The New York Islanders won the game but lost their starting goalie to injury in a spirited battle against the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday at Nassau Coliseum. After regulation, overtime, and a shootout, the team from Long Island escaped with a 5-4 victory.
Newcomers Brian Gibbons and Oscar Lindberg scored for the Sens. In addition, veterans Zack Smith and Jean-Gabriel Pageau also chipped in. Brock Nelson, Devon Toews, Anders Lee, and Ross Johnston all tallied goals for the Islanders.
In the shootout, both Thomas Chabot and Bobby Ryan of the Senators missed their opportunities to score on New York back-up goalie Thomas Greiss. Meanwhile, the Islanders were a perfect two-for-two in the shootout. Jordan Eberle and Mathew Barzal both found the mesh behind Craig Anderson.
After this loss, Ottawa increased their point total to 52 and hold a league-worst record of 23-38-6. Despite this, the Senators are inching closer to the Detroit Red Wings and the Los Angeles Kings, who sit just four points ahead in the standings.
With the win, the Islanders improve their record to 38-21-7 and 83 points. New York sits first in the Metropolitan Division, but their position is anything but safe. There are five Metropolitan rivals within six points of each other, all vying for the 2019 playoffs. This competitive group includes the Islanders, Washington Capitals, Carolina Hurricanes, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Columbus Blue Jackets.
This game appeared over for Ottawa less than six minutes into the second period. The Senators found themselves down 3-1 in the same building where their provincial rivals, the Toronto Maple Leafs, got thumped in a 6-1 loss just days before. Rather than give up and quit, Ottawa showed a lot of heart and determination. Over the next 35 minutes, the visitors in white, red, and black battled back to force extra time, and eventually, the shootout.
Despite the loss, and all the hardship facing this team, it was an exciting and encouraging performance for Senator fans to watch.
All four Senator goals were scored with heavy traffic in front of the Islanders net.
Prior to the recent coaching change, these types of goals were hard to come by for Ottawa. This is an early and noticeable change in coaching styles between interim head coach Marc Crawford and the former head coach, Guy Boucher. Big bodies like Smith, Ryan, and Brady Tkachuk, were effectively used in this tactic to screen the vision of Robin Lehner and tip pucks.
Crawford has earned a win, a loss, and a shootout loss in three games since taking the reigns from Boucher.
Despite Greiss earning the win, it was Lehner who started and played through most of this game.
With just 4:40 remaining in the third period, the Islanders starting goaltender sustained an injury and was forced to leave. While driving to the crease, Tkachuk was clearly pushed on to Lehner by Nelson, the Swedish goalie’s teammate. After Lehner was bowled over, Pageau shoveled the loose puck into the open net to tie the game 4-4.
The on-ice call was originally ruled no goal due to goaltender interference. However, Crawford issued his coach’s challenge. Upon a lengthy review, the call was overturned, and it was a ruled a good goal, given Tkachuk was pushed.
The 27-year-old has a history of concussions. As of Wednesday morning, he was considered day-to-day and the Islanders recalled Christopher Gibson on an emergency basis.
If Lehner misses significant time, that weakens the Islanders goaltending depth but it may not be disastrous to their playoff push. Lehner and Greiss share surprisingly similar statistics this year, and both goaltenders have put up quality numbers. On the season, Lehner sports 20 wins, 2.19 goals against average, and a .927 save percentage. While, Greiss has 18 wins along with 2.23 goals against average, and .928 save percentage.
- The Senators went 1-1-1 on their three-game road trip. Previous to this game, the Sens lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday and followed up with a win against the Florida Panthers on Sunday.
- Gibbons has now scored in back-to-back games for Ottawa. Since he was acquired by the Senators in advance of the 2019 Trade Deadline, he has registered four points (2G, 2A) in five games.
- Toew’s goal was of highlight-reel quality. Entering the Senators zone on a two-on-one, he received an airborne sauce pass from Michael Dal Colle. Moving at high speed, he skillfully caught the pass with his glove, placed the puck on the ice, and roofed it past Anderson.
- Pageau’s goal against the Islanders was just his second in 25 games this year. The last time he scored was in his highly awaited return against the Hurricanes on Jan. 6.
- With the win against the Senators, Islanders head coach Barry Trotz earned his 800th victory as a coach. He becomes just the fourth coach in NHL history to reach this impressive milestone. The others are Scotty Bowman (1,244), Joel Quenneville (890) and Ken Hitchcock (842).
Official 3 Stars of the Game
- Anders Lee, New York Islanders
- Devon Toews, New York Islanders
- Craig Anderson, Ottawa Senators
The Senators and Islanders will both fly to Ottawa to verse each other again on Thursday at Canadian Tire Centre. Hockey fans can anticipate another exciting match-up between these two teams. Ottawa is 0-1-1 versus the Islanders this year. Despite this record, both matches have been spirited and emotional. In the previous two games, key players on both teams have been injured. Chabot was injured on Dec. 28, while it is to be seen whether ex-Senator Lehner is cleared to take the crease in his former home.
Cover Photo Credit: Kathy Willens/Associated Press
Billy Morrison covers the Ottawa Senators and the Atlantic Division for Full Press Coverage. Follow Billy on Twitter, @BillyMorrison01.