On the heels of a statement 6-4 win against the New Jersey Devils, the New York Islanders couldn’t have played a more opposite game. In the second game of a back-to-back, they lost to the Carolina Hurricanes 3-0 and looked hopeless from the opening puck drop. It wasn’t the first time the Islanders were shut out as they failed to score against the Detroit Red Wings in a 3-0 loss on Nov. 5 and were blanked against the Arizona Coyotes 2-0 on Nov. 10, but it was arguably their worst offensive performance.
Related: 3 Takeaways from New York Islanders’ 7-4 Loss vs Blues – 12/6/22
The recent loss moves the Islanders to fourth place in the Metropolitan Division with a 17-12-0 record. The game against the Devils the night before showed the team’s ceiling, but the loss to the Hurricanes showed their floor. Moreover, the game showed how a divisional opponent like the Hurricanes can match up with the Islanders and eliminate them.
Hurricanes Defense Blanks Islanders Offense
In recent seasons, the Hurricanes have proved that they have an elite defense that can eliminate any offense in the NHL. They are allowing only 2.81 goals per game this season, while last season they allowed a league-low 2.44 goals per game. Against the Islanders, they showed how they can take over a game and make an offense that scored six goals the night before look like one of the worst in the league, shutting them out in a 3-0 victory.
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Jordan Staal had a remarkable game, noticeably stopping Mathew Barzal and preventing him from finding open ice. The Islanders’ top line played a majority of their shifts against the Staal-led line, and at 34 years old, he went toe-to-toe with arguably the best skater in the game to limit his ability to find open skaters and create scoring chances. In a game that has shifted offensively in the past few seasons, the Islanders were reminded of the value of a defensive forward as they had no answers for the Hurricanes forwards and their checking lines.
Along with the forwards, the Hurricanes’ defensemen made it difficult for the Islanders to carry the puck into the offensive zone and establish an offensive zone presence. Their blue line discipline forced skaters like Brock Nelson and Jean-Gabriel Pageau, who normally carry the puck through the neutral zone, to chip it into the offensive zone instead. Moreover, the Hurricanes’ gap control limited passing lanes and effective shots on the net, allowing only 16 shots on goal in the game. The Islanders’ offense has taken a step forward this season but the recent game was a humbling experience as they found out that a disciplined, defensive team can make them look hapless.
Islanders Hit Wall in Second Game of Back-to-Back
The Islanders entered their recent game coming off a big win the night before where they defeated the Devils in a high-scoring but tiring game. The Hurricanes on the other hand were playing their first game since Dec. 6, which they lost 4-3 in overtime to the Anaheim Ducks. While the Hurricanes had to fly across the country between games, they were a well-rested roster and it showed throughout the game.
The Islanders looked fatigued, lethargic, and exhausted from the first period. They were constantly beaten to the puck and outskated in all three zones, allowing the Hurricanes to command the game with ease. The Islanders split their back-to-back, which was against two of the best teams in their division, but the recent game will remain a concern for head coach Lane Lambert. The schedule will have plenty of difficult stretches ahead, and despite the strong start to the season, things can quickly unravel.
Sorokin Keeps Game Close
The Islanders were reminded that they have a great goaltending duo as Ilya Sorokin put together a strong performance in the net. After Semyon Varlamov saved 25 of the 29 shots he faced in the 6-4 win against the Devils, Sorokin saved 26 of the 29 shots faced, keeping the game close and limiting the Hurricanes from pulling away with the victory until the third period.
Sorokin hasn’t been the same dominant goaltender in his recent starts, allowing 12 goals in his last four and putting him on the losing end of all four games. However, the game against the Hurricanes saw him step up and limit the opposing offense and a team that controlled the puck for the majority of the game. Sorokin has been one of the best goaltenders in the NHL this season and he will look to improve as the season goes on and lead the Islanders to a successful season.
What’s Next for the Islanders
The Islanders begin a five-game road trip starting with a matchup against the Boston Bruins on Dec 13. The Bruins have looked like one of the best teams in the NHL this season, and with only one loss on their home ice, they will be a tough test for the Islanders.
The Islanders need to step up in the upcoming stretch to avoid falling behind in the Metropolitan Division, which is shaping up to be the most competitive in the NHL this season. With the Pittsburgh Penguins winning five games in a row, they have passed the Islanders in the division and made it an uphill battle to remain a playoff team.