ELMONT, N.Y. — Despite being shorthanded a whopping eight times, the New York Islanders rode Ilya Sorokin and their penalty kill to a 3-2 victory over the Ottawa Senators on Thursday night from UBS Arena to break a three-game losing skid.
“It was a difficult one to watch,” Islanders head coach Lambert said. “I thought our penalty killing [was good] and your goaltender is your best penalty killer. They did a good job all night long. That was the reason why we won the hockey game.”
Noah Dobson one-timed the winning goal with 13:15 remaining in regulation off a close-range feed from Mathew Barzal from the left circle, beating Senators goalie Joonas Korpisalo over his right shoulder roughly five minutes after the Islanders (3-2-1) killed off their eighth and final penalty of the night.
“Mat did a great job with speed. We caught some guys in the rush. I just tried to get up the ice,” Dobson, who also added an assist in the win, said. “I didn’t have to do much other than pick my shot. He put it in a great spot. He created the play. Your eyes kind of light up when you’re coming down the middle like that with a wide-open shot.
“Big goal. Happy to contribute.”
The Senators overturned a 2-0 first-period deficit in a penalty-laden second, which featured seven Islanders penalties in total — though Ottawa would cash in on only one power play all night (1-for-8). Much of that had to do with Sorokin, who turned away 45 of 47 shots in the win, featuring 15 shorthanded saves.
“It was a lot of work for me and our defense,” Sorokin told amNewYork. “It was a good win. We needed this win.”
Just four seconds after being awarded a power-play on a Rourke Chartier interference infraction, Bo Horvat put the Islanders ahead just 2:40 into the night when he slotted home a big rebound left by Korpisalo after fumbling a shot from Dobson. The Islanders went 1-for-4 on the power play on the night.
Cal Clutterbuck doubled the Islanders’ advantage with his second goal in as many games, the beneficiary of a sublime backhanded pass from behind the net by Casey Cizikas. Getting on the end of it between the circles in front of Korpisalo, Clutterbuck roofed the chance.
But discomposed Islanders play derailed their chances of building further on their lead, committing seven penalties in the 20-minute span that let the Senators back in it. A Brock Nelson interference penalty canceled a New York power play just 16 seconds in before a Clutterbuck slashing infraction nine seconds later gave the Senators a 4-on-3 advantage.
While on that power play, with 6:52 gone in the second, Claude Giroux snapped a wrister past Sorokin to get the Senators on the board.
But the night would take on a completely different tenor at the 8:43 mark of the frame when Clutterbuck’s hit on the left end boards of the Islanders’ zone took Senators defenseman Erik Brannstrom off his feet — the subsequent fall leading the Ottawa blueliner to hit the side of his head on the ice where he was initially unresponsive.
“I turned around and everyone was yelling,” Clutterbuck said. “You just hate to see it. I’m sick to my stomach about it. I was then and I still am now. We’re all human beings here.”
Attended to by both teams’ trainers, he was loaded onto a stretcher and wheeled off the ice where he was seen moving his hands and speaking with teammates. The Senators announced that Brannstrom was alert, had use of his extremities, and was transported to a local hospital for further evaluation.
“That was awful to see,” Horvat said. “You never want to see that ever… I’m just praying for him and hopefully everything will be alright and he’ll be back on the ice soon.”
Following the lengthy delay to ensure Brannstrom’s safety, the Senators tied things up at the 12:25 mark when Jakob Chychrun’s point shot snuck through a heavy screen in front of Sorokin and in.
“Both goals there were a lot of traffic,” Sorokin said. “I didn’t see the puck. I tried to find it, but I couldn’t.”
In the final 5:53 of the second, the Islanders committed four more penalties including a Kyle Palmieri high-stick and an Adam Pelech trip within 54 seconds of each other during the final minute, giving Ottawa another 4-on-3 chance — Ridley Greig was called for a hook just six seconds before Palmieri’s infraction — for 1:06 to start the third period.
But the Islanders’ penalty kill remained strong, mostly on the shoulders of Sorokin who continuously kept the Senators at bay — keeping it tied through the expirations of both Palmieri and Pelech’s penalties and ultimately setting the stage for Dobson’s game-winner.
“It gives you a lot [of momentum],” Lambert said. “We had been shorthanded so long for the previous 20 minutes. To weather that and get through it… it definitely gives you a boost.”