It’s New York Islanders Day at PHT

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Throughout the month of August, PHT will be dedicating a day to all 30 NHL clubs. Today’s team? The New York Islanders.

Last season was a disappointment for a lot of reasons for the Islanders.

After making the playoffs in 2013, they plummeted to last place in the Metropolitan Division. While the offense was all right, the Isles problems centered around their defense and goaltending as they finished 28th out of 30 in the league in goals allowed per-game giving up 3.18 per. Only the Florida Panthers and Edmonton Oilers were worse.

Even the brightest spot on offense, John Tavares, suffered his own pitfalls. He suffered a season-ending knee injury during the Olympics in Sochi, something that didn’t sit well with GM Garth Snow. As for how he played when healthy, he had 66 points (24 goals) in 59 games and still nearly finished the season as the team leader in points.

Instead, Kyle Okposo picked up the slack in Tavares’ absence and ended the season leading the team in goals (27) and points (69) – both career highs. Just think of what he would’ve done if Tavares could’ve finished the season with him and Thomas Vanek (44 points in 47 games).

Frans Nielsen provided another bright spot up with career-highs in both goals (25) and points (58) as well. With Nielsen and Okposo providing highs, seeing Michael Grabner regress to 12 goals in 64 games was disappointing. The Isles did get a glimpse of the future as both Brock Nelson and Ryan Strome showed signs they’ll be key contributors soon.

Where the Isles had their biggest problems were on the back end. Injuries kept Lubomir Visnovsky off the ice for most of the season and they dealt Andrew MacDonald to the Flyers at the trade deadline. Travis Hamonic came back to the pack a bit after strong play two seasons ago, but guys like Calvin de Haan and Matt Donovan had a chance to show what they had and should get a shot to own a spot in the top six next season.

After seeing Evgeni Nabokov come up small against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the playoffs, he showed basically what he is putting up a .905 save percentage while dealing with a handful of injury issues. Both Kevin Poulin and Anders Nilsson showed how young they were by not being able to keep up with NHL-level players when Nabokov was out. Things in goal will be decidedly different next season or else coach Jack Capuano might be in real trouble.

Offseason recap

It was an adventurous offseason on Long Island for both GM Garth Snow and owner Charles Wang.

The Islanders fixed their biggest problem, goaltending, right away by trading for Jaroslav Halak and then signing him to a new deal. Adding Chad Johnson as his backup after a successful season in Boston means, suddenly, stopping pucks shouldn’t be their biggest concern.

Adding Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin to their crew of forwards should bring a marked improvement in depth. With Tavares, Grabovski, Nielsen, and Casey Cizikas they’re looking strong up the middle. They didn’t exactly address their needs on the blue line, but may have gotten a bit of a steal signing the AHL’s top defenseman T.J. Brennan.

The biggest change, however, came recently that Wang is selling the team to former Washington Capitals owner Jon Ledecky. With next season being the last one on Long Island, they’re trying to go out with a bang.

The Buzzer: Malkin paces Penguins, Vegas keeps on winning

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Player of the night: Evgeni Malkin

Evgeni Malkin helped get things started for the Pittsburgh Penguins at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday, and then he finished the game off with the overtime winner to send the New York Rangers to a fourth consecutive loss.

Malkin scored once, added three assists and even dropped the gloves in a 5-4 overtime victory, as the Penguins came back with a late — and crafty — third period goal from Sidney Crosby.

Talk about the Penguins being opportunistic on the winner. Off a defensive zone faceoff win for the Rangers, Ryan McDonagh made a terrible giveaway right beside his own net, giving the puck to Phil Kessel, who slipped it over to Malkin for the quick one-timer.

Highlight of the night:

There were a few candidates for this tonight. Phil Kessel once again showed off that tremendous wrist shot. Thomas Vanek decided to blast a slap shot on a breakaway, going post and in against the Senators. Nikita Kucherov had a perfect shot against Cory Schneider after previously setting up teammate Vladislav Namestnikov for a pretty goal versus the Devils. Yes, there were a few options.

But, we’ll go back to Winnipeg for this one. Blue Jackets forward Cam Atkinson not only protects the puck from Jacob Trouba on the breakaway, but then dekes out Steve Mason with the move to the forehand.

Factoid of the night:

The Vegas Golden Knights won again, giving them a 5-1 record to begin their inaugural season. That puts them in elite company.

