The New York Islanders were looking to build off a strong 4-0 win over the Winnipeg Jets on Feb. 26 and head into the trade deadline on a high note. They played a low-scoring hard fought game but lost to the Minnesota Wild 2-1 in a shootout. The loss is the second of the season to the Wild and the fourth in the past two seasons, making them a team the Islanders have struggled to play against in recent years.
The game leaves a bitter taste but at the same time, provides plenty of optimism for the Islanders moving forward. Granted, they would have loved to earn the win but they managed to earn a point and improve in the Eastern Conference standings as a result. More importantly, they showed why they are a playoff team and have a roster built to contend.
Sorokin’s Strong Performance
Ilya Sorokin willed the Islanders to a point with his remarkable performance in the net. He made 30 saves and aside from the goal in the first period, was flawless during regulation and overtime. He particularly was unfazed by the Wild’s speed and quick shots as he was sharp and prepared for the opposition, putting together another strong performance to add to his already incredible season.
After a rough start against the Los Angeles Kings on Feb. 24, where Sorokin allowed three goals in the second period in a 3-2 loss, he needed a bounce-back game. Not only did he step up but he was the best player on the Islanders and singlehandedly helped them earn a point by keeping the game tied through the final 40 minutes of regulation.
The Islanders are a playoff team this season in large part because of Sorokin’s play in the net. He is having a Vezina Trophy-caliber season with a .924 save percentage (SV%) and a 2.41 goals-against average (GAA) on 1,368 shots with 25.5 goals saved above average (GSAA) along with five shutouts. If the Islanders reach the playoffs and make a subsequent playoff run, it will be on the back of multiple great starts from Sorokin.
Islanders Hit a Wall in Gustavsson
The Islanders’ offense stepped up and created plenty of scoring opportunities. However, they had no answers for Wild goaltender Filip Gustavsson. He saved 39 of the 40 shots he faced and stopped all three of the shootout attempts to lead the Wild to a victory. The Islanders entered a goaltending duel with Sorokin putting together a great game but unfortunately, Gustavsson not only matched him but outplayed him.
Related: 4 Takeaways From Islanders 2-1 Win vs Jets – 2/22/23
The Wild are having a great season but interestingly are led by great defense and exceptional goaltending. Gustavsson is having a remarkable year and the Islanders saw firsthand how he can take over a game and lead his team to a victory. The Islanders applied pressure and created plenty of scoring chances but couldn’t find the back of the net against a great young goaltender.
Horvat Steps Up
Bo Horvat was acquired from the Vancouver Canucks with the hope that he could carry the Islanders to victories, especially when the rest of the roster was struggling. He didn’t find the back of the net or finish the night on the scoresheet, but he was the Islanders’ best skater in a losing effort.
Horvat won 82 percent of his faceoffs, led all forwards with 23:51 of ice time, and generated seven shots on the net, second-most on the team behind only Zach Parise. He also stepped up in the defensive zone and helped limit shots on the net and scoring chances in the middle of the ice, playing a pivotal role defensively in a low-scoring game. The Islanders’ offense had a rough game but Horvat carried the top line and almost willed the team to a victory.
Other Takeaways From the Islanders’ Loss
- Josh Bailey scored the Islanders’ only goal in the game, collecting a rebound near the net and finishing the scoring chance. It was Bailey’s seventh of the season and with his role declining in the offense, it was a pleasant surprise from the veteran forward.
- Defenseman Scott Mayfield had a great performance, leading the defensive unit with 25:02 ice time, three blocked shots, and an assist. The defense had a great game collectively but Mayfield stood out as he helped the Islanders force the game to overtime.
What’s Next for the Islanders
After the trade deadline, the Islanders will face the Detroit Red Wings, a team that they split their first two meetings against earlier this season. The Red Wings are looking to leapfrog the Islanders in the Eastern Conference playoff race but are coming off a rough 6-1 loss to the Ottawa Senators.
The Islanders played a hard-fought game against a great team and managed to come away from it with a point. The result was disappointing but in the long run, it helps the Islanders in the playoff picture. With a 31-25-8 record, they hold the top wildcard spot in the Eastern Conference and the overtime loss allows them to slightly improve in the standings.