It wasn’t always pretty, but it got the New York Islanders got the job done.
With two third-period goals from Kieffer Bellows, the Islanders upped their winning streak to eight games while making it 11 consecutive games they’ve earned a point in a 3-2 victory over the New Jersey Devils.
Trotz was quick to praise his young forward after the game.
“[Bellows] did a great job tonight, he’s done a lot of work,” Trotz said of Bellows. “He’s really developed under Brent Thompson in Bridgeport, and then working with our coaching staff this year.”
There was good and bad from this one, so let’s take a look at what went right and wrong.
Bellows is big time
It’s hard enough playing at the NHL level, but when it’s been almost a month without playing in a game, the chore becomes even tougher. That was the situation Bellows was in as he hadn’t suited up with the big club since Feb. 18. Even then, he saw just 7:47 of ice time.
But with Anders Lee out with a lower-body injury, Bellows was sprung back to the big club and vaulted to the first line with Mathew Barzal and Jordan Eberle. The move paid off, to say the least.
BELLOWS FIRST OF THE SEASON! 🚨 pic.twitter.com/qSDBCtIl7f
— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) March 14, 2021
As the Islanders trailed in the third period, the winger notched two within the first six minutes. The first one came just a shade under two minutes into the period on the rush. With two New Jersey defenseman draped over Barzal, Bellows was open in the slot and didn’t miss. Momentum in tow, he used a power move later in the frame to put the Islanders ahead for good.
“It was a great play by Barzy to drop it back to me,” Bellows said of his first goal of the year, “lucky enough it went in.”
Playing with the first line was a boon to his possession metrics, too. Bellows held a 63.16 Corsi For percentage at 5-on-5 for the game.
“It’s obviously been a while, but I just wanted to go out there, work hard, grind down low, and be responsible. It was a good team effort there to get the win.”
It’s becoming more and more evident that Oliver Wahlstrom has a powerful shot with a quick release.
Both were evident in the first period.
Down a goal, Wahlstrom entered the offensive zone and ripped a wrister through a parade of bodies in front. Mackenzie Blackwood didn’t seem to see the puck as it veered over his shoulder. Now a third-line regular along with his role on the power-play’s second unit, Wahlstrom now has five goals and five assists this season.
— Mollie Walker (@MollieeWalkerr) March 14, 2021
“I was fortunate enough to get to the middle of the ice and rip that one home,” Wahlstrom said. “Yeah, I think it brought a little life.”
Varly keeps Isles in it
Another game, another sharp effort from Semyon Varlamov. The netminder stopped 26 of 28 shots. He was the Islanders’ best penalty killer with six saves on as many chances.
Especially with the Islanders getting outworked and outplayed in the second period, Varlamov made 17 saves against 18 shots. That period could’ve been much worse had it not been for his efforts.
Weak second, overall possession
That aforementioned middle frame was not kind to the Islanders, as they were outshot 18-9 in the 20 minutes. Overall for the game, it was not a pretty one metrics-wise.
“We could’ve easily lost that game,” Trotz said. “I didn’t like our battle tonight for the first two periods. To me, Varlamov was by far our best player, especially in the second period.”
At 5-on-5, New Jersey held the Corsi percentage advantage 58.18-41.82 and kept a 9-5 edge in high danger chances. Yes, the Islanders did outshoot their opponent 29-28, but the bigger picture wasn’t as pretty.
Power play looks messy
New Jersey has had its hand full on the penalty kill this year, but has seemingly had the Islanders’ number. That rang true again Saturday night.
The Islanders finished 0-for-4 on the power play and couldn’t put any of their nine shots past Blackwood. At 68.9 percent on the PK, New Jersey is 30th in the NHL in that category.
That should be a prime opportunity for the Islanders to add some goals, but so far, they’ve largely struggled against a weak penalty kill unit.