a strong and understandable statement before the game and following the shutout loss to the Kraken. All four lines were shuffled as Cal Clutterbuck played alongside Lee and Mathew Barzal while Anthony Beauvillier was moved down to play alongside Cizikas and Martin.

Anthony Beauvillier New York Islanders
Anthony Beauvillier, New York Islanders (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

All four newly-formed lines found the back of the net, and this revitalized and aggressive forward unit created scoring opportunities with ease. Beauvillier is having a disappointing season, with only seven goals and nine assists, but his skillset is unquestioned as he found Cizikas with a great centering pass for one of the Islanders’ six goals. Likewise, Clutterbuck’s sustained pressure on the forecheck allowed Barzal and Lee to find more scoring chances, and the 34-year-old forward earned two assists in the game. It’s unlikely these lines will remain intact for the rest of the season, but their performance proved to Trotz that his team can run up the score with the right combinations.

Chara & Control in the Defensive Zone

A glaring weakness, especially in the second period, was the Islanders’ inability to clear the puck out of the defensive zone. The Canucks cut the deficit to 5-3 entering the third period largely because of turnovers near New York’s net. The defensive unit constantly created turnovers but failed to carry the puck out of the zone or start up the offense.

Their struggles were a grim reminder that the team needs a puck-moving defenseman who can turn defense into offense. While Zdeno Chara is still playing a disciplined role, at 44 years old, the veteran defenseman has lost a step and struggled to handle the puck following a turnover.

The Islanders’ defense has many talented two-way defensemen highlighted by Pelech, Pulock, and Dobson. However, they are in a tough position when veterans like Chara or Andy Greene are caught on the ice for too long, which happened often in the second period. Even in a statement victory, the Islanders saw their defensive weaknesses exposed, and it’s an issue that could cost them a playoff spot if it isn’t fixed.

Other Notes from the Islanders’ Win

After the Islanders took a commanding 5-0 lead, the Canucks fought back with a sense of urgency and took many quick shots on net. However, goaltender Ilya Sorokin stepped up and saved 34 of 37 shots, putting together one of his best performances of the season. It was another instance when the Islanders needed a strong performance from their goalie, and Sorokin managed some difficult saves.

Ilya Sorokin New York Islanders
Ilya Sorokin, New York Islanders (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The Islanders have games against the Edmonton Oilers and the Calgary Flames on back-to-back nights starting on Friday. The road trip started with a statement victory, but the next two are difficult matchups for the Islanders, games the team will need to win or earn points to continue to make up ground in the East.

Sign up for our regular 'Islanders Newsletter' for all the latest.