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Sloppy Islanders can’t salvage Ilya Sorokin’s gem in 3-1 loss to Wild

Islanders Wild Ilya Sorokin
Minnesota Wild’s Sam Steel (13) scores against New York Islanders goaltender Ilya Sorokin (30) during the third period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Jan. 12, 2023, in Elmont, N.Y. The Wild won 3-1. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

ELMONT — Ilya Sorokin can only do so much when the Islanders in front of him are outworked and outplayed.

Clinging to a 1-0 lead heading into the third period of a game in which they were largely dominated, the Islanders yielded two goals to the Minnesota Wild just 1:33 apart to drop their fourth straight game, 3-1, on Thursday night at UBS Arena. 

“That one stings,” Islanders head coach Lane Lambert admitted after the horn.

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Sam Steel scored the game-winner off of a Scott Mayfield turnover with just 7:32 to go in regulation after Frederick Gaudreau just snuck a one-timer that Sorokin nearly gloved for a save-of-the-year candidate, but his mitt with the puck was over the goal line to just barely allow the Wild on the board.

“We made some costly mistakes in terms of just in your own end,” Mayfield said. “I think we just have to be available for each other and do the best we can on getting pucks out of the zone, through the natural zone. Turnovers are going to happen. W ejsut have to clean them up a little bit better than tonight.”

Mayfield’s giveaway was the most egregious one of the Islanders’ staggering 23 turnovers.

“I thought [the Wild] did a pretty good job of forechecking,” Lambert said. “But still, I think it’s a little bit on us in terms of the decisions and some of the plays that we made. We have to clean that up.”

Sorokin made 33 saves on the night while the Islanders could muster just 20 shots on Wild backup Filip Gustavsson’s goal.

“He’s been outstanding for us,” Lambert said. So it’s frustrating. Certainly, we need to score more. We need to give him some support and he’s done a great job of keeping the puck out of the net and keeping us in every game.”

In what was one of their more disjointed first periods, the Islanders rather surprisingly took the lead in a frame in which they were outshot 7-4. With 3:11 to go, an innocent-looking wrister from the right point by defenseman Scott Mayfield bounced and fluttered past the blocker of Gustavsson.

It was the first time the Islanders opened the scoring in five games. For Mayfield, he tied a career-high with his fifth goal of the season — a mark he also hit in 2019-20 in 67 games. Thursday night’s goal was just his 43rd game of the 2022-23 campaign.

That, however, was as good as it got for Mayfield as his night took a significant downturn. He committed two penalties on the night, including a hooking infraction just 49 seconds after his goal — setting the tone for a second period that yet again was largely dominated by the Wild.

The visitors had the shots advantage in the second period at 16-9, but Sorokin remained unbreakable as he was under waves of pressure thanks to three Islanders penalties following the expiring of Mayfield’s hook that carried over into the start of the middle 20 minutes. New York committed five penalties in total on Thursday night and while they managed to kill them all off, it limited any sort of offensive momentum that ultimately could not be built.

“We were in the box too much tonight,” Islanders captain Anders Lee said. “One of those nights where every little thing we did, we were getting called for. Our killers had a great game… Sorokin played phenomenal.”

But it was a short-handed opportunity for the Wild that yielded the equalizer when Joel Eriksson Ek led a 2-on-1 down the right wing and sent a centering pass to an onrushing Frederick Gaudreau. The center’s shot coaxed a sprawling glove save from Sorokin, but his glove that miraculously found the puck was just beyond the goal line with 9:05 to go in regulation.

Just 1:33 seconds later, the Wild got their second and the game-winner as a turnover from Mayfield on the left boards found Mats Zuccarello, who fed Steel for the go-ahead one-timer.

Kirill Kaprizov added an empty-netter with 1:13 left to cap off one of the worst losses the Islanders have suffered over the last two seasons.

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