Scoring two goals hardly qualifies as an offensive explosion, but it was more than enough to provide the New York Islanders with a much-needed sense of relief Friday night.
On Saturday night, the Vegas Golden Knights will face the Islanders in Elmont, N.Y., looking for the exact same catharsis.
Both teams are hoping to enter the All-Star break with some momentum as they complete back-to-back sets that began Friday night in the New York City area.
Ilya Sorokin stopped all 23 shots he faced as the Islanders snapped a six-game losing streak with a 2-0 win over the Detroit Red Wings. The slumping Golden Knights lost 4-1 to the host New York Rangers.
Even in victory, reminders of the Islanders’ offensive struggles weren’t hard to find.
New York scored two goals or fewer for the sixth straight game and for the 12th time in 14 games this month, a stretch in which it has gone 3-8-3 to fall into 10th place in the East and four points behind the Pittsburgh Penguins in the race for the final wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.
The Islanders were also 0-for-4 on the power play and are scoreless on their last 24 power-play opportunities over the last nine games. New York is just 3-for-63 on the power play in 23 games dating back to Dec. 10.
But the Islanders snapped one drought in the third period, when Brock Nelson scored an insurance goal at the 4:31 mark. It was the first third-period goal in 11 games for New York dating back to Jan. 3.
“I think everybody maybe feels a little bit lighter,” Nelson told Newsday afterward. “Take a deep breath now and refocus and try to finish (Saturday) before the break on a high note.”
Losing for the seventh time in nine games (2-6-1) cost the Golden Knights a share of first place in the Pacific Division and left them in need of a boost heading into the All-Star pause. Vegas fell one point behind the Los Angeles Kings, who beat the Florida Panthers 4-3, and into a tie for second with the Seattle Kraken, though the Kraken have two games in hand.
Vegas, which allowed the tying goal with 1:10 left in regulation of a 3-2 overtime loss to the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday night, never led Friday, when Chris Kreider and Vincent Trocheck scored for the Rangers a little more than three minutes apart late in the first period.
The Golden Knights have been outscored 31-20 over their last nine games and have held a lead in just one of their seven losses.
“It’s just like — you’ve got to be sick of losing at some point and it shows in your play, in your urgency,” Vegas head coach Bruce Cassidy said. “We’ve got to dig in that much harder to score to get a lead so we can feel better about our game.”
–Field Level Media