After a tough 2-0 loss to the Arizona Coyotes where the New York Islanders looked hapless from the opening puck drop, they needed a bounce-back performance. They didn’t put together their best effort and struggled for the majority of the game against the Columbus Blue Jackets but still came away with a 4-3 overtime win.
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The Islanders have a 10-6 record on the season and with eight wins in the last 10 games, they have the second-best record in the Metropolitan Division. The recent win, while messy, against the Blue Jackets was a reminder that this team can be one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference and win any game on their schedule, even when they are trailing. They never trailed by multiple goals, as they did in both their wins against the Calgary Flames and the New York Rangers, but in the most recent comeback victory, they responded to all three goals the Blue Jackets scored.
Aho-Mayfield Fuel Offense
This might have been the best game of the season from the Scott Mayfield and Sebastian Aho defensive pairing. Entering the season, the Aho and Mayfield pair was seen as the weak link of the defense, but against the Blue Jackets, the two skaters helped carry the Islanders, especially at the point.
Aho and Mayfield helped create both of Brock Nelson’s goals. A shot from Aho forced Blue Jackets goaltender Joonas Korpisalo out of position for a second-chance shot on the net, while Mayfield zipped a pass in the offensive zone through traffic to Nelson. The two defensemen scored four points in the game, and while the offense struggled, they managed to get the puck to the net and create scoring opportunities.
Furthermore, Mayfield also had the biggest goal in the game with his backhanded shot finding the back of the net and tying the game at three. The Islanders looked hopeless in the final period of play but the shot to the top shelf gave them life and momentum as they went to overtime.
Along with the offensive production, the defensive pairing also had a strong game on the defensive end of the ice. Aho and Mayfield cut off angles to the net and constantly created turnovers to halt the Blue Jackets’ offense. Ultimately, the game was a great all-around performance for the lower defensive pairing and showed how the Islanders’ defense has depth but also the firepower at the point to fuel the offense in the 4-3 comeback win.
Nelson’s Two-Goal Game
The Islanders’ star center gave the offense the spark it needed in the second period. He scored two goals and while the rest of the forwards were struggling to shoot the puck on the net, he collected the puck twice in the offensive zone for two of the three goals scored in regulation. Along with the two goals, Nelson also generated a team-high 10 shots on goal. The constant pressure he applied to the Blue Jackets’ defense helped carry the offense and help the team respond to all three goals they allowed.
Nelson has eight goals on the season, which is tied with Anders Lee for the most on the Islanders and his 17 points lead the team. After a slow start to the season, he has once again proved why he is both the best goal scorer and the most well-rounded forward on offense as he’s created scoring chances and finished opportunities throughout the recent stretch of games. In the last nine games, he’s scored eight goals and three assists and has been one of the key players in helping the roster look like one of the best in the league.
Pageau & Parise Fuel Overtime Win
Jean-Gabriel Pageau is having a rough season offensively. While he’s stepped up on the defensive end of the ice and played a pivotal role on the penalty kill, he only has one goal and seven assists through 16 games. Considering the Islanders rely on their forward depth to overwhelm opponents, they need production from their middle-six center.
Against the Blue Jackets, Pageau helped secure the victory and he carried the puck into the offensive zone on the rush and found Zach Parise with a cross-ice pass for the game-winning goal. Parise scored his fifth goal of the season, which is fourth-most on the Islanders, but the goal was created in large part by Pageau’s playmaking ability. The overtime winner was a statement goal not only because it was the game-winner but also proved that the Islanders have depth in their forward unit and can beat opponents with four potent scoring lines.
Islanders Special Teams Nearly Cost Them
The Islanders only committed two penalties in the game, which is as close as they’ve gotten to a flawless, disciplined performance. However, one of the goals they allowed was on the penalty kill. After starting the season with 28 consecutive kills as a noticeable strength of the team, the unit has cooled off, allowing eight goals in 23 opportunities.
While the penalty kill production has slowly fallen off, the power play has looked hapless all season, scoring only eight goals in 47 opportunities. Against the Blue Jackets, they failed to score on both their power play opportunities despite generating multiple shots on the net and establishing a strong offensive zone presence, something the unit has struggled with this season. The Islanders struggling on the man advantage is slowly becoming a glaring concern for an otherwise good team and is something head coach Lane Lambert will need to address if they have Stanley Cup aspirations.
Other Takeaways From the Islanders’ Win
- Ilya Sorokin was the starting goaltender but didn’t have his typical dominant performance, saving only 26 of the 29 shots he faced. It was the third start in six games for Sorokin and with the Islanders playing in two days, the question is whether Semyon Varlamov will start the upcoming game.
- The Islanders will happily take the win and the two points in the standings but the game has to be taken with some concern. They defeated a Blue Jackets team that is not only in last place in the Metropolitan Division with a 4-9-1 record but is decimated by injuries, and they still needed overtime to do so.
- Mathew Barzal added another assist but still hasn’t scored a goal this season. He’s a point-per-game player with 16 assists in 16 games but the lack of goals is a concern, especially since he typically can find the back of the net with his shot in the offensive zone.
What’s Next for the Islanders
After playing back-to-back games at UBS Arena, the Islanders will begin a four-game road trip. Their next game will be against the Nashville Predators who have struggled this season with a 6-8-1 record but are coming off a statement 2-1 win against the Rangers.
The Islanders have played well to start the season and look like one of the best teams in the Metropolitan Division and the Eastern Conference. However, the upcoming road trip could both humble them and provide a handful of losses. They can’t afford to squander the strong start to the season and have to continue to play well in the upcoming stretch of games.