The New York Islanders look poised to win their fifth game in a row. They had a 4-2 lead against a Vancouver Canucks team that lost back-to-back games in their return from the All-Star Break. Instead, the Islanders unraveled. They allowed four unanswered goals and lost to the Canucks 6-5.
Related: 5 Takeaways From New York Islanders’ 4-0 Win vs Seattle Kraken
The Islanders needed to win this game, especially considering how things are shaping up in the Metropolitan Division but they suffered another tough loss. Noah Dobson made the game close at the end with a goal in the final minute of play; however, it was too little and too late, which not only could be a theme for the loss but for the season as the team tries to make a push for the playoffs.
That said, while the loss was a tough one to deal with, the Islanders showed promising signs. They lost and showed glaring concerns on the roster but also showed how they can finish the season strong and ultimately sneak into the playoffs.
Sorokin & Defense Unravel
Ilya Sorokin entered this game coming off consecutive shutouts. His final start before the All-Star Break was a 23-save shutout against the Detroit Red Wings while his return from the break saw him eliminate a potent Seattle Kraken offense with a 32-save shutout. Unfortunately, he put together one of his worst starts of the season and was the primary reason the Islanders lost. He allowed six goals for the first time all season and three goals in the third period. Sorokin is having a Vezina Trophy-caliber season but he had a difficult night picking up the puck and allowed a handful of goals that he’d normally save with ease.
Sorokin let the Islanders down but the defense didn’t help him out either. The unit has been a strength recently but allowed the Canucks to generate 34 shots on the net. Additionally, there were plenty of breakdowns in the defensive zone that allowed for quick scoring chances and easy goals for the opposition. The defense looked like it found its footing in recent games, making the defeat a concern for the team moving forward. The offense is starting to rebound but if the Islanders can’t hold on to leads, the losses will continue to pile up.
Islanders Penalties Cost Them
The Islanders gave the Canucks four power-play opportunities. While the penalty kill has been a strength, killing 83.33% of chances this season, the surplus of opportunities allowed their opponent to climb back into the game and eventually win it. The Canucks scored two of their six goals on the power play and both of them came in the third period. The Islanders played an aggressive game that allowed them to score five goals but they also were undisciplined and it cost them, especially in the third period.
It felt fitting that Anthony Beauvillier scored his first goal as a Canuck on the power play against the Islanders, the team that traded him in the Bo Horvat deal. He only scored 15 power-play goals in seven and a half years with the Islanders but deflected a puck into the back of the net on the man advantage to score against his former team. Beauvillier was given a surplus of opportunities to score and he took advantage to help fuel the Canucks victory.
Islanders Bump into a Desperate Canucks Team
At first glance, the Canucks looked like an easy opponent to defeat. After all, they entered the game with a 20-27-4 record, and with consecutive losses to the New Jersey Devils on Feb. 6 and the New York Rangers on Feb. 8. They were also at the bottom of the Western Conference. However, the Canucks were looking to wrap up their New York road trip with a win and avoid a three-game sweep. Elias Pettersson scored two goals and Brock Boeser scored four points to will the team to an upset victory.
They played with a sense of urgency and motivation to come away with a win. Granted, the Islanders unraveled at the end of the second period as well as the third and the team might have looked past the Canucks after two decisive victories. At the same time, the Canucks stepped up and took this game from the Islanders with a six-goal performance and a three-goal period to cap off the game.
Barzal & Horvat Continue to Fuel Offense
The bright spot in the loss was the continued offensive excellence from Horvat and Mathew Barzal, who continue to lead the forward unit. Barzal scored his 14th goal of the season as a power play was expiring with a great shot. Last year, he only scored 15 goals and to start this season, he looked like he’d be a great puck facilitator, not a goal scorer but the 25-year-old forward is starting to shoot the puck more often and it’s paying off. Along with the goal, he also added two assists to bring his season total to 34, which lead the team.
Horvat’s goal, which was his second with the Islanders, looked a lot like his first with the team. Barzal found him open in the offensive zone and with a quick shot, he scored for the 33rd time this season. The connection Barzal and Horvat are forming is a special one where two elite players are both unlocking their skill sets, making the two skaters tough to stop. The Islanders now have a top line that can provide scoring on a nightly basis with two skaters that scored a goal in their 4-0 win against the Kraken and two goals in the loss to the Canucks.
Brock Nelson Scores His 20th Goal
In the first period, Brock Nelson carried the puck into the offensive zone on an odd-man rush and without hesitation, shot it past Canucks’ goaltender Collin Delia. The goal tied the game to end a period that had four goals scored between the two teams.
Nelson scored his first goal since the All-Star Break and his 20th of the season, which is a team-high. After scoring 37 goals last year, it was unclear if he’d top that mark this season but he’s putting together another strong campaign. The goal against the Canucks was a big one for Nelson but also for the line he leads. If he continues to find the back of the net, the Islanders will have two top lines which will make their offense one of the best in the league in the second half of the season.
Other Takeaways From the Islanders’ Loss
- Kyle Palmieri scored his eighth goal of the season with a quick shot in the first period that put the Islanders on the score sheet. Palmieri missed multiple weeks with an injury but his return to the lineup has helped the offense turn around in recent games.
- Dobson’s goal was his first in 20 games but his 11th on the season which leads all defensemen on the team. While he had a rough game defensively, he stepped up in the offensive zone with his goal in the third period and an assist in the game as well.
- Along with the defense struggling, the Islanders had 23 giveaways. Their sloppy play across the board cost them a game against a team they could have otherwise easily beaten and was a primary reason they blew a 4-2 lead to lose 6-5.
What’s Next for the Islanders?
After two home games, the Islanders will head north to face the Montreal Canadiens on Feb. 11 before heading back to UBS Arena to host the Ottawa Senators on Feb. 14. Both Atlantic Division teams have struggled this season and the Islanders will have to take advantage of both rosters if they hope to make up ground in the standings.
The recent loss was a dagger for an Islanders team desperate to improve in the Metropolitan Division. They won four games in a row and looked like a much-improved team after the Horvat addition but the recent loss set them back. The Islanders looked promising in the game but they need wins in the next few weeks along with strong efforts, and losses like these will leave them on the outside of the playoff picture looking in.