The New York Islanders started their tough stretch to wrap up the season with a statement win. Facing the New Jersey Devils, one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference, they stepped up and defeated them 5-1. The win not only allowed the Islanders to secure the season series against the Metropolitan Division opponent but it also was a much-needed bounce-back performance after back-to-back losses.
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The win put the Islanders in a great position to reach the playoffs and with a 38-28-9 record, it also allowed them to possibly secure the top wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. In a potential first round matchup, the Islanders showed why they could be a force to be reckoned with if they reach the playoffs as they can defeat any opponent in a seven-game series.
Palmieri’s Big Night
Kyle Palmieri appears to play at another level when he faces his former teams. On March 15, he had a four-point night against the Anaheim Ducks, the team he started his career with, to help the Islanders win the game 6-3. Against the Devils, Palmieri reminded them that he is still a dynamic goal scorer and playmaker that can provide a spark to the offense when needed.
He assisted on the first goal of the game and created an open shot by crashing the net on the rush, leaving the Devils out of position for a second-chance shot. When the Devils tied up the game in the second period, Palmieri scored the go-ahead goal to wrap up the period and then scored the Islanders’ third goal of the game to put it out of reach in the final few minutes. His shot in particular stood out in the victory as he overwhelmed Devils goaltender Vitek Vanecek with two shots to the top shelf.
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Palmieri has 15 goals on the season, the fourth most on the Islanders roster. Additionally, he has been one of the best skaters on the team in recent games. He has five goals and five assists in the last six games, helping put the Islanders in a prime position to reach the playoffs.
Sorokin’s Bounce Back Performance
After allowing five goals on 27 shots in the overtime loss against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Ilya Sorokin needed a bounce-back performance. He not only stepped up against the Devils but his remarkable game also carried the Islanders to a victory.
Sorokin saved 30 of the 31 shots he faced eliminating a potent Devils offense throughout the game. Moreover, in the third period, the Devils were trying to mount a comeback and creating multiple scoring chances but were constantly denied. Against one of the best offenses in the NHL, Sorokin stepped up and made the opposition look hapless. The game was a reminder that when he is playing at an elite level, he can stop any offense in the league.
Engvall Continues to Provide Scoring Spark
Pierre Engvall and Palmieri have formed a great scoring line in recent games. The two skaters are shoot-first players but complement each other with their instincts and ability to create scoring opportunities. With Brock Nelson centering their line, they have scored 11 goals and eight assists together in six games to carry the offense.
In the first period, Engvall scored his fourth goal since being acquired by the Islanders. He has found his shot in the offensive zone and playing alongside Palmieri has unlocked his scoring ability. The Islanders needed to add a scoring presence at the trade deadline and Engvall has provided it to not only add depth to the offense but help carry it as well.
Islanders Set the Tone in the Game
Initially, the Devils looked like they were going to control the pace of play as the first period was a fast one with plenty of scoring chances for both teams. However, as the game progressed, the Islanders started to take over and slow it down to their advantage. Specifically, they started to hit the Devils’ skaters when they had the puck and dare them to chip the puck into the offensive zone rather than carry it.
With Casey Cizikas, Matt Martin, Hudson Fasching, and Cal Clutterbuck leading the way, the Islanders made it difficult for the Devils to start up their offense with strong hits, especially along the boards and at the blue line. The Islanders outhit the Devils 24-13 and forced them to play out of their comfort zone. The two teams could face each other in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and the recent game provided a blueprint for first-year head coach Lane Lambert as he saw his team take over the game by making it a tougher one.
Other Takeaways From the Islanders’ Win
- Bo Horvat and Zach Parise scored empty-net goals to make the final score deceiving considering how close the game was. That said, Horvat’s goal helped him snap out of his slump, scoring his first goal since the Feb. 16 win over the Winnipeg Jets. Parise meanwhile scored his fifth goal in six games and his 21st of the season which is third-most on the Islanders.
- Adam Pelech had a great game defensively. He led all skaters with 25:02 of ice time and blocked four shots. He also stepped up as a playmaker helping the team clear the puck out of the defensive zone and start up the offense with his outlet passes.
What’s Next for the Islanders
The Islanders play the Washington Capitals on March 29 for the third meeting this season. The Capitals have struggled this year, with a 34-31-8 record, leaving them on the outside of the playoff picture looking in. However, they beat the Islanders in the previous two meetings with a 4-3 win on Jan. 16 and a 5-1 victory on March 11, making them a tough opponent to face.
The Islanders made a statement with their recent performance, defeating one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference. The next few games remain crucial for them to not only secure their spot in the playoffs but prove that they can go on a Stanley Cup run as well.