The Islands were leading 49-30, and Sorokin made some huge saves to seal the shutout, but it wasn’t a lopsided or stolen game. It was in danger of swinging the other way with a series of Oilers power plays, and instead became the turning point of the game in the second period.
For his part, Holmström – tackle for Kyle Palmieri (upper body) – clocked 11:11, mostly with Matthew Barzal and Oliver Wallstrom in one of the “Young People Are the Future” combos. The 21-year-old’s 2019 selection showed he was good at skating and was responsible for his position. MSG broadcast provided a small batch of his fine work along the boards during the first break, with old vet and former coach Butch Goring impressing. There wasn’t much to say, but he didn’t seem flustered.
It looked like it might be a rough night three minutes into the game, when Leon Draistel spiked Anders Lee with a driving check at that dangerous distance from the boards. But it was a choppy first period despite it being the only penalty kick to break play. The Oilers had better chances, but the score was 0-0 and the flow of play made it look like anyone’s game at the first break.
The truly pivotal sequences of the game are wrapped up in the second period.
An absurd slash penalty was called on Anthony Beauvilliers when he poked Nurse Darnell’s pole from behind, emptying the puck in what would have been a Brock Nelson spin.
That led to the Oilers’ intimidating power and number two on the ice, but the Islanders quickly responded. Just 22 seconds after the penalty, Zach Parise and JJ Bago stormed the ice on the counter, with Paris-Bajo feeding a redirect at the top of the crease to make it 1-0.
The Islanders killed the rest of this power play until a Tyson Barry penalty put them at 4-on-4, necessary to prevent a breakaway after Cal Clutterbuck’s interception in the Isles blueline.
When the balance of that penalty gave the Islanders a short power play, they went to work in Oilers territory, with some good pressing and a charming skate by Matthew Barzal. He fed Pageau, who sent a dangerous low pass through the crease to Lee—so dangerous, in fact, that the puck was whacked by the Oilers defense trying to prevent it from reaching Lee.
The goal was scored for Pageau, and the Islands were leading 2-0 after just over two minutes when they were in great danger of being 1-0 down.
A minute later, the Islands took another penalty, a play-off call on Ryan Pollock, and things were looking good for the home team as they managed critical situations in the match.
They looked even better when Oliver Wallstrom led a brilliant counterattack down the right wing with just over three minutes left in the period. He caught his check in the corner, raised his head as he spun behind the net, and fed Sebastian Ahu perfectly, who in the wake jumped into play. Ahu fell to the ice as he completed a high one time counter past Jack Campbell.
The Islands went into the third period with a 3-0 lead. The game was certainly in hand, and the only thing that could get in the way is a penalty issue for restarting the Oilers’ on-ice power.
About that… The Islands had all three penalties in the third period, spaced about four minutes apart, and forced Sorokin to earn every bit of his elimination. The calls weren’t exactly awful, but they were of such a variety that it forces you to wonder why similar instances weren’t called the other way.
The Isles did their best to contain the danger while relying on Sorokin – all you can really ask for – and they succeeded and ultimately thwarted the Oeters.
As time went on, the Oilers didn’t go to pull a goaltender early. The three power plays and some late spurts helped them outpace the Isles 23-7 in the period, but without a first player to break the ice, the score was never in doubt.
Islanders head to Columbus for Black Friday (for those who party/throttle consumers), beginning at 8:00 against the Blue Jackets.