The New York Islanders were enjoying a very nice season, but they started to struggle right before the shutdown of the NHL. They were in a position to make the playoffs and perhaps compete to win the division until they lost their last seven games before the break.
In any event, there have been some very exciting moments throughout the season from many of the players, including some of the younger prospects. Let’s take a look back at the five best moments of the 2019-20 season thus far.
5. Pageau Trade, Extension and First Goal
It seemed like it had been years since the Islanders made a splash at the trade deadline, but with the team needing another scorer, general manager Lou Lamoriello went out and traded for Jean-Gabrel Pageau. While the price was steep with New York having to part ways with a first and second-round pick as well as a conditional third-round pick, Barry Trotz finally got his third-line center. The Islanders then signed him to a six-year contract extension before he played in his first game.
Ironically enough, Pageau’s first game with the Islanders came up against a team he feasted on in his career — the New York Rangers. He had his best moment in the NHL against the Rangers in the 2017 playoffs when he scored four times, including the overtime winner. He continued that trend, scoring the Islanders’ first goal of the game in the third period. At the time, his team trailed 2-0 with under three minutes left, but were able to score again late with their net empty and earn a point before losing in overtime. Pageau went on to score again in his second game, but is still looking to win his first game with his new club.
4. Cole Bardreau’s Penalty Shot
It may have been just an early season game against the Ottawa Senators, but Cole Bardreau had a memorable first NHL goal. With the game tied at one with under five minutes to go in the second period, Bardreau, playing in just his sixth game, was in alone on a breakaway and was hauled down by Mark Borowiecki and was awarded a penalty shot. With the entire Islanders’ bench on their feet, Bardreau came in on Craig Anderson and beat him five-hole for his first career NHL goal similar to Shawn Bates’ goal in the 2002 NHL Playoffs.
It ended up leading the Islanders to a 4-1 victory at the Barclays Center in the final game of the team’s 10-game win streak. It was also Bardreau’s only goal of the season as the undrafted forward worked his way through the Islanders system and helped their fourth line after many injuries to begin the season.
3. Bellows Scores Twice in Second Game
Despite the Islanders’ record throughout the season, they ran into a couple of rough patches across the year when they couldn’t find the back of the net. They had previously called up a couple of their young prospects, but Kieffer Bellows was not one of them. However, he finally got the call after a phenomenal run in the AHL and played in his first NHL game on Feb. 4. The rookie picked up an assist in that game and then had a memorable second game with a pair of goals, including the game-winner in the third period against the Los Angeles Kings.
Bellows’ initial goal came against Jonathon Quick as Anthony Beavullier set the rookie backdoor to cut the Kings’ lead to 3-2. After Matt Martin tied the game not long after, Bellows scored his second of the game from the side of the net to help New York earn a 5-3 win. Following that, the Islanders surprisingly optioned their young forward back to the minors six games later. With the lack of scoring and tough stretch before the shutdown, Bellows would probably have seen another shot at some point before the playoffs.
2. Pulock’s Last Minute Goal
While the Philadelphia Flyers were one of the surprise teams in the league this season, the Islanders had their way with them, winning the first three games of a four-game set. It started with a 5-3 win in October. Following that, the Islanders came back from a 3-0 deficit in Philadelphia and then played one of the games of the season on Feb. 11. The Islanders jumped out to a 3-0 lead after defeating the Washington Capitals the night before. Josh Bailey, Matt Martin, and Jordan Eberle scored the three goals before the Flyers tied the game up.
With the Islanders needing every point they could get, they had plenty of zone possession for one of the first times during the third period. Barzal carried the puck around the net and set up Pulock for the game-winning goal against Brian Elliott to give the Islanders a 4-3 lead. They went on to add a fifth goal from Leo Komarov in the final seconds and earned a crucial two points.
1. 17-Game Point Streak and Overtime Heroics
From Oct. 12-Nov. 21, the Islanders had won 15 games and recorded a point in the other two games. It started with a win over the Florida Panthers in a shootout and then an overtime win against the reigning Stanley Cup Champions in the St. Louis Blues. The Islanders trailed 2-1, but got a game-tying goal from Anders Lee and then an overtime goal from Devon Toews. They went on to score another game-winner against the Columbus Blue Jackets on the road on a goal from Brock Nelson, which was the first of three goals he would score in the extra session during the streak.
After the Islanders loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins for their only loss during the stretch, New York had a home-and-home with them two weeks later, and Nelson scored in regulation and overtime. Then 48 hours later, in his 500th NHL game, Nelson once again scored in regulation and then with 45 seconds left in overtime for the memorable win. The streak came to an end as they hit the West Coast, where the Islanders lost three straight and only scored two goals, but had many more exciting overtime goals throughout the season by Anders Lee, Pulock, and Beauvillier twice.
With the possibility of the NHL coming back at some point this summer, the Islanders will have plenty of work to do. They are coming off a playoff series win last season and would like to build off that in a very tight Eastern Conference. With the new additions and the experience they have now, 2020 is an excellent year for the Islanders to push for their fifth Stanley Cup.
Matt Rothman is a 2018 graduate from Florida Gulf Coast University receiving his bachelor degree in journalism. Originally from Long Island, he moved to Parkland shortly after high school. Matt worked as the assistant sports editor for his school paper, eaglenews.com in college becoming just one of nine students in his graduation class to serve over 1,000 community service hours. His goal is to travel to every Major League Baseball stadium, and has been to multiple US Open finals.