The New York Islanders trailed the Nashville Predators throughout the game but looked like they were going to come back and win as they have throughout the season. They were trailing 3-0 to the Colorado Avalanche only to come back and win 5-4, and they trailed 3-1 entering the third period against the Calgary Flames and New York Rangers but beat both teams 4-3 on consecutive nights.
With this in mind, the Islanders trailing 4-1 seemed like a deficit they could overcome. Likewise, trailing 5-3 late in the third period still meant the game was within reach. However, they couldn’t complete the comeback and lost to the Predators 5-4. The game was a reminder that the Islanders, despite their strong start to the season, can’t win every game and will have disappointments, and similarly, it reminded the team that they can’t overcome every deficit.
Sloppy 1st Period Costs Islanders
This game unraveled quickly for the Islanders. They allowed three goals in nine minutes and trailed 3-1 halfway through the first period. Every goal allowed also felt like a dagger as the first in the game was scored only 66 seconds in, while the next two Predators’ goals were scored 58 seconds apart. By the time the Islanders found their footing, the game felt out of reach.
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The Islanders have gotten off to slow starts throughout the season but it was an issue first-year head coach Lane Lambert didn’t need to address, especially since they were winning and doing so in dramatic, comeback fashion. However, there was a fear that the sloppy play at the start of games would eventually come back to hurt them. Against the Predators, it did and despite outplaying the opposition for the next 40 minutes, they couldn’t muster the victory.
The Islanders getting off to strong starts will be an integral part of their success this season especially if they are hoping to win the Stanley Cup. A key component of any Cup-caliber team is the ability to win in a multitude of ways, one of which is by taking over games early. Early on this season, the Islanders have proven that they can win in a variety of ways but still have to work on their production in the first period.
Pelech Fuels Offense
The first bright spot in the game was the continued strong play from the defense, something the Islanders have received throughout the season. Adam Pelech started the scoring for the offense with a shot that was redirected into the back of the net, and he isn’t known for his scoring ability from the point. However, a strong emphasis from the coaching staff has been on the defensemen contributing to the offense and he has been one of the beneficiaries of this style of play. Against the Predators, it helped make the game a close one.
Moreover, to start the hopeful comeback, Pelech got the puck through traffic and into the back of the net, allowing the Islanders to head into the third period down only 4-2. The team’s second goal of the game was credited to Cal Clutterbuck, as the puck deflected off him and into the net but the goal was fueled by Pelech who added his eighth point of the season on the play.
Islanders Make Game Close from the Slot
All the pressure was on the Predators in the final period of play as they had to defend an offense that was suddenly effectively moving the puck in the offensive zone and generating strong shots on goaltender Juuse Saros. The goal scored by Kyle Palmieri made the game 4-3 but more importantly, was a reminder of his scoring instincts in the offensive zone. With all eyes on the puck behind the net, Palmieri skated into the slot and waited for the puck to find him, allowing for an open shot on the net and an easy goal. Often, the Islanders’ goal-scoring is credited to Brock Nelson and Anders Lee who both lead the team in the category but the 31-year-old veteran has scored the third-most goals on the roster this year with six.
The Islanders’ final goal as part of the last-gasp effort to tie the game, also came from a strong shot in the slot. Jean-Gabriel Pageau skated into the slot and a centering pass from Lee gave him an easy scoring chance. Pageau suddenly has scored in back-to-back games, as he found the back of the net in the 4-2 win over the Ottawa Senators.
The Islanders lost the game and for the most part, struggled to keep up with the Predators, especially the forecheck that their forwards displayed. However, skaters finding shots from the slot will catapult this offense into another tier, making it a bright spot in the defeat.
Other Takeaways from the Islanders’ Loss
- Ilya Sorokin didn’t have his typical dominant night in the net as he saved only 26 of the 31 shots he faced. After receiving a much-needed night off in the game against the Senators, he looked poised to have a sharp and strong performance but instead gave them the opposite.
- Josh Bailey was scratched from the lineup for the second game in a row. His absence was felt in this game especially since the player the Islanders called up to replace him, Ross Johnston, played a minimal role with only 6:12 of ice time.
- The Islanders were humbled by the Predators but in particular by defenseman Roman Josi. Along with strong plays in the defensive zone, he added four assists to the offense and his playmaking resulted in the five-goal performance.
What’s Next for the Islanders?
The Islanders wrap up their four-game road trip with a meeting against the Dallas Stars followed by a game against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Both teams are near the top of their divisions and with talented rosters, will test the Islanders, who hope to bounce back from the recent loss.
The Islanders are having a good season and with an 11-7 record, are near the top of the Metropolitan Division. However, the recent game was a gut check and a tough reminder for the Islanders of how a promising season can unravel. They aren’t invincible, something the past two games would seem to have indicated, and more importantly, they can’t overcome every deficit.
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.