The Islanders are riding a winning streak into the holiday.
Jean-Gabriel Pageau scored twice in the second period, Ilya Sorokin stopped a career-high 49 shots for his second shutout of the season and the Islanders cruised to their second straight victory, 3-0, over the Oilers on Thanksgiving Eve.
After they stole two points in Toronto on Monday, this was a game the Islanders (13-8-0) controlled and deserved to win — a complete effort and feel-good victory in what has been a positive season at the quarter mark.
At this time last year, the Islanders’ season was already flying off the rails, in the midst of an 11-game winless skid marked by a COVID-19 outbreak. By the time anything resembling a turnaround came, it was too late.
This season, the Islanders can hope to get better, but only in the sense that every team hopes to get better. They are playing good hockey on a consistent basis and regularly beating teams that made the playoffs last season. If the season so far is any indication, they are on track to return to the postseason.
The game Wednesday turned on a second period Edmonton power play after Anthony Beauvillier was sent to the box for slashing at 4:11. Pageau converted the Islanders’ second shorthanded goal of the season on a feed from Zach Parise just 22 seconds into the Oilers’ power play. And when the Islanders got a turn on the man-advantage after Tyson Barrie held Cal Clutterbuck at 5:27, Pageau scored again, his feed to Anders Lee knocked in off the stick of Evan Bouchard.
Even when the ice started to tilt in the other direction towards the end of the period, the Islanders had a ready answer. Oliver Wahlstrom went the other way on the rush, staying strong on the puck and finding an oncoming Sebastian Aho from behind the net to make it 3-0.
As usual, Sorokin was superb in net, keeping the Oilers from making a game of it, particularly in the third period, when the Islanders went to the penalty box three times
The first period was mostly a low-event affair, with the Islanders holding Edmonton without a shot on goal for over 12 minutes to start the game. Once Sorokin was called into action, he didn’t disappoint, with a right-pad kick save on Zach Hyman at 16:58 that will make the highlight reels.
Former first-round pick Simon Holmstrom also made his NHL debut, skating in place of Kyle Palmieri, who was declared day-to-day with an upper-body injury.
Thanksgiving is still early in the season, and there is a long way to go for the Islanders. Record aside, there are some questions around the group, which has leaned on goaltending to sweep aside a high number of chances allowed all year and could be helped by adding a high-level wing.
Perfection, though, is not the expectation. It’s hard to consider the record — and the way the Islanders have played — as anything but a success. It doesn’t hurt either that in beating down the Oilers, the Islanders turned in the kind of 60-minute effort they’ve been looking for, and played one of their best games of the season.
And the first three games following the holiday will be against Columbus and Philadelphia, so there will be a good chance to build on that success right away.