It was only fitting that a meeting between the Islanders’ goaltender of the future and one of the most beloved netminders in team history had to decide Sunday’s affair between New York and the Vegas Golden Knights in a shootout.
Former Islanders goalie Robin Lehner, making his first appearance against his old team, shut down his former team in overtime and a shootout, making 31 saves, to outduel Ilya Sorokin and his 29 saves to lift the Vegas Golden Knights to a 4-3 victory at UBS Arena.
The Islanders are now 0-6 this season in games that extend to overtime.
It was a triumphant return to Long Island for the 30-year-old, who credited the Islanders and their fans for helping turn his career — and life around — while battling mental health issues during his lone, Jennings Trophy-winning season with the team in 2018-19.
The Islanders squandered an extra point on Sunday as they blew a 3-2 lead with 47.1 seconds remaining when Shea Theodore’s second goal of the night forced overtime. The equalizer came just 1:32 after Jean-Gabriel Pageau put the Islanders in front, overturning a 2-1 deficit of their own.
Vegas took the lead 6:56 into the game when Jonathan Marchessault cleaned up a rebound to the right of Sorokin’s net — a loose puck that was uncharacteristically left by the Islanders’ netminder.
Lehner was beaten for the first time less than five minutes later when Brock Nelson’s pass on the power play at the right face-off circle caromed off Brayden McNabb’s skate and past Lehner, who was sliding to the opposite post in anticipation of the cross-ice feed.
The second period proved to be a clinic in goaltending as Sorokin and Lehner went highlight-reel-worthy save for highlight-reel-worthy save in. a frame that featured a combined 19 shots from both teams without a single one finding the back of the net.
It took a Zdeno Chara penalty to open the door for a deadlock-breaking tally. After the big defenseman was called for a trip 4:34 into the third period, Theodore picked up his first with a shot from straightaway that beat Sorokin.
Out of nothing, Kieffer Bellows tied it with a screened wrist shot that beat Lehner via the five-hole with 5:41 left in regulation, paving the way for Pageau’s temporary lead-grabber just 3:21 later. It came just moments after a Cal Clutterbuck go-ahead goal was waved off after a review concluded that Casey Cizikas was offsides.
But the victory was snatched with just 47.1 seconds remaining when Theodore snapped a slapper from just inside the blue line past the outstretched toe of Sorokin.
The Islanders dominated most of the extra five minutes of overtime, outshooting 7-1, but Lehner was up for the challenge in resolute fashion.