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The New York Islanders put an end to their seven-game losing streak last night, earning a 5-4 shootout win over the Calgary Flames in the final game of their Western Conference road trip.
New York got off to a decent start in the first half of the frame, and managed to kill a penalty, which was a nice way to set the tone after their PK issues during the back-to-back. However, the Flames still opened the scoring midway through the opening frame, when Nazem Kadri found Martin Pospisil with a good pass to get behind Alexander Romanov, and Pospisil roofed a shot over Ilya Sorokin to open the scoring. However, a little later in the frame, Hudson Fasching got into a good spot with the puck after Cal Clutterbuck won a battle along the boards and Fasching beat Jacob Markstrom, tying the game.
In the second frame, the Islanders then managed to take the lead on an early power play, with Kyle Palmieri burying a rebound in front, off a shot from Bo Horvat. Then only a little later at 4-on-4, Rasmus Andersson turned a puck over right to Mathew Barzal, who beat Markstrom to extend New York’s lead to 3-1.
However, the Flames managed to cut down the lead before the period was through with a few minutes remaining, as Nick DeSimone made a great pass to Blake Coleman, who was able to tap the puck into the open net, making it a one-goal game through 40 minutes.
Then only three minutes into the third period, the Flames tied it up off a point shot from MacKenzie Weegar, erasing the Islanders’ lead. However, only 20 seconds later, Brock Nelson did manage to bury a rebound in-close, putting New York right back ahead.
Despite New York actually putting together a pretty decent period though and having a few good chances to put the game out of reach, later in the frame, Yegor Sharangovich was able to tip-in a shot from Noah Hanifin, tying the game once again, and sending New York past regulation for the third game in a row.
In the extra frame, Pospisil had the best chance to win it for the Flames after taking the puck off Mathew Barzal, but couldn’t convert. As the game continued to a shootout, both Sharangovich and Horvat scored as the first shooters, but then neither team could strike in the two following rounds. Moving into Round 4, Sorokin managed to stop Connor Zary, and with a chance to win it, Oliver Wahlstrom beat Markstrom with a nice shot, giving the Islanders the win.
Obviously, it’s a huge win for the Islanders. After seven losses in a row, including back-to-back games where they blew a lead and lost in overtime or a shootout, hopefully the win will mark a bit of a turning point.
At the same time, the importance of the win shouldn't necessarily fully overshadow the game itself. Most notably, New York blew a lead for the fourth game in a row, with this one being a multi-goal lead. It’s been a terrible trend for the team early on, and it’s continuing to happen.
Plus, while Oliver Wahlstrom may have had that feel-good shootout winner, the winger did have a rough outing overall, and third line of Lee-Pageau-Wahlstrom continues to struggle as a unit. They were outshot 6-1 at 5-on-5 in the game, and over the last four games while playing together, they've been outshot 28-8, according to NaturalStatTrick.com.
For the positives though, special teams ended up benefitting New York, with the Islanders managing to go 3-for-3 on kills, after a disastrous recent few games where they got scored on just about any time they took a penalty. New York also scored again on the man advantage themselves, so things are at least trending in the right direction there.
The team’s best players have also been there best players recently, with Mathew Barzal, Bo Horvat, Brock Nelson all contributing over the recent stretch. The three are going to continue to be counted on for a huge portion of new York’s offense, and each has been contributing as of late.
Hudson Fasching also seems like he’s starting to find his game, and scored a nice goal to put New York ahead early on. With Matt Martin and Cal Clutterbuck both set to become free agents in the summer and now in their mid-30s, Fasching could be a natural successor on the fourth line who could do a little more with the puck and bring more offense, if Martin and/or Clutterbuck were to retire or move on.
So coming off the road trip, the Islanders hold a 6-6-5 record. I think we’re probably about to hit what could be a really important stretch for New York, where they have an opportunity to start climbing back up the standings, as they return home. There’s still tons of time to get back into the playoff race, and if the team can get hot and go on a bit of a run, they’ll find themselves in the mix.
At the same time, there’s the question of what happens if the team can’t get going, and remains hovering around the .500 mark in the near future. So long as Lou Lamoriello is in charge, the organization seems set on competing now and if they aren’t in a position to do so, changes could be coming, whether that’s roster changes, or even a coaching change.
But regardless, it’s still a big win for New York to pull back to .500 and cap off their road trip with a win. We’ll see if they’re able to start making their way back into the playoff mix beginning on Wednesday, when they host the Philadelphia Flyers.
OTHER ARTICLES FROM NOVEMBER
- Blown leads, reliance on goaltending are issues on Islanders' point streak
- Islanders’ point streak ends in home loss to Wild
- Islanders on three-game skid following loss to Bruins
- Islanders’ skid extends to four games after losing 4-1 to Capitals
- Islanders’ losing streak at five games after loss to Oilers
- Isles blow leads in both games of back-to-back as penalty kill struggles