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The New York Islanders rebounded last night following two disappointing weekend losses, defeating the New Jersey Devils 5-1.
The Islanders made a notable lineup change heading into last night's game, with Bo Horvat and Jean-Gabriel Pageau switching lines. Simon Holmstrom also swapped back in for Josh Bailey.
New York managed to open the scoring early, as Kyle Palmieri was denied on a breakaway but Pierre Engvall was there to bury the rebound. Then after a pretty entertaining opening frame, New York had a good chance to extend the lead on the first power play of the game early in the second period, but after Noah Dobson hit a post, Erik Haula ended up going back the other way shorthanded and beat Ilya Sorokin to tie the game. However, Kyle Palmieri put the Islanders back up a little later, chasing the puck down, before hanging onto it to out wait defenders and roofing a backhand shot over Vitek Vanecek on a great play. Despite the shorthanded goal against, it was actually a really strong period for New York, outshooting New Jersey 17-8.
The Devils took momentum in the third period though, and it looked like Tomas Tatar may have tied the game about nine minutes into the frame, but the goal was waived off for a kicking motion. After withstanding the Devils' attacks, a puck popped out from the corner of the Devils’ end right to Palmieri in front with under five minutes to go, and he beat Vanecek to extend the lead. Bo Horvat and Zach Parise added empty netters after that, on route to a 5-1 win.
It’s a big win for the Islanders to keep their position in the East playoff race, though the team never seems to do things the easy way. In their last four games, they’ve lost to the worst team in the East and were then shut out the very next day, but then outscored top teams in the Toronto Maple Leafs and New Jersey Devils by a 12-3 margin. Regardless, it was a good effort against a very good opponent.
Kyle Palmieri can be streaky, but lately, he’s been on fire for New York. His three points last night mean in 11 games through March, he’s managed six goals and 13 points. With other top players out of the lineup or not producing, Palmieri’s hot streak has been key for New York.
Speaking of not producing, it’s good to see Bo Horvat get on the board, even if it’s just an empty netter. It marks his first goal in 12 games (where he has only three points total over that stretch), and he’s a player the Islanders need to have producing.
The Horvat/Pageau switch up the middle worked fine for the new Lee-Pageau-Holmstrom line, but it didn’t seem to help Horvat. The Parise-Horvat-Fasching line was outshot 10-2 at 5-on-5, marking the second game in a row where Horvat was on a line that had an expected goals for percentage of 5 per cent, according to NaturalStatTrick.
Jumping over to look at the standings though, another key note: the Florida Panthers lost their fourth game in a row yesterday, putting them six points back of New York with only a game in hand. The Islanders are starting to pull away a bit and create some separation, and are now up three points on the Pittsburgh Penguins as well (though the Penguins do have two games in hand).
With only seven games remaining, the Islanders will be back in action tomorrow, as they begin a three-game road trip against the Washington Capitals.
OTHER ARTICLES FROM MARCH
Islanders, Panthers and Penguins in battle for wild card spots in East
Islanders score seven to beat Leafs, Brock Nelson suffers injury in win
Islanders squander great opportunity with back-to-back weekend losses