Scores:

New Jersey 5, Tampa Bay 4 (SO)

San Jose 5, Montreal 2

Pittsburgh 5, New York 4 (OT)

Philadelphia 5, Florida 1

Toronto 2, Washington 0

Vancouver 3, Ottawa 0

Nashville 4, Colorado 1

Columbus 5, Winnipeg 2

Dallas 3, Arizona 1

Vegas 5, Buffalo 4 (OT)

Carolina 5, Edmonton 3

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Cam Tucker is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @CamTucker_Sport.

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Sharks send Habs to their fifth straight loss

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Make that five straight losses for the Montreal Canadiens.

Jonathan Drouin had a goal and an assist on Shea Weber‘s power play blast, giving the Habs center a two-point night. That’s one of the few bright spots, as Montreal lost by a score of 5-2 to the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday.

This was a battle of two teams struggling to start the new season, with each sitting on only one victory. For the Habs, that victory was back on Oct. 5 in their season opener against Buffalo.

Since then, however . . .

And it isn’t about to get any easier for the Habs. This was the start of a stretch that includes three games in four nights against the bruising California teams — the Sharks tonight, the Kings tomorrow, and the Ducks on Friday. It could still get worse before it gets better.

For the Sharks, who were led Tuesday by Logan Couture‘s four-point performance and Joe Pavelski‘s first goal of the season, they end their five-game home stand on a positive note after losing three of the previous four games.

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Cam Tucker is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @CamTucker_Sport.

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Wayne Simmonds leaves Flyers game for ‘precautionary reasons’ with lower-body issue

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The Philadelphia Flyers earned a 5-1 win over the Florida Panthers on Tuesday, thanks to a four-goal outburst in the second period.

And Philly forward Wayne Simmonds earned a decision over Micheal Haley in a quick fight during that middle frame, too.

While the Flyers got the win, the news wasn’t all good with respect to Simmonds, however, as he was removed from the game for precautionary reasons because of a lower-body issue, the team announced.

Beyond that, the Flyers said they will know more about his status by either tomorrow or Thursday. That puts a bit of a damper on the win.

Not only is the 29-year-old Simmonds one of the toughest players in the league, unafraid to drop the gloves or throw big hits from time to time, but he’s an important part of Philadelphia’s offensive attack, as well. A productive member of the power play, he’s flirted with the 30-goal mark on three occasions while in Philly and reached that mark in each of the past two seasons.

And he’s done that on a contract that includes an annual cap hit of just under $4 million.

Simmonds was also off to a strong start in 2017-18 with five goals and seven points in six games.

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Cam Tucker is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @CamTucker_Sport.

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Rangers’ losing streak continues with OT defeat vs. Penguins

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The New York Rangers needed a win.

Their slow start is among the surprises early this season, as the Rangers have now lost four in a row with only one win to their record through seven games so far. They’ve had trouble scoring. Mistakes at inopportune moments have been costly.

Facing the Pittsburgh Penguins on Tuesday, the Rangers had a brutal start and a brutal finish in a 5-4 overtime loss to their Metropolitan Division foes.

Phil Kessel scored just 43 seconds into the game, utilizing that dangerous wrist shot off the rush to beat Henrik Lundqvist top corner. By the end of one period, it was 2-0 Pittsburgh.

Despite a second-period comeback, with three goals in under three minutes, and taking the lead in the third period, the Rangers couldn’t hang on and the Penguins won in overtime.

Sidney Crosby scored a crafty tying goal with only 56 seconds remaining in regulation, waiting for the Rangers defender to touch the puck negating what would’ve likely been called a hand pass on Pittsburgh before firing a no-look backhander toward the net from behind the red line. The puck deflected in off Lundqvist, helping send this one to overtime.

Evgeni Malkin capped off a four-point night with the overtime winner.

“Right now it’s a little bit challenging as far as putting a whole game together for us,” said Rangers coach Alain Vigneault following the game. “But this group is very accountable … and I’m very confident that if we keep doing a lot of the things we’re doing right now, we’re going to be on the right track.”

A trio of Rangers recorded their first goals of the season. That included David Desharnais, Michael Grabner and Pavel Buchnevich, although the latter played less than 10 minutes on Tuesday, despite nearly four minutes in power play time, and of course the goal.

The Rangers host the New York Islanders on Thursday. Another loss, and one has to wonder how hot the seat may be getting under Vigneault.

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Cam Tucker is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @CamTucker_Sport.

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