4 Takeaways From Islanders’ 5-3 Loss vs Rangers – 12/22/22

The New York Islanders were hoping to sweep the season series against the New York Rangers and end their five-game road trip on a high note. Instead, they lost 5-3 to their rival in a tough game where they allowed three unanswered goals in the third period.

Related: 3 Takeaways From Islanders’ 1-0 Loss vs Avalanche – 12/19/22

It was a tough loss for an Islanders team that looked in control for the majority of the game and only trailed for the final 2:47 of regulation. Additionally, it caps off a five-game road trip where they only won one game and earned only four points, bumping them out of a playoff position in the Eastern Conference. The loss to the Rangers in particular exploited their weaknesses and showed how far they are from a playoff run and contending in the Eastern Conference.

Islanders’ Penalties Cost Them

The Islanders committed six penalties in the game. While they only allowed one goal, the constant shorthanded play kept them from building momentum and tired out a handful of the pivotal skaters on the team. Likewise, the penalties allowed the Rangers to maintain possession and set up scoring chances even after the Islanders killed them off. Scott Mayfield went to the box in the final five minutes of play with a cross-checking penalty and while they killed it, they weren’t in the position to stop the Rangers from scoring the go-ahead goal.

Scott Mayfield New York Islanders
Scott Mayfield, New York Islanders (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The Islanders have taken a step back this year from a discipline standpoint. They play more aggressively and are willing to make more mistakes as long as the big plays come in the process. Early on in the season, it helped them overwhelm opponents but recently, this aggressive strategy has cost them. Against the Rangers, the lack of discipline was the primary reason for their downfall in a game that they looked like they were going to win.

Sorokin & Shesterkin Struggle

This matchup was the first and only meeting this season between Igor Shesterkin and Ilya Sorokin, two of the best young goaltenders in the game. In the first meeting, Shesterkin had the night off after playing the night before in a shootout loss against the Colorado Avalanche and his absence allowed the Islanders to win 3-0. In the second game, it was the other way around and the Islanders won 4-3 with Semyon Varlamov in the net. As a result, all eyes were on the two young goaltenders and the expectation was for a goaltending duel.

Instead, the two teams combined for eight goals, and both goaltenders had rough starts. Sorokin made 29 saves but allowed four goals, including two in the third period to allow the Rangers to pull away with the victory. Shesterkin meanwhile was credited with the win but he allowed three goals on only 18 shots, a disappointment for the reigning Vezina Trophy winner. Sorokin and Shesterkin are two of the league’s best goaltenders and both are having remarkable seasons but heading into the break, both look overworked and need much-needed time off. The recent game saw them miss plenty of shots that they otherwise would have saved with ease and they weren’t as quick in the net, allowing the game to become a high-scoring affair.

Islanders Miss Pelech

The Islanders haven’t had defenseman Adam Pelech in the lineup since the Dec. 6 loss to the St. Louis Blues. He is an elite defenseman and his absence is tough to replace, especially against potent offenses. Throughout the game, the Rangers found open shots near the net and skated past the defense to create quick scoring chances. The Rangers’ second goal was scored on the rush with Julien Gauthier skating past defenseman Robin Salo to find a breakaway shot on Sorokin. It was a play that Salo couldn’t stop but one that Pelech if he were in the lineup, would manage to defend as a great skater with strong situational awareness.

The injuries are starting to pile up for the Islanders and affect the entire roster. Cal Clutterbuck and Kyle Palmieri are both on injured reserve while Varlamov has been out of the lineup with a lower-body injury he suffered in the Dec. 17 win against the Vegas Golden Knights. Moreover, Casey Cizikas left the recent game early with an injury, and head coach Lane Lambert had to shuffle up the lines throughout the game. However, Pelech’s absence was the most noticeable in the loss and throughout the road trip altogether as the team struggled defensively, winning only one of their last six games.

Barzal’s Big Night

The bright spot in the loss was the big game from Mathew Barzal. To start the second period, he found the puck on a turnover and immediately darted to the net, skating past Kaapo Kakko, the one Rangers skater in his way to set up a breakaway. With space and speed to create, he slipped the puck past Shesterkin for the Islanders’ second goal and his fifth of the season.

Mathew Barzal New York Islanders
Mathew Barzal, New York Islanders (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Barzal operates best when he can take advantage of his speed and playmaking ability. His goal saw both skills on full display and showed how he can take over a game at any moment. In the same period, he once again created a scoring chance as he controlled the puck in the offensive zone and created an open shot for Alexander Romanov at the point, who scored the team’s third goal of the game.

With a goal and an assist in the game, Barzal has five goals and 28 assists on the season. While he isn’t a point-per-game player, his 33 points are tied with Brock Nelson for the most on the Islanders. The recent game however was a reminder that Barzal, along with being an exciting skater, is a valuable forward in the offense and crucial to the team’s success.

Other Takeaways From Islanders’ Loss

  • Romanov’s night was a mixed bag. He scored his first goal of the season and added an assist but also committed two penalties. In Pelech’s absence, Romanov has stepped up but he’s shown that there’s still room for improvement and development as a young defenseman.
  • Anders Lee scored his 11th goal of the season with a shot deflecting into the back of the net in the first period. With the goal, he has the second-most on the team behind Nelson, who has 15 this season.
  • The Islanders had two power play opportunities but failed to score on both chances. Moreover, they only generated three shots on the net but allowed two shots in the situations, making the power play not only a weakness but a liability.

What’s Next for the Islanders

The Islanders face the Florida Panthers in their final game before the Christmas break. They return to UBS Arena and face a Panthers team that has a 15-15-4 record and is coming off a 4-2 loss to the New Jersey Devils. However, the Islanders have struggled against them recently, going 0-4-1 in the last two seasons against them including two losses earlier this season.

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The Islanders are 18-14-2 and have put together a strong season. However, they have fallen in the standings, especially in the competitive Metropolitan Division and the recent loss only sets them back further. They need to turn their season around or they will miss the playoffs for the second season in a row.