But instead, the Washington Capitals delivered a crushing defeat, beating the New York Islanders with 27 seconds to play in the Third Period.
It was a heart smashing defeat, as the Capitals were without a handful of their best players, the most noticeable being the Islander killer, Alexander Ovechkin, and the Islanders needed to take advantage of that.
The Islanders have “ride or died” based on their top line’s play, the only line that has produced this season. And that is no joke. The Islanders have scored seven 5-on-5 goals this season, with the top line playing a role in six of them.
Noah Dobson got the Islanders on the board, as his point shot deflected off a Caps’ defenseman. But it was the top line for the Islanders that possessed the puck in the offensive zone, with Mat Barzal earning the primary assist.
Barzal gave the Islanders a 2-1 lead in the second, as he scored a glorious backhand goal.
It was only right to make the pun here, and I am not sorry for it.
So back to my point, two goals coming from the first line’s work. The rest of the team failed to create in the offensive zone, which is not how this Islander team will have success.
The Islanders are top-line heavy and need more offensive support
Head Coach Barry Trotz is a coach that loves to run all four lines. But he was unable to do so in the loss, and not getting the Playoff like effort he needs from his lines is starting to drive him wild, as the below Tweet perfectly illustrates.
Speaking of Leo Komarov, he had one horrid night on the third-line. In his first game of the season, the $3 million man turned the puck over on his first shift. Late in the third period, he laid a violent hit on Lars Ellers, as he received a 5:00 major for boarding.
There was just no reason for Komarov to do that, and he put his team in a tough spot. Fortunately for him, the Islanders killed it off. But the night was still young enough for Komarov to make his third mistake of the game.
There is no excuse for losing your man in the dire moments. Inexcusable, and if you listened to the postgame conversation with Trotz, he said he had no regrets putting Komarov out there.
But for a team, forget about the three mistakes for a second, that is looking for offense, dressing Komarov alongside Jean-Gabriel Pageau and Ross Johnston is going to do squat. Trotz is not one to usually bench a veteran, but Oliver Wahlstrom has been waiting patiently to get in the lineup this year.
With Anthony Beauvillier on IR, Kieffer Bellows played well in his first crack on the second line. While he tried to create offense, the line as a whole failed to do so. Brock Nelson was weak on the puck, and Josh Bailey looked out of sorts.
The fourth-line, which has been one of the most electric lines for the Islanders over the last handful of seasons, is not doing enough this year.
Although they had some nice plays in the offensive zone, they did not generate enough. This line needs to forecheck hard each shift and light a fire under a club that desperately needs it. That has to happen every game. That is why this line has stayed together all these years.
The defense has played well, but the lack of scoring puts immense pressure on the six players manning the backend. And more importantly, it puts a lot of pressure on Varlamov to be perfect each outing. He was not perfect tonight in the loss but did stop 34 of 37.
The question coming into the season was could the offense replicate their play from the Canadian bubbles. As of now, the answer is a hard no. If it was not for Mat Barzal, this team probably has maybe one win on the year. And now we are getting into familiar territory for the New York Islanders, where one player dictates the outcome. And that is not a way to win at the NHL level.