Islanders’ offense goes missing in shootout loss to Avalanche
DENVER — Consistency is dogging the Islanders. And, at least for the moment, it has put their chances at a playoff spot at serious risk.
The Islanders’ 1-0 shootout loss to the Avalanche on Monday, coupled with the Capitals’ overtime win over the Red Wings, means that the Islanders are tied with the Capitals both on points and regulation wins, the first tiebreaker. That can change quickly, and the Islanders have a game in hand, but it reflects the way they’ve been playing lately.
Since Nov. 29, the Islanders’ record is 3-5-2, and what looked like a get-right win over the Golden Knights on Saturday meant nothing against the defending Stanley Cup champions on Monday, when a good first period melted into a bad second period and eventually a loss in the shootout.
The Islanders, mostly thanks to Ilya Sorokin, kept things scoreless through 65 minutes, but the Avalanche broke through in the shootout as Evan Rodrigues netted the winner, with the only goal of the shootout.
The game went into the third period scoreless, and the Avalanche spent much of it threatening. Valeri Nichushkin hit a post with just over 10 minutes to go, leading into a menacing shift in which Sorokin bailed out the Islanders more than once.
He couldn’t, however, bail them out in perpetuity.
The Islanders looked strong during the first period, when they forechecked hard, harried Colorado through the neutral zone and won battles with authority. Even though the teams went into intermission scoreless, it was a complete 20 minutes from the Islanders, and looked as though it could portend a win.
So, too, did their first period against the Coyotes on Friday — and this game ended in exactly the same way.
If there is a positive to take from the night, it’s that Sorokin looked like himself again. Monday was his sixth straight loss, but unlike on Friday in Arizona, he kept the Islanders in it instead of being partially responsible for the failure to pick up points.
No player has been more responsible for the way the Islanders started the season, and it’s not a coincidence that they struggled once Sorokin stopped playing at a superhuman level. Friday was perhaps his shakiest game of the season, and his fifth straight loss — if Semyon Varlamov hadn’t gotten hurt, it’s more than possible he would have been the starter on Monday. But instead, Sorokin grabbed hold of the chance to get back to his winning ways.
He played up in his crease, cutting off shots and made a trademark kick save with his skate on a Samuel Girard offering during the second period. During two penalty kills in the second, Sorokin continually came up big, particularly in stopping an Artturi Lehkonen attempt off a rebound. This was the Sorokin who can carry the Islanders — and the one the Islanders need to show up every night.
This time, though, it wasn’t enough.
And whether Sorokin maintains this level or not, it’s plain to see that the Islanders need more in front of him if they’re going to make something of this season.
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