It’s tough to choose which streak is worse for the Vegas Golden Knights, the losing streak that has reached four after falling at home 2-0 to the New York Islanders Sunday, or the fourth straight game they were missing a player as Nolan Patrick was out with an upper-body injury suffered Friday. They were also minus defenseman Zach Whitecloud who is out with an upper-body injury.
One is probably symptomatic of the other and it didn’t help that the Knights ran into another hot goaltender. This time, it was Ilya Sorokin who stood on his head and kept the Islanders in front after Josh Bailey had given the Isles an early 1-0 lead.
The usual issues continue to plague Peter DeBoer’s team. The power play remains listless as the Knights went 0 for 2 and are now 0 for 11 for the season, worst in the NHL. Offensively, they weren’t able to convert in 5-on-5 hockey as even the high quality chances they had were gobbled up by Sorokin, who has been in net for all six of the Islanders’ games as they battle through a 13-game road swing to start the season before they open their new home at UBS Arena Nov. 20.
“We went toe-to-toe with a pretty good hockey team that has been to the conference finals the last two years and are being picked by many to win the Stanley Cup,” DeBoer said. “Morale? It is what it is. You have to look at the bright side. it’s an opportunity for guys to step up and show they can compete in this league.”
Most nights, Robin Lehner’s play in the Vegas net would be enough to get the Knights a win. He was very good, stopping 24 of the 26 shots he faced. But he was outplayed by Sorokin and he got beat in the third period by a great shot courtesy of Mathew Barzal, who wired one over Lehner’s right shoulder from inside the right faceoff circle to make it 2-0.
“It was good to see those guys,” said Lehner, who played for the Islanders in 2018-19. “But this was about two points.
“I’m frustrating we’re losing, but I’m not panicking. The last few games have been close going into the third period. We had a chance to win.”
Now, the Knights hit the road for a tough back-to-back in Colorado Tuesday against the Avalanche and Wednesday in Dallas against the Stars. At 1-4 and in last place in the Pacific Division, it won’t be easy to escape the cellar this week.
Three takeaways from Sunday’s game:
1. Sorokin’s stellar play: Sometimes your goalie has to steal one for you and that was the case Sunday as Ilya Sorokin was fabulous in the New York net. The Russian goaltender stopped all 42 shots he faced and helped the Islanders improve to 3-2-1 to complete the first leg of the 13-game road trip.
He had to come up big in the second period, robbing Keegan Kolesar from close range, used his glove to snag one off Nicolas hague’s stick, then stopped Chandler Stephenson from the slot. He then stopped Reilly Smith’s shorthanded try with 5:23 to go in the third period.
2. Disappearing Dadonov: The Golden Knights were hoping to get the Evgenii Dadonov who was a bona fide goal scorer with the Florida Panthers. So far, they have the Ottawa version of Dadonov which was not very good.
Dadonov has been moved up and down the lineup by Peter DeBoer hoping he’d click with someone and start scoring. But that hasn’t been the case and he remains a non-factor, both in 5-on5 and on the power play.
Sunday, he had two shots in 16 1/2 minutes of TOI.
3. Isles Block Party: One of the things that makes the Islanders so tough to play against is they block a ton of shots and they support each other off the puck. The Isles had 21 blocks Sunday and whenever the puck caromed off a New York player, a teammate was usually there to support him and gain control or knock it out of harm’s way.
It was reminiscent of a previous encounter with Barry Trotz when the Knights faced the Washington Capitals in the 2018 Stanley Cup Final, Trotz was the Caps’ coach then and they were blocking shots everywhere. Even Alex Ovechkin got into the act and they wound up winning the Cup.
Next up: Tuesday at Colorado Avalanche.