Ilya Sorokin blanks Coyotes, Islanders to 1-0 win behind Mathew Barzal’s PP goal

Islanders Mathew Barzal Coyotes Bo Horvat
New York Islanders’ Mathew Barzal (13) celebrates with teammate Bo Horvat (14) after scoring a goal during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Arizona Coyotes Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2023, in Elmont, N.Y. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

ELMONT, N.Y. — Mathew Barzal’s power-play goal 3:47 into the second period proved to be all the New York Islanders and Ilya Sorokin needed to improve to 2-0-0 on the 2023-24 season, defeating the Arizona Coyotes 1-0 on Tuesday night at UBS Arena.

Barzal’s winner — the first man-advantage tally of the season for a unit that’s under a microscope this season — was the only breakthrough the Islanders could find against Coyotes goalie Karel Vejmelka, who made 30 saves on the night.

“Those are the ones you sometimes need when things are tied up five-on-five where you can’t get much going,” Barzal said. “Our structure five-on-five is always going to be tight. That’s why if you get your power-play going, you’re a contender.”

New York outshot Arizona 31-14 on the night while monopolizing most of the play. The 14 shots were the fewest allowed in a game since 2012.

“The defense played really good,” Sorokin said. “They didn’t allow many shots which is sometimes hard for a goalie but you have to be ready and I tried to focus in on the moment.”

The Islanders’ control on the night led to a rather easy outing for Sorokin, who made all 14 saves to record his first shutout of the season and the 17th of his career, moving past Rick DiPietro for third all-time in Islanders franchise history. DiPietro played in 318 games while Sorokin moved past him in his 138th appearance. 

“It always feels great [to get a shutout],” Sorokin said. “A win and a shutout, it’s a good feeling.”

The Islanders outshot the Coyotes 10-3 in a scoreless first period, using the successful kill of a Hudson Fasching four-minute major just 4:28 into the game to grab momentum.  The second line, which recorded two goals in the opener on Saturday, had the best chances of the frame with Brock Nelson and Kyle Palmieri getting stoned by Vejmelka from close range.

For a team that struggled mightily last season in first periods, the Islanders have started well in both games this season. They’ve outshot opponents 18-8 and outscored them 2-0. 

The Islanders’ much-maligned power play cashed in for the first time this season early in the second period just seconds after Arizona’s Barrett Hayton slashed Simon Holmstrom on the hands when he attempted to one-time a pass from Bo Horvat behind the net after stealing the puck from Vejmelka.

On the ensuing face-off and just seven seconds after the penalty, Barzal knuckled a one-timer over Vejmelka, who seemed thrown off by the lack of speed on the mishit one-timer by the Islanders’ star forward’s first goal of the year at the 3:47 mark.

“I didn’t get all of it,” Barzal said. “I got a little lucky.”

They nearly got a second just seconds after their power play expired midway through the period when Anders Lee rattled the post on a close-range effort.

Holmstrom nearly found one himself with just under two minutes to go in the second when he chopped a Barzal saucer pass out of mid-air at the left post to direct it onto the net, but Vejmelka stacked the pad to make the save. But the Islanders could only come away with that lone goal in another period they dominated, outshooting Arizona through two frames 24-7.

“Lee hits the bar, we had a couple near misses, pucks that go wide off rebounds,” head coach Lane Lambert said. “If there’s one thing that I think we could have done a better job and we have to do a better job of moving forward is we’ve got to get more traffic in front of the goaltender.”

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