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New York Islanders

Islanders Greatest Weakness Spells Disaster On Biggest Stage



AP Photo/Seth Wenig

East Rutherford, NJ– A big game on a big stage.

The only thing bigger for the New York Islanders at MetLife Stadium on Sunday evening was the letdown of blowing another late lead as they lost in overtime to the New York Rangers at MetLife Stadium by a final of 6-5 in the NHL Stadium Series.

Leading by two with less than five minutes to play in regulation, the Islanders’ league-wost penalty kill once again buckled under pressure. Artemi Panarin quickly sent the pro-Ranger crowd into a frenzy with the game-winner in overtime, which survived an official review.

In the span of 2:50, the Islanders surrendered three goals to suffer their 14th overtime loss of the season and again leave a much-needed point on the table.

“It was a big game with a big atmosphere,” Mathew Barzal said.”Whether it was a point or no point. Sure, it’s nice in the standings, but it was a big game, and it was emotional, so it sucks not getting two.”

While the two teams were already playing at four-on-four, it was Barzal’s hooking penalty at 14:16 of the third that put the Islanders on their heels.

Facing a 5-3 deficit, Rangers head coach Peter Laviolette pulled goalie Igor Shesterkin, giving his team a five-on-three man advantage which Chris Kreider capitalized on by deflecting a Panarin shot from the point.

Minutes later, Scott Mayfield was sent to the box for tripping call that set the Islanders up on their fifth shorthanded situation of the game. From a sharp angle below the left face-off circle, Mika Zibanejad roofed a one-timer past a sprawling Ilya Sorokin, tying the game for the Rangers.

“They made their power plays count when they needed to,” Casey Cizikas said. “As a killer, it’s tough. You take a lot of pride in what we do out there, and we just got to get the job done. We got to get the kills at the end. We got to stay out of the box, first of all. It’s a tough one, and it’s been a tough go for us.

With three goals against, it was the 12th game this season in which the Islanders allowed multiple goals on the penalty kill, spoiling what was a perfect performance from their own power-play unit.

Anders Lee snapped a nine-game scoring drought on the man advantage early in the second period to put the Islanders ahead 4-1 with their largest lead of the game.

It had felt as if the blustering winds at the Meadowlands had spun in the Islanders’ favor, especially considering Lee’s score was the team’s fourth unanswered goal at the time.

Scores from Barzal, Bo Horvat and Brock Nelson had the Islanders up 3-1 entering the first intermission, seemingly erasing Erik Gustafsson’s game-opening goal for the Rangers.

“We didn’t get off to a great start,” Nelson said. “They got the early one, but I think we did a good job responding and were able to generate some momentum. We were able to string together a few good shifts that we were able to capitalize on.”

But even with a lead that felt so secure, the Islanders’ penalty kill was the bolt that wasn’t tight enough.

While Lee sat in the box, Vincent Trocheck cut the Islander’s lead in half. Trocheck drew the Rangers to within one as he scored his second goal of the game.

Alexander Romanov gave the Islanders a cushion to open the third period, but it wasn’t comfortable enough as their Achilles heel began to swell.

“We didn’t feel [the pressure] until we were in the box and had to get a kill,” Lee said. “We found ourselves in the box and weren’t able to get the kills tonight against a really good power play.”

With their record now at 22-18-14, the Islanders gain a valuable point in the wild card race but fail to pick up a second one that will likely loom larger when all is said and done this season.




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