Turns out the Islanders can keep a flightless bird grounded, after all.
After four consecutive losses to the Penguins, including an overtime decision the previous night, the New York Islanders blanked Pittsburgh 2-0 on Sunday evening at Nassau Coliseum thanks to a pair of rookies.
Winger Oliver Wahlstrom tallied a power-play goal and assist to pace the Islanders’ attack while Ilya Sorokin — making his first-ever start at Nassau Coliseum — picked up his second-career shutout in consecutive outings, 12 days after his last appearance in net against the Buffalo Sabres.
“It’s teamwork. It’s defense for us,” Sorokin said. “A lot of blocked shots gave a lot of help and energy to me.”
“He was spot on today,” Islanders head coach Barry Trotz said. “Every time he plays, he looks more and more comfortable.”
The 24-year-old Russian rookie wasn’t overly busy as the Islanders outshot the Penguins 30-19 as they asserted their dominance from the jump.
The Islanders got their well-deserved opener on the power play with 39.7 seconds remaining in the first period off a Marcus Pettersson penalty.
In a period in which they outshot the Penguins 9-2, Wahlstrom got the Islanders on the board in precise fashion, rocketing a wrister from the left circle on a one-timed shot over the shoulder of DeSmith and into the top-righthand corner of the net.
“I’ve always just loved shooting the puck,” Wahlstrom said of his snipe. “It started in the backyard when I was little. I’d just rip pucks after school and I loved shooting.”
It extended the rookie’s point streak to four games, including his third goal of the season and his second tally in the last three.
It took much of the same to double the Islanders’ lead late in the second, another frame in which they largely dominated the Penguins by outshooting them 16-8.
Following a tripping penalty by Jake Guentzel, Wahlstrom picked up his second point of the night when he reversed the flow of play on the Islanders power play from the left circle to right, finding Josh Bailey who fed Jean-Gabriel Pageau toward the center for a one-timer that beat DeSmith through the legs with 5:04 to go in the second.
“It gives us a threat, a shot, but also they overplayed him on the second power-play goal we had,” Trotz said of Wahlstrom’s presence on the power play. “It gives us options.
“It gives us more opportunities to go into more areas on the power play. They have to respect the guys who make you dangerous.”
The primary helper was also Bailey’s second of the night.
“You get on a roll sometimes and create chances,” Bailey said of the Islanders’ suddenly-clicking power play. “As long as you’re creating chances it’s going to come.”
Pittsburgh urgency in the third period flipped the script as the Islanders looked far more interested in defending and protecting their lead rather than adding to it.
The Islanders had just two shots in the first 15 minutes of the frame while the Penguins probed, but Sorokin and his defense battened down the hatches to secure a third win in four games.