The New York Islanders needed a bounce-back performance after a disappointing 4-1 loss to the Seattle Kraken on New Year’s Day, and they put together just that. They defeated the Vancouver Canucks 6-2 in a game where they scored three goals in both the second and third periods to close out a decisive win.
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The Islanders looked slow and lethargic to start the game. However, they stepped up and pulled away with the victory. Moreover, the win was a reminder of how the Islanders can take over games with an offense that can run up the score, especially when their star players put together strong performances.
Barzal’s Big Night
It seems like every time Mathew Barzal faces his hometown team, he puts together a strong performance. In his career, he has a goal and had four assists in games played in Vancouver. With his family in the arena, Barzal once again stepped up and fueled the Islanders’ victory with a remarkable night.
Barzal had a goal and two assists against the Canucks, and his three points were a team-high in the game. His goal in the second period stood out as he held on to the puck and then shot it past goaltender Spencer Martin’s glove to give the Islanders a 3-1 lead. The goal was Barzal’s fifth in four games, and his willingness to shoot the puck more is paying off. His goal was the highlight of the night while his assist to Casey Cizikas capped off a strong performance and was a reminder of how he allows other skaters on the ice to find easy scoring chances. His speed on the rush gave Cizikas an open shot and easy scoring opportunity with the goaltender out of position, allowing the Islanders to put the game out of reach.
With the goal and the two assists, Barzal now has 10 goals on the season and 30 assists. Along with leading the team in assists and points, he is a point-per-game player. When he signed an eight-year contract in the offseason, the question was if he would play up to the contract, and through 39 games, he’s proven that he can be an elite skater and help lead the team to victories.
Pageau’s Two-Goal Game
Jean-Gabriel Pageau has been one of the Islanders’ most valuable players this season. As a two-way center, he is one of the best defensive players on the team, but he has also played a major role in the offensive success. Against the Canucks, he helped the Islanders score on the power play by collecting the puck off a shot from the point and finding the back of the net. Late in the game, Pageau collected the puck in the defensive zone and shot it into the empty net for his second goal of the night, sealing the 6-2 victory.
With two goals in the game, Pageau became the sixth Islanders skater to score 10 goals or more this season. While he doesn’t center a top-six line, he has been integral to the offense’s success, adding a spark to the middle of the forward unit. Pageau has the fifth-most points on the Islanders with 23, and he is on pace for a career year.
Raty Nets His Second Career Goal
The Islanders are a veteran-heavy team with multiple players 30 years old or older, but one of the few young players on the roster is Aatu Raty. At 20 years old, he’s already displayed a high ceiling in the NHL and can affect the game in a multitude of ways. Despite a limited role with only 6:15 ice time, Raty found an open shot from the slot to score the second goal of his career.
The goal notably showed how Raty can instinctively find open shots in the center of the offensive zone. While the primary reason he’s on the NHL roster is the pile-up of injuries the team is experiencing at the forward position, he’s made enough of an impact to prove that he belongs on the roster for the foreseeable future. Along with being NHL-ready, Raty provides a much-needed youthful presence to an older roster, and his talent can ultimately put this team over the top.
Islanders Defense Closes Out Game
After a 4-1 loss to the Kraken, the Islanders’ defense needed a rebound performance. The first period was a tough one for the unit as they allowed 13 shots and a goal. Afterward, the defense stepped up and helped secure the victory. The skaters created turnovers and limited the fast Canucks skaters from finding scoring chances on the rush. More importantly, they helped out goaltender Ilya Sorokin, allowing only 13 shots on goal in the second and third periods combined to secure the win.
Other Takeaways from the Islanders’ Win
- Bo Horvat scored both of the Canucks goals in this game. He’s been one of the best goal-scorers in the league this season, and the Islanders saw firsthand why as he found the back of the net twice.
- Ryan Pulock assisted on Pageau’s power-play goal with a shot from the point and blocked seven shots in a great night across the board for the top-pair defenseman.
- Cizikas scored a goal and added an assist to the offense, and has benefitted from playing alongside Barzal as he now has three goals and seven assists this season.
- Anders Lee scored his 14th goal of the season and is now one behind Brock Nelson for the team lead. He has scored four goals in the last six games, and the recent hot streak has allowed him to close the gap with Nelson.
What’s Next for the Islanders
The Islanders wrap up their road trip with a back-to-back in Alberta. They face the Edmonton Oilers on Jan. 5 and then face the Calgary Flames before traveling back to UBS Arena. The Oilers, in particular, are a team desperate for a win as they are coming off back-to-back losses and look to rebound against the Islanders.
The recent win was a much-needed one for the Islanders, who move to 22-15-2 on the season and fifth place in the Metropolitan Division. At the same time, the Islanders need to continue to pile up the wins if they hope to make the playoffs.
Mike Fink joined The Hockey Writers in November 2020 and covers the New York Islanders. In addition to covering the Islanders, Fink writes about the NHL at large and contributes as a weekly guest to The Hockey Writers Podcast. Follow Mike on Twitter @Finks_thoughts for more Islanders and general hockey insights.