It was on course to be one of the best wins of the Islanders’ season. Instead, Monday night will be remembered as one of their worst losses.
Thirty minutes into the night, the Islanders held a commanding three-goal lead over the Capitals and looked to be in prime position to take what was effectively a four-point game against their close rivals in the Metropolitan Division. This would have put their recent struggles behind them. It would have made a .500 record on this season-long five-game homestand the minimum. And it would have been something of a statement win after a rough start to 2023.
Instead, the rough start to the new year got rougher. The Islanders blew that three-goal lead in short order as Alex Ovechkin’s second period hit on Jean-Gabriel Pageau changed the tenor of the match and set the tone for a stunning four-goal comeback that ended in a 4-3 Islanders defeat on Dmitry Orlov’s winning goal in overtime.
The hit on Pageau came 6:34 into the second period, as Ovechkin followed an unsuccessful power play by running the Islanders center into the boards, crashing his shoulder into Pageau’s head. Though the Islanders had been controlling the game, the ice quickly tilted in the opposite direction, and at 10:01, Garnet Hathaway scooted a puck underneath Ilya Sorokin’s pads to begin the comeback. A hair over three minutes later with the teams playing at four-on-four, Tom Wilson roofed a puck from the crease after the Islanders lost track of him.
It went to the final period 3-2, and with Pageau returning to the game late in the second, the hope was that the Islanders had weathered the worst of the storm. But it’s the hope that kills you, and the Islanders could not stem the tide.
T.J. Oshie deflected Erik Gustafsson’s shot from the left point past Sorokin 5:56 into the third to tie it and the atmosphere at UBS Arena went downright glum.
The Islanders hung on until overtime, when Orlov notched the game-winner to salvage a point. But it should have been two. Not only did the Islanders hold a 3-0 lead, but Pageau was denied early in OT by Darcy Kuemper on a breakaway chance that had him in all alone.
Though the Islanders earned a badly needed win over Montreal on Saturday, this would have put them in position to hop the Capitals in the standings as they hold a game in hand over Washington. And with the Islanders’ record an abysmal 2-5-1 since the calendar turned to 2023, a win over the bottom-feeding Canadiens won’t boost anyone’s spirits if they follow it with a collapse like that.
The first period was one of the best the Islanders have played all season. Not only did they go up 2-0, but they limited the Capitals to just five shots in 20 minutes, didn’t commit penalties and controlled the game for 20 minutes. Sebastian Aho went bar down from the left point to put the Islanders ahead 4:24 into the game; Matt Martin followed by tipping in Alexander Romanov’s shot from the blue line at 13:19.
Hudson Fasching followed that by scoring from the lower right circle 3:51 into the second, his shot going off Kuemper’s pad and in. The Islanders looked set for a blowout. And then it turned into a calamity.
The Islanders have been lucky in the sense that the Capitals and Penguins have both struggled as well, both teams failing to put any distance between them in the standings despite the Islanders playing some of their worst hockey all year. Both Washington and Pittsburgh, though, got wins on Monday, and the Penguins hopped the Islanders in the standings with theirs.
Those teams won’t struggle forever, and the Islanders can’t afford to lose much ground.
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