Through two periods of play against the Calgary Flames, the New York Islanders had a whopping 12 shots on goal and found themselves down 3-1 as the puck dropped for the final frame in Elmont. As we have seen from Lane Lambert this season, he tried to do what he could to get his team going, moving players around to spark his group.
And his third-period decisions worked to perfection to tie the contest before beating the Calgary Flames in overtime.
Early in the contest, the New York Islanders were down a player for the second time in four games as Cal Clutterbuck left the game and did not return. That forced Lambert to shuffle his lines, more often than not having Mathew Barzal double-shift alongside Casey Cizikas and Matt Martin.
Those moves were out of necessity, and his players were not doing enough to be effective, with just two high-danger chances through two periods.
In the third period, Lambert decided to switch up his lines again. He played Mathew Barzal on the wing alongside Brock Nelson and Anders Lee, and the game immediately changed in the Islanders’ favor.
That threesome could not be stopped.
In 3:57 minutes played together, that line attempted 12 shots on goal to the Flames two, outshooting their opponents 8-1. They created seven scoring chances to the Flames one, four of which were considered high-danger chances per Natural Stat Trick.
Thanks to some heads-up passing by Mathew Barzal and a strong shot by Brock Nelson, followed by strong positioning in front by Anders Lee, the Islanders got within in goal with just under nine minutes to play.
The Captain in front. pic.twitter.com/2PcnDTI2Zf
— New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) November 8, 2022
And then from there on out, the Islanders took control as 59 seconds later Kyle Palmieri scored, tying the contest at three, and after a slow start to overtime, the Islanders took advantage on the power play as Noah Dobson cranked one home.
Lambert’s decision to put those three players together was the spark that lit the flame, which led to the Islanders eventually putting out Calgary’s.
“It felt nice,” Mat Barzal said when asked about skating with Anders Lee and Brock Nelson. “Lee’s a horse. He was doing his thing. And then with Brock [Nelson], he’s really good at getting open for shots and stuff, and I think that’s how we created our second goal, so yeah, I thought there was some chemistry there.”
Mathew Barzal played a team-high 24:01 in the win as Lambert went to him as much as he could. He notched three assists, two primary, the final coming on the Noah Dobson overtime winner. He led the charge throughout the game when the team was flat and took it up a notch in the third.
Despite no goals, he has been the Islanders best player over the last little stretch here and has 14 assists in 13 games.
“I’m just trying to play my game. Obviously, I would love to score, but at the end of the day, I like to be a playmaker, and you know, just trying to make an impact every way I can,” Barzal said.
Throughout the night, Lambert ran 11 different line combinations. Was that more due to Clutterbuck’s absence?
“It was a little bit about Cal, but really then, more or less, it just became about trying to find a spark because we weren’t playing very well,” Lambert said following the win.
Not only did he mix up the lines, he also, despite being shorthanded, took a few players out of the rotation.
After taking three shifts in the third period, Oliver Wahlstrom did not get another shift after leaving the ice with 10:53 to play. And then, after Anthony Beauvillier left the ice with 6:31 to go, after five shifts in the third, he did not touch the ice again.
So, in the final 6:31, Lambert only used nine forwards as the Islanders erased their two-goal deficit.
Another move Lambert made was using Jean-Gabriel Pageau in big situations to win critical draws, including an offensive face-off in overtime which led directly to the game-winning power-play goal.
More on Pageau later at NYI Hockey Now.
This is not something new for Lambert, as we have seen time and time again this season that he goes with the players he trusts to lock down leads or trusts to get a key goal.
“I think Lane [Lambert] does a great job when that’s happened a couple times this year,” Mat Barzal said. “He’s done a great job with managing the bench and managing lines and getting everybody going.”
Lambert’s decision-making has not just won the Islanders games, but the successful decisions have also allowed his players to believe they could win again regardless of the score. That resiliency that was non-existent a year ago is back with four come-from-behind wins already this season in 12 games after just a few comeback wins in the entirety of last season.
“I thought our players took it upon themselves and stepped up to the plate. It was all them,” Lambert said. “They came out after the second period and certainly took charge and had that belief.”
Although Lambert did not want to take the credit, and at the end of the day, the players dictate the results, Lane Lambert’s understanding of his group, a team he has worked with since 2018, has paid off tremendously this season.