The New York Islanders entered the game against the Pittsburgh Penguins with back-to-back wins against the Detroit Red Wings on March 4 and the Buffalo Sabres on March 7. The two previous wins were statements, but down 3-1 in the third period, the Islanders came back and defeated the Penguins 4-3 in overtime for arguably their biggest win of the season.
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The win allowed the Islanders to maintain the first wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference and it also allowed them to sweep the season series against the Penguins. Not only did they force overtime against a playoff-caliber team but they came away with two significant points as well. Suddenly, the Islanders look like an Eastern Conference juggernaut that can beat anyone on their schedule.
Lee’s Big Night
Throughout his career, Anders Lee has known where to find the puck near the net and finish scoring chances. The recent game was a showcase of his ability to put the Islanders on the scoresheet and carry the offense. In the first period, he found a rebound and fired the puck to the back of the net to give the Islanders a power-play goal and an early lead. Lee gave the team an early goal but more importantly, allowed them to earn a point with his goal late in the game.
With the Islanders trailing 3-2 in the final minutes, defenseman Noah Dobson shot the puck to the net and Lee deflected it into the goal to tie the game. The Islanders were playing with a sense of urgency and the goal allowed them to force overtime and eventually come away with a victory. With the two-goal game, Lee now has 26 goals on the season and is on pace for one of the best years of his career.
The overtime period was a chaotic one with plenty of scoring chances for both teams. Kyle Palmieri almost ended the game with a breakaway while the Penguins at multiple points looked like they ended the game with quick shots on the goal. However, the Islanders ended this game with their best forward finding a prime scoring opportunity.
Brock Nelson found the puck in open ice with nobody nearby to stop him, allowing him to skate to the net with a breakaway opportunity. Penguins goaltender Tristan Jarry was the only one in his path and with a top-shelf shot, Nelson ended the game and secure the 4-3 comeback victory.
The goal was Nelson’s 28th of the season, which leads the team. After a 37-goal season last year, it was unclear if he would follow it up with a decline in production or once again be the team’s top scorer. Nelson is managing to put together another remarkable season and along with leading the team in goals scored, he continues to carry the offense altogether.
Fasching & Cizikas Continue to Connect
Hudson Fasching once again scored a third-period goal that led to an Islanders victory. In the March 7 game against the Sabres, he scored the go-ahead goal as the puck deflected off his leg and into the net to give the team a 3-2 victory. Against the Penguins, he connected with Casey Cizikas with a pass to the board and with a quick centering pass back to Fasching, who was skating to the net and allowed him to slip the puck past Jarry for the Islanders’ second goal of the game.
The third line is starting to step up and add much-needed depth to the forward unit. Fasching has particularly formed a strong connection with Cizikas and the two skaters have provided a spark to the offense with the ability to create turnovers and quickly shoot the puck on the net. Cal Clutterbuck is injured, but when he returns to the lineup, head coach Lane Lambert will have difficult decisions to make. Fasching has established himself on the right wing alongside Cizikas and Matt Martin and the recent game showed that he brings a scoring presence to the offense that Clutterbuck doesn’t provide.
Sorokin Steps Up
The Penguins built an early lead, scoring two goals in the first period and another goal in the second period, but Ilya Sorokin kept the game close. He made multiple incredible saves and prevented the Penguins from running away with the game.
Eventually, the Islanders came back and force the game into overtime, rewarding the strong performance of their goaltender. Appropriately, the game ended on a Nelson goal created by a Sorokin pass. Specifically, he deflected the puck off the boards and set up a breakaway opportunity. Sorokin finished the game with 33 saves and helped carry the Islanders to their third victory in a row.
Other Takeaways From the Islanders
- Scott Mayfield took three penalties in this game and it prevented the Islanders from building momentum, especially in the second period. The undisciplined game was one to forget for the veteran defenseman who has otherwise been playing at a high level this season.
- Pierre Engvall had only 8:23 ice time and was a non-factor in the game. He’s struggling to find a role in the forward unit and it can become an issue for a team that is looking to make a push for the playoffs. The Engvall addition at the trade deadline looked like the final piece for a Cup-contending roster, but early on, the move hasn’t worked out.
What’s Next for the Islanders
The Islanders host the Washington Capitals on March 11 before starting a three-game West Coast road trip. The Capitals are having a rough season but are looking to make a late-season push for the playoffs. The Islanders will need to step up and defeat the Metropolitan Division opponent on their home ice to maintain their playoff position and keep their hot streak alive.
Related: 3 Takeaways From Islanders 3-2 Win vs Sabres
The Islanders have stepped up in their recent games and defeated teams that look like they could be in the playoffs at the end of the season. However, the wild card race in the Eastern Conference will remain a tight one, and while the Islanders have improved their position in the standings, they haven’t secured their playoff spot.