Elmont, NY– After dropping their first preseason game, the New York Islanders can feel reassured at the finish of their second exhibition as they beat the Philadelphia Flyers, 2-1, on Wednesday night at UBS Arena.
The Islanders got on the board a little over 12 minutes into the first period when a shot from Travis Mitchell deflected off Mathew Barzal’s stick and then grazed the waiting shoulder of Simon Holmström before finding the back of the net.
Holmström started on the first line night for the Islanders with Barzal and Bo Horvat.
Julien Gauthier doubled the Islanders’s lead in the second period, firing a loose puck past Flyers goalie Samuel Ersson on the power play.
“It’s always a fun feeling [to score],” Gauthier said. “I just signed here, so it’s fun to get going here at UBS and already get one.”
Gauthier is competing for a spot in the Islanders’ lineup this preseason. Although his ability to skate and shoot the puck is well-documented, the power forward hasn’t found a place to stick thus far in his NHL career.
“My shot has always been a weapon,” Gauthier said. “I just try to use it as much as I can. It’s fun to get an opportunity on the powerplay stuff today, so I’ll make the most of it.”
Competing with Gauthier for that spot in the lineup is forward Oliver Wahlstrom.
Wahlstrom saw his first live competition in nine months on Wednesday night after suffering a lower-body injury in December last season.
“I felt great,” Wahlstrom said. “Just got to keep playing more games, but like I said, I couldn’t have put in a better nine months ever in my life [while recovering]. It prepared me really well for this season and gave me a little confidence.”
Wahlstrom will need to remember not to confuse confidence with recklessness this season, as he was called for an inadvertent boarding penalty late in the first period.
Gauthier and Wahlstrom have spent training camp playing in the same group for the Islanders, which will help head coach Lane Lambert decide who earns the role. However, there will be other aspects he considers as well.
“It can help to see them both in the same game and in the same situations,” Lambert said. “At the same time, whether they’re in the same game or not, there’s an evaluation process that we’re going through.”
Ilya Sorokin started the game in goal for the Islanders, stopping all 10 shots he faced before being replaced by Ken Appleby midway through the second period.
Appleby made 12 saves in relief, only relinquishing a goal late to Ryan Poehling while the Flyers had an extra attacker on the ice.
The Islanders will continue their preseason schedule on Friday at UBS Arena against the New York Rangers.