UNIONDALE, N.Y. — If there was any team that Kyle Palmieri would break out of his shell against it seemed destined to be the New Jersey Devils. And the veteran forward did just that on Saturday night in the New York Islanders 5-1 win over New Jersey at the Nassau Coliseum.
Palmieri broke a 12 game goal drought and had one of his best performances with the Islanders since being traded to Long Island in early April. The 30-year-old had three points — a goal three games into his Islanders tenure and two assists — prior to Saturday’s game against his former club.
Palmieri was aggressive against his former team, including on his goal that put the Islanders 4-1 in the third period. The Islanders forward was the recipient of a pass that sprung him free of the New Jersey defenders and he charged hard towards the net, making contact with starter Mackenzie Blackwood while scoring.
“He’s been pretty used to me in his crease through a lot of years of practice,” Palmieri said about Blackwood. “He’s a good goaltender and he’s a big boy. He’s used to a little contact from me.”
— Rob Taub (@RTaub_) May 9, 2021
It was the kind of effort the Islanders had been waiting to see out of Palmieri since they acquired him on April 7 in a blockbuster deal with New Jersey. One that shined a pretty big spotlight on Palmieri to make an impact with the Islanders almost immediately.
For the first 15 games of his Islanders career, Kyle Palmieri has shown flashes of what he can do, but he has remained largely quiet for New York. Not exactly what the Isles had been looking for when they traded A.J. Greer, Mason Jobst, a first-round pick in the 2021 NHL Draft and a fourth-round pick in the 2022 NHL Draft for Palmieri.
The Islanders would have likely made some sort of deal at the deadline, but the loss of Anders Lee to a season-ending injury put the team’s front office in a position that they needed to go out and find a scoring winger to fill Lee’s skates. And Palmieri was very well aware of why the Islanders added him.
“Coming into a new team, especially at the deadline there, you’re coming in to just try and help this team win,” Palmieri said. “Whether that’s creating energy or putting pucks in the net, I’m just going to do whatever it takes to help my team win. This time of year it’s a lot of hard hockey and it’s something coming from Jersey you can’t take playoff hockey for granted.
“I’m excited to be back in the playoffs and all the guys and the staff has been great since day one of me coming here. I just want to do my best and work my hardest and be as good of a teammate to try and help this team win.”
That desire was certainly on display Saturday night in the Islanders’ final regular-season game of the year at home.
Paired with Oliver Wahlstrom and Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Palmieri was firing on all cylinders. He registered two shots against New Jersey, both of which were high danger chances, according to Natural Stat Trick. In addition, he had a takeaway, two hits and was active in the play any time he was on the ice.
“I loved the way he played today,” Islanders head coach Barry Trotz said. “What I saw today is the Kyle Palmieri I’ve seen as an opposing coach. I love when he plays with that little bit of an edge. He was skating, he was in the battle and I thought he had a lot of detail to his game. He played quick and he got rewarded with a goal by going hard to the net.
“That’s one of the reasons we got him is that when he plays that game, which is more of a playoff-style type of game, he can have an effect on the result. I thought today he was really good.”
“Throughout the night, all four lines were generating chances. It was nice to be able to contribute and pop one in there. I think all the lines were going tonight and generating, so it’s nice to get contributions up and down the lineup like that.”
Palmieri & Eberle ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/94PrigpxjW
— x – New York Islanders (@NYIslanders) May 9, 2021
The Islanders will finish out the regular season on Monday against the Boston Bruins. Kyle Palmieri is hoping to have another effort as he did on Saturday against his former club. So are the Islanders.
As for the way he had played in his first few games as an Islander, Trotz never seemed worried that Palmieri’s game wouldn’t come. The Islanders coach did say on several occasions that the team needed more, but that he knew it would come.
And Trotz understood how the weight of the expectation put upon Palmieri could make his transition to being an Islander a little tougher.
“You think about what Kyle, and even Travis (Zajac), have to do,” Trotz said. “They’re joining a new organization, they want to fit in. They’re doing all that. Then there’s this expectation of can they have an immediate impact. If not, then what’s wrong? There’s nothing wrong. There’s a transition period and then there’s the future.
“He wants to play well he’s a free agent, both of them are, so they want to do well. Not only for us for their immediate future, but for their own future. This pressure compounds. … But I’ll tell you what, when the games in the playoffs these are the type of people that you want. You want them in the foxhole.”