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The New York Islanders’ five-game point streak came to an end last night, as they fell 4-2 to the Minnesota Wild.
With Bo Horvat out of action, Mathew Barzal centered Anders Lee and Oliver Wahlstrom. Samuel Bolduc was also scratched on the blue line with Adam Pelech returning to the lineup, and Semyon Varlamov got the start.
The Islanders found themselves down pretty much right away, when Pat Maroon took a pass at the side of the net to beat Semyon Varlamov before he was even able to track the puck, giving Minnesota a lead only 19 seconds into the game. However, New York began to create chances as the period went along and midway through the frame, Noah Dobson wired a one-timer past Marc-Andre Fleury, tying the game. While the Islanders were outshot 9-6 in the frame, they built some momentum as the period progressed and had a few good opportunities to take a lead, but the game remained 1-1 through 20 minutes.
In the second period, the Wild came close to striking early yet again, when Kirill Kaprizov rang a shot off the crossbar. But later in the frame, Oliver Wahlstrom managed to put the Islanders ahead with a great goal, cutting past a defenseman to beat Marc-Andre Fleury with a quick shot.
While the Islanders did have chances after that to extend the lead, only a few minutes later, Vinni Lettieri threw a shot through traffic that took a deflection to beat Varlamov, tying the game 2-2.
New York continued to press through the last few minutes of the frame and had some good opportunities, including a late power play, but couldn’t convert. Despite the game being tied, it was a really strong period for the Islanders who were getting their chances, and threw 15 shots on goal in the period.
In the third period though, Minnesota managed to take the lead on a power play, with Kirill Kaprizov taking a pass from Mats Zuccarello to beat Varlamov. Then only 42 seconds later, Pat Maroon won the puck off Pierre Engvall in a dangerous spot and fed a pass to Joel Eriksson Ek, who made it 4-2 quickly.
Minnesota had even more chances from there with multiple odd-man rushes afterwards, and the Islanders were really struggling to create many quality chances to try to pull back into the game. While New York did successfully kill a late penalty, when they got a power play chance of their own, they couldn’t get enough going, and fell 4-2.
It’s a disappointing result for New York from a game where they looked pretty good through 40 minutes, but just seemed to take most of the third period off. It continues the trend: while the Islanders have shown glimpses of being a very capable team, we rarely see a full 60-minute effort.
You can’t help but view it as a bit of a missed opportunity for New York. They were playing quite well at home, but couldn’t get the job done against a team that had lost four or their last five games coming into the matchup.
The loss was another example of what we’ve seen through the first bit of the season so far, where New York can consistently score two or three goals in a game, but rarely more. The Islanders have managed three goals or less in nine of their 11 games so far, with their only two four-goal games coming in losses.
What it means is New York has to either be pretty excellent defensively, or rely on goaltending for wins. While goaltending has bailed them out a few times this season, it’s not a sustainable way to play. So in a game like yesterday, they got hurt on the fact they can’t capitalize on their chances, and when mistakes are made, they don’t have the offense needed to recover.
Brock Nelson has really slowed down, with three points in his last eight games, while Anders Lee may be facing a steep decline, and with Bo Horvat out of action as well, the Islanders aren't getting offense from a lot of the forwards they’d ideally be able to count on.
Perhaps a positive though was Oliver Wahlstrom looked good yesterday, playing what was probably his best game of the season. He managed four shots while playing on the top line, and while a Lee-Barzal-Wahlstrom trio isn’t perfect, it would be interesting to see Wahlstrom in an extended stretch with Barzal, once Bo Horvat is back.
It’s a tough loss, but the disappointing third period and lack of scoring made the difference. The Islanders will be back in action tomorrow, when they visit the Boston Bruins.
OTHER ARTICLES FROM NOVEMBER
- Blown leads, reliance on goaltending are issues on Islanders' point streak