Ilya Sorokin made 49 saves, JG Pageau scored twice and Simon Holmstrom made a surprise NHL debut as the New York Islanders shut out the Edmonton Oilers, 3-0 on Thanksgiving even in Elmont.
The Isles were outshot 49-30, and Sorokin made some huge saves to earn his shutout, but it was not a lopsided nor stolen game. It was at risk of potentially swinging the other way with a series of Oilers power plays, instead that became the turning point of the game in the second period.
For his part, Holmstrom — stepping in for Kyle Palmieri (upper body) — logged 11:11, mostly with Mathew Barzal and Oliver Wahlstrom in one of those “the youth are the future” combos. The 21-year-old 2019 pick showed his good skating and was responsible with his positioning. The MSG broadcast made a little package of his good work along the boards during the first intermission, with old vet and former coach Butch Goring impressed. Not a lot else to say, but he didn’t look overwhelmed.
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It looked like it might be a testy night three minutes into the game, when Leon Draisaitl boarded Anders Lee with a driving check in that dangerous distance from the boards. But it was a choppy first period despite that being the only penalty to break up play. The Oilers had the better chances, but the 0-0 score and flow of play made it look like anyone’s game at the first intermission.
The truly pivotal sequences of the game were all wrapped up in the second period.
A ridiculous slashing penalty was called on Anthony Beauvillier when he poked the shaft of Darnell’s Nurse from behind, bumping the puck loose in what would’ve been a turnover to Brock Nelson.
That brought the terrifying and 2nd-ranked Oilers power play on to the ice, but the Islanders responded swiftly. Just 22 seconds into the penalty, Zach Parise and JG Pageau stormed up the ice on the counter, with Parise feeding Pageau for a redirection at the top of the crease to make it 1-0.
The Islanders killed off the rest of that power play until a Tyson Barrie penalty put them at 4-on-4, a necessary hold/interference to prevent a breakaway after Cal Clutterbuck intercepted at the Isles blueline.
When the balance of that penalty gave the Isles a brief power play, and they went to work in the Oilers zone, with some good pressure and skating wizardry by Mathew Barzal. He fed Pageau, who sent a dangerous pass low across the crease for Lee — so dangerous, in fact, that the puck was knocked in by the Oilers defense trying to prevent it from getting it to Lee.
The goal was credited to Pageau, and the Isles were up 2-0 just over two minutes after they were at serious risk of falling behind 1-0.
One minute later, the Isles killed another penalty, a tripping call on Ryan Pulock, and things were looking good for the home team as they managed the game’s critical situations.
They looked even better when Oliver Wahlstrom led a sweet counterattack down the right wing with just over three minutes left in the period. He held off his check in the corner, had his head up as he circled behind the net, and perfectly fed Sebastian Aho, who alertly jumped into the play. Aho fell to the ice as he completed a one-timer up high past Jack Campbell.
The Isles headed into the third period with a 3-0 lead. Surely the game was in hand, and the only thing that could get in the way was penalty trouble to put the Oilers power play back on the ice.
About that…the Isles had all three of the third period’s penalties, spaced about every four minutes, and forcing Sorokin to earn every bit of his shutout. The calls weren’t terrible exactly, but they were of that variety that forces you to wonder why similar instances weren’t being called the other way.
The Isles did their best to contain the danger while leaning on Sorokin — all you can ask for, really — and they succeeded and ultimately frustrated the Oilers.
As time wound down, the Oilers didn’t even go for an early goalie pull. The three power plays and some late pushes helped them outshoot the Isles 23-7 in the period, but without ever getting that first one to break the ice, the result was never in doubt.
The Islanders head to Columbus for Black Friday (for those who celebrate/consumer-gorge), an 8:00 start against the Blue Jackets.