If Tuesday’s New York Islanders loss to the Washington Capitals was heartbreaking, then Thursday’s could be described as gutwrenching.
Washington scored five goals in the second period to erase a 3-0 Islanders lead and hand the Isles their third consecutive loss, 6-3. Thursday was the second time under head coach Barry Trotz that the Islanders had allowed Washington to score five goals in a single period.
The last time they did so was on Jan. 18, 2020, when Washington scored five in the third period to erase a 4-1 Islanders lead.
“It’s a tough one because we didn’t play that poorly for probably 50 minutes of that game,” Trotz said. “Then the two, three-minute span we were just average. Below average, if you will. Pucks went in. The one thing that they did is they shot pucks and went to the net.”
The current loss moves the Islanders to 3-4-0 through their first seven games and they are 0-3-0 in the first three games of their five-game road trip. They sit seventh in the East Division only ahead of the New York Rangers.
“I think you go through ups and downs during a year,” Scott Mayfield said. “This one seems pretty low right now. Whether it’s just different reads that are popping in the back of the net or they’re finishing good plays. The long shifts, not getting the puck out, icing and stuff like that you just can’t do that against a good team.”
It looked as though the Trotz’s lineup changes had sparked the Islanders on Tuesday. The Islanders bench boss did some roster gymnastics to get Oliver Wahlstrom and Kieffer Bellows into the lineup while having to move Ilya Sorokin over to the taxi squad.
The move looked as though it had worked with the Islanders scoring three goals — two of which came in the span of 18 seconds — in the first period. The Islanders generated chances and outshot Washington 10-8 after 20 minutes.
Oliver Wahlstrom recorded his first career NHL goal, Anders Lee scored in his 500th NHL game and Casey Cizikas found the pack of the net for his first of the season. Things had looked up, until the second period began and the ice shifted dramatically.
“We had a great start. We got to our game right away and did what we wanted to do in that first period,” Anders Lee said. “The second period we had a pretty bad lapse and that’s what turned the game around completely. At the same time we’re looking at it as plenty of hockey to get ourselves into it. Not dissimilar to how they clawed themselves back. We just weren’t able to find the first one to get us going and it turns into a bad loss.”
Connor Sheary led the way for the Washington comeback with their first two goals of the game in the second period starting at the 9:07 mark. Garnet Hathaway tied the game at 11:11 after Carl Hagelin sprung him with an alley-oop pass.
Hathaway was able to beat Islanders starter Semyon Varlamov with a wrist shot from just inside the right faceoff circle.
Washington took their first lead of the game at 14:16 of the second while on the power play. Adam Pelech flubbed a clearing attempt, which allowed Washington to regroup and set up John Carlson for the go-ahead goal.
Zdeno Chara made it a 5-3 game with a shot that got by Varlamov at 18:30 of the second. Tom Wilson scored on the empty net with 16.5 left in the game.
Wahlstrom had given the Islanders the early lead 9:50 into the game. The Islanders charged into the offensive zone and Jean-Gabriel Pageau passed the puck to the wing for Wahlstrom, who flung the puck at the net and had his shot ricochet off two Washington players and into the net.
Wahlstrom was making his season debut on Thursday night in Washington.
“It was just great to see Wahlly put one in,” Lee said. “You always remember your first. It’s a special moment. A lot of hard work. It takes a lot to get to this point. It’s an awesome thing for him and his family. We’re all happy and excited for him, and obviously, we wish we were celebrating that goal a little bit more with a win.”
The Islanders added to the lead 18 seconds later when a shot by Clutterbuck was redirected by Cizikas. The shot from the point hit off of Cizikas’ stick at the right angle to sneak by the pad of Vitek Vanecek to put the Islanders up 1-0.
New York’s third goal came on the Isles’ second power play of the period. Anders Lee was in the right spot to clean up a loose puck that had been put on net by Mathew Barzal.