Islanders special teams fuels 3-1 win over Oilers

Islanders Horvat Nelson Palmieri
Dec 19, 2023; Elmont, New York, USA; New York Islanders center Bo Horvat (14) celebrates his power play goal against the Edmonton Oilers with center Brock Nelson (29) and center Kyle Palmieri (21) during the second period at UBS Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

ELMONT, N.Y. — Three second-period special-teams goals — two on the power play and one shorthanded — lifted the New York Islanders to a 3-1 victory over the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday night at UBS Arena.

Power-play goals from Anders Lee and Bo Horvat allowed the Islanders to overturn an early 1-0 deficit before the shorthanded specialist, Simon Holmstrom, netted yet another goal on what eventually developed into a pivotal 5-on-3 penalty kill at the end of the second.

“The power play came up huge tonight but so did the penalty kill,” Horvat said. “Special teams are such a big part of the game and for us to kill those off and get those two power-play goals was huge.”

After allowing a goal on the first shot he faced, New York goalie Ilya Sorokin saved the remaining 31 that came his way, including 16 in the third period that saw Edmonton outshoot the Islanders (15-8-8) 16-2 in the final period.

“Sorokin came up huge,” Horvat said. “He’s been huge for us all year and he proved it again tonight.”

Edmonton’s goalie Stuart Skinner turned away 17 of 20 shots in the loss.

The Oilers took the lead on their first shot of the night 1:23 into the game when Draisaitl snapped a wrist shot under the glove arm of Sorokin.

Following the quick start, the visitors dominated the first 15 minutes of the period before the Islanders found their footing and began to mount some consistent pressure on the Edmonton goal. A bevy of Grade-A chances including a Brock Nelson wraparound attempt, a Holmstrom wrister from the left circle, and a Mathew Barzal breakaway were all turned away by Skinner.

A 1-0 deficit after 20 minutes was just the third time all season that the Islanders trailed after the first period, per statistician Eric Hornik, but it wouldn’t last long as the hosts sprang to life with three goals in the second period thank to supreme special-teams play.

Lee drew the Islanders level 2:39 into the frame on the power play when he cleaned up a loose puck that skittered behind Skinner off a shot from Kyle Palmieri.

Back on the man advantage midway through the second, pinpoint passing saw Nelson from the right boards feed Horvat in front, who sniped a wrister home to give the Islanders the lead at the 11:30 mark.

“It was a really good pass,” Horvat said of Nelson’s helper. “I honestly didn’t think he saw me over there and could get it to me but he fed it through three sticks to get it over there and I just had to put it in the net. That was a special play right there.”

It extended Horvat’s career-high point streak to 11 games while defenseman Noah Dobson, who got a secondary assist, picked up his 33rd point of the season in Game No. 31.

“I guess it’s just happening for me right now,” Horvat said. “I don’t know what else to say about it. It definitely feels good to get wins behind it and have success as a team. So I’m just trying to do my part.”

The Islanders proceeded to play with fire when Nelson took a tripping penalty with 6:19 remaining in the period, but Holmstrom continued to shine on the penalty kill to extend the lead. Oilers forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins’ back pass from the left boards of the New York zone sprang Jean-Gabriel Pageau on a 2-on-1 rush. He fed Holmstrom, whose one-timer slid under Skinner with 5:50 remaining. 

It was Holmstrom’s 10th of the season with a league-leading fifth coming while shorthanded.

“I saw the pass just not making it to their [defenseman at the point] and I saw Pageau take off,” Holmstrom said of the break. “I was just trying to join him as fast as I could.”

New York defenseman Robert Bortuzzo took a holding penalty just 33 seconds later, though, putting the Islanders down two men. However, an inconsistent penalty kill came up with one of its finest efforts of the season, killing off 58 seconds of 5-on-3 play before getting through the remainder of Bortuzzo’s infraction.

“We had some great blocks, that’s huge,” head coach Lambert said. “Then our goalie was good, and I thought we were aggressive when we had our opportunities to be versatile… Both special teams were really good tonight… any time you kill a 5-on-3, you get a lot of momentum off that.”

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