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Message Received: Islanders Line Changes Help Spark Comeback Win In OT



AP Photo/Frank Franklin II

Elmont, NY– New York Islanders head coach Lane Lambert began the day by sending a message to his team.

With a sense of vigor sorely missing from their play recently, Lambert shook up his lines, hoping that something, anything, would wake the Islanders up as they hit the halfway point of the season.

The Islanders seemed to respond to the sentiment early when Kyle Palmieri scored 40 seconds into the game and did so once again when Alexander Romanov and Bo Horvat came up with a pair of goals to tie things up in the second.

But it wasn’t until Mathew Barzal scored in overtime that it became clear Lambert’s message hit home as the Islanders defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs by a final of 4-3 at UBS Arena on Thursday.

“[The lines] definitely gave us some energy,” Barzal said. “I thought all four lines were going. I think everyone felt good tonight.”

Barzal’s goal was his third game-winner of the season. He finished the evening with four points, as he also had three assists in the game, pushing his team lead to 45 this season in 41 games.

“He wants to be in those moments,” Lambert said. “Somebody who wants to be in those moments and relishes those moments typically will excel in those moments.”

Off a draw in the Toronto end, Noah Dobson found Barzal streaking along the goal line, putting a pass directly on his stick. Dobson also finished the evening with four points, tallying an assist on each of the Islanders’ goals.

“He’s been awesome,” Horvat said of Dobson. “He’s making plays out there, and not only offensively, but he’s been really solid defensively this year. That’s one of the big reasons why he should be at the All-Star Game.”

Horvat scored on the power play in the second period, deflecting Dobson’s shot from the point past Leafs netminder Martin Jones to draw the Islanders even 3-3. It was the 17th goal of the season for Horvat and the second the Islanders had on the man advantage versus Toronto.

Nine seconds into a power play to start the first period, Dobson fired a shot that Palmieri tucked into the back of the net to open the scoring 40 seconds into the game. Palmieri’s 10th goal of the season was desperately needed, as it was his first in 12 games.

Soon enough, though, the Islanders found themselves trailing 3-1.

Off a pretty backhand feed from Noah Gregor, Bobby McMann roofed a one-timer past a sprawling Ilya Sorokin from the right faceoff dot at 12:38 of the first.

Only 40 seconds after the two teams emerged from their dressing rooms tied to begin the second period, Auston Matthews put Toronto in front. The NHL’s leading goal scorer padded his stats, and the Leafs’ lead a little over two minutes later as he collected a Dobson turnover and walked in on Sorokin all alone for his 33rd goal of the year.

But just as quickly as they fell behind, the Islanders began to mount their comeback.

“The players took it upon themselves,” Lambert said. “We knew we had a performance the other night that we didn’t really like. You look at this game…our guy showed a lot of character, especially a lot of character going down 3-1.”

While Romanov may not have the same scoring touch as Matthews, it certainly looked like he did when he sniped a shot top shelf from the left circle. His fourth of the season sparked the Islander’s comeback, drawing them within one at 4:18 of the second.

“We always need to win,” Romanov said. “It was awesome. Everyone worked their balls off.”

The win was just the Islanders’ second in their last five games and improved their record to 19-12-10 overall. Although it was big for the team as a whole, perhaps the player who needed it most was Sorokin, who made 32 saves in goal.

“It was important for him to win tonight because he wasn’t happy with his game the last two games,” Romanov said. “I’m really happy for him. We supported him today, and he had a great game.”

The Islanders embark on a six-day road trip starting Saturday in Nashville.




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