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Plus/Minus: Good Start, Better Finish Pushes Islanders Over Rangers

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There was a good start, a not-so-good middle, and a solid ending for the New York Islanders on Sunday night.

Ryan Pulock netted his first goal in over a year to lead the Isles to a 3-2 overtime victory over the New York Rangers.

The Islanders looked like a revitalized team in a dominating first period but let the Rangers come back right in the second. It stayed a tie into the extra frame until Pulock netted the game-winner.

Let’s break down the good and bad for the Islanders in this one.

Plus 

Pulock ends the streak in style 

He’s hit posts, gotten robbed and missed the net on some missiles.

But any way you shake it, Pulock had not scored a a regular-season goal since last March 7. That was before the COVID-19 shutdown and the ensuing bubble playoffs (where he did score twice).

The play started with a faceoff in the Rangers zone that went their way toward the end boards. Travis Zajac made a strong play along the wall to free the puck to Barzal, who then fed the puck to Pulock on the weak side. Using a wrister, Pulock beat Igor Shesterkin and hit the back of the net on the far side.

Pulock now has an overtime winner in each of the last three seasons. And this one was historic. As Eric Hornick points out, this is the first-ever overtime goal the Islanders have scored against the Rangers at home in the regular season.

Palmieri scores, line dominates 

In his third game in an Islanders uniform, Kyle Palmieri scored his first goal with the team.

On the power play, he crashed the net and put the Islanders on the board early in the first period. You can read more about the goal in Christian Arnold’s piece about it.

But aside from that goal, the Palmieri-Pageau-Wahlstrom line was far and away the best line for the Islanders at 5-on-5. Pageau scored on a one-timer in the first, albeit with Barzal and Jordan Eberle on the ice.

But the line generated 12 chances for and three against, carrying an impressive 84.40 expected goals percentage for the game. Without Leo Komarov in the lineup, that freed up Zajac to move up to the first line and have a speedy “third” line like this one. With the way the group played, it’d be hard to imagine Barry Trotz breaking up the three of them.

From Russia with love

After plenty of talk leading up to the season, we finally had the Ilya-Sorokin-Shesterkin matchup and it did not disappoint. The two mostly looked solid with Sorokin coming out on the victorious side.

Sorokin stopped 24 of 26 shots and has now won back-to-back starts. He’s been a force on home ice this season, holding a spotless 8-0 record at Nassau Coliseum.

This’ll likely be one of many matchups between the two netminders over the next couple of seasons.

Minus 

Second period struggles 

Things for the Islanders have been subpar in second periods of late, but this game was much worse than that. They not only allowed the majority of chances, but they squandered a two-goal lead as the Rangers tied up the score.

The eye test and the numbers matched up well with this period: the Islanders got thumped.

The Rangers might’ve looked slow in the first but turned things around in a fast-paced second period. They held over 67 percent of the shot attempts in the period at 5-on-5 and 71 percent at all strengths.

To be honest, the Islanders are lucky to have come out of the second period tied.

This is a habit the Islanders need to break out of as the come down the home stretch of the season and look to grab the division lead.

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