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Islanders rebound for key 5-1 win over Capitals

December 31, 2023, 12:10 AM ET [35 Comments]
Ben Shelley
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Following a disastrous return from the break against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday, the New York Islanders managed to bounce back last night, defeating the Washington Capitals 5-1 at home.

Julien Gauthier came back into the lineup in place of Oliver Wahlstrom on the third line, while Matt Martin got into his first game in about six weeks as a result of Casey Cizikas dealing with an illness.

New York looked better right from puck drop, attacking with speed on some rush chances early in the first period. While they couldn’t convert, it was a strong opening frame to inspire a bit of confidence.

Then early in the second period, Alexander Romanov found Jean-Gabriel Pageau on a rush, and Pageau one-timed a shot past Darcy Kuemper to get New York on the board. Only about a minute later, Noah Dobson followed up by stepping into a shot from near the top of offensive the zone, and he beat Kuemper as well, putting the Islanders ahead 2-0. The teams traded power play chances shortly after (which included some great shorthanded opportunities for New York), but it remained a two-goal game through 40 minutes.

Julien Gauthier ended up extending the lead midway through the third period from there to make it 3-0, before taking a nice feed from Pageau only 18 seconds later to beat Kuemper once again, with his two quick goals blowing the game open for a four-goal Islanders lead. New York wasn’t done there, and only about four minutes later, Pageau struck again for his second goal and fourth point of the game.

Ilya Sorokin’s shutout was broken with just 18 seconds to go when he went to clear a puck that hopped over his stick and found its way in, but the Islanders still cruised to the 5-1 victory.

It’s a huge win for the Islanders coming off the brutal loss to Pittsburgh, and allows for a bit of a sigh of relief.

This was probably one of the Islanders’ best all-around games of the season. We’ve seen too often that they’ll either start slow and turn it on later, or the reverse, where they can build a lead and watch it fall apart with a poor finish. However, this was one of probably only a handful of games this year where they really didn’t take their foot off the gas at any point, putting together a string of three really solid periods.

Aside from the necessary bounce-back, the story of this one was the dominance from the third line. Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Julien Gauthier combined for four of the five goals, while Simon Holmstrom was in on the action as well and made an impact with a couple good opportunities and an assist. We expected to see Gauthier back in for Wahlstrom after the Pittsburgh game and just contrasting the two players recently, barring an injury, it’s tough to see Wahlstrom really regaining a full-time spot anytime soon.

While Gauthier is the biggest surprise, Pageau’s performance was great to see as well. He had a tough start to the year and didn’t really look like the same player he was in prior seasons since joining the team. However, he had been slowly finding his game with eight points in the last 16 games ahead of last night’s win, and the four-point night may have been exactly what he needed.

In some less positive news though, Ryan Pulock was moved to long-term injured reserve, and while it's retroactive to the time of the injury, he reportedly has yet to resume skating (according to Stefen Rosner of The Hockey News). That said, Scott Mayfield does seem to be nearing a return, which will be a big boost for the right side.

Now with a single game remaining in 2023, the Islanders will travel to face the Pittsburgh Penguins tomorrow night, looking for a bit of vengeance after Wednesday’s thrashing. This win over the Capitals was something to build off, and heading into yet another divisional game, New York still has the opportunity to cap off the year with a positive and ride into the New Year with momentum on their side.


- Islanders sneak past Hurricanes, but win doesn’t inspire much confidence
- Concerns with Islanders continue to mount despite better results
- Islanders earn big win over Blue Jackets, Bortuzzo acquired from Blues
- Isles carrying some momentum following OT wins over Kings and Leafss
- Islanders still need to build consistency following successful stretch
- Islanders can end 2023 on a high coming out of holiday break
- Isles’ second period collapse leads to 7-0 blowout loss against Penguins
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