Islanders stay hot, spoil Sabres’ return from COVID-19 postponements

After recently beating the Bruins, Barry Trotz raved about it being the sort of win the Islanders strive to carve out in the playoffs. The Islanders’ 3-1 win on Monday felt that way too, although it also probably showed how far the Sabres need to come to finally break their playoff drought.

The Islanders now have points in seven straight games (4-0-3), improving to 7-4-3 overall. During the last five games, they’ve stacked up four wins.

As stingy as the Islanders can be, losing like this had to be pretty demoralizing for the (now 4-5-2) Sabres. Heading into an aggravating COVID delay, the Sabres had been building up steam with wins in four of their last six. They have to hope this was a matter of rust, and will get a chance to prove that much as the Islanders and Sabres turn around for another game on Tuesday.

Semyon Varlamov, Islanders combine for stingy win vs. Sabres

When it comes to the Isles and their goalies, people often fall into chicken-and-the-egg arguments.

Has Semyon Varlamov/Robin Lehner/Thomas Greiss really been that good under Barry Trotz, or was it all about the system? Of course, the truth is that it’s usually been a mixture; the more interesting debates probably boil down to assigning percentages to the goalies vs. the nurturing atmosphere.

To some extent, the Islanders’ philosophy about defense has probably helped Varlamov. But Varlamov’s earning his portion of the credit. After all, saves like this one on Victor Olofsson come down to a goalie being keyed-in.

Consider the gap between Varlamov and Ilya Sorokin heading into Monday’s Sabres – Islanders game:

Now, that’s a small sample size. But it’s another way to illustrate that Varlamov’s off to a hot start. Via Hockey Reference, the Islanders have been on the wrong end — sometimes significantly — when it comes to the share of scoring chances, including high-danger ones. Varlamov’s been able to keep them in games nonetheless.

So, imagine if the Islanders can clog things up. That certainly was the case on Monday. For the first time since 2011, the Sabres were held without a shot on goal during a period. That happened in the third, when the Islanders were nursing a 3-1 lead.

Other hot streaks continue

While Mathew Barzal continues to be a key catalyst, the Isles are receiving contributions from a variety of scorers. In Barzal’s case, he pushed his point streak to a career-best with nine on Monday.

Jean-Gabriel Pageau has been especially hot lately. Pageau extended his goal streak to three games (4G) with a tally on Monday. The Islanders had to be pleased to receive contributions from Brock Nelson and Anders Lee, as well.

Most of the news is bad for the Sabres. Going without a shot during a period where you’re trailing has to sting. Rust or not, and as hot as the Islanders have been lately, you’d think a fresh Sabres team would be able to get more done as this game went along.

Instead, they could really only do damage on the power play.

That’s where Olofsson scored after being robbed by Varlamov earlier in the game. His power-play tally extended a career-best point streak to seven games. The 25-year-old’s scored at least one point in all but two games so far this season.

Jack Eichel and Taylor Hall both failed to generate a goal or an assist in this one, combining for three SOG while each player logged more than 20 minutes. That’s disappointing stuff, and it’s fair to wonder how much longer that partnership might last.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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    Bruins set NHL record with 12 straight home wins to start season

    Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
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    BOSTON — The Boston Bruins set the NHL record for most home victories to start a season with their 12th straight, topping the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2 in overtime with a power-play goal from David Pastrnak.

    The Bruins broke the mark of 11 that was set by the 1963-64 Chicago Blackhawks and equaled by the Florida Panthers last season.

    “That felt awesome,” Bruins first-year coach Jim Montgomery said. “We talked about it after the second (period) going into the third. There’s been a lot of great teams in this league and you’re able to set a precedent, break a record. It’s pretty special and it doesn’t happen if those guys don’t believe in themselves like they do.”

    Boston, which trailed 2-0 late in the second period, tied it with 9:33 left in regulation when David Krejci scored his second of the game on a shot from the right point.

    “It’s never fun being down going into the third, you’re sitting in here (in the locker room) trying to figure it out,” Krejci said. “You want to come out and do the job, something special on the line. It’s hard to win in this league. To get 12 in a row at home is pretty special.”

    In overtime, Carolina was playing shorthanded after being called for too many men on the ice when Pastrnak one-timed a pass from Brad Marchand inside the far post from above the left circle.

    “It was a big win for us, obviously, coming from behind,” Pastrnak said.

    Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Stefan Noesen each scored a power-play goal for Carolina, and Pyotr Kochetkov made 38 saves. The Hurricanes lost their fifth straight.

    In a rematch of last spring’s opening-round playoff series that the Hurricanes won in seven games, Carolina shutout the NHL’s highest scoring team for nearly two periods and jumped ahead a pair of power-play goals in the opening period.

    “We took too many penalties. That’s hurting us right now,” Kotaniemi said. “I think 5-on-5 we’re doing a really good job. We started good tonight and couldn’t keep that up.”

    Boston’s tying goal was originally disallowed because of goaltender interference on Nick Foligno but overturned on a coach’s challenge after it was ruled that he was nudged into the crease by Carolina defenseman Brett Pesce.

    Boston starting goaltender Linus Ullmark made 28 saves but had to leave with 13:03 left in the third period with an undisclosed upper-body injury. Teammate Connor Clifton had jumped on him to block a shot during a scramble. Jeremy Swayman made six stops in relief.

    Carolina’s Noesen scored at 6:34 in to make it 1-0. And with five minutes left in the period, Kotkaniemi collected the puck near the side of the net after Seth Jarvis‘ shot bounced off the back glass and slipped it inside the post at 15:05.

    Krejci scored for Boston with 31 seconds left in the second.

    Boston came in with a league-high 82 goals in 20 games (4.10 per game), but it was held to relatively few chances despite getting a 5-on-3 power-play advantage early on.

    TAKE NOTE

    The Bruins honored captain Patrice Bergeron, who recorded his 1,000th career point when the team was on the road against Tampa Bay, with a message on the Jumbotron. The crowd gave him a standing ovation.

    Bergeron became just the fourth Bruin to reach the mark, joining Hall of Famers Ray Bourque (1,506), Johnny Bucyk (1,339) and Phil Esposito (1,012).

    UP NEXT

    Hurricanes: Host the Calgary Flames.

    Bruins: Host the Tampa Bay Lightning.

    Predators postpone 2 games due to Nashville water main break

    Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
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    NASHVILLE, Tenn. —  The Nashville Predators postponed two home games because of a water main break that soaked their downtown arena.

    Hours after the Predators decided they couldn’t play against the Colorado Avalanche, the team announced it also postponed the game against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Makeup dates for the two games will be announced later.

    The NHL said the water main break that occurred “significantly impacted the event level” of Bridgestone Arena. Team locker rooms and the ice surface are on the event level.

    Predators President and CEO Sean Henry told reporters that the water in the event level ranged from 3 inches to 3 feet.

    “We’re assessing it right now. We’re remediating it,” Henry said. “The good thing is, the water got shut off, the city responded in a pretty fast manner. I don’t think anyone is ready for things like this the Friday after Thanksgiving.”

    Video posted by a WTVF-TV reporter shows the water puddled up on the main floor’s concourse area and the team store. The team was forced to close the store until further notice, pointing shoppers online for Black Friday specials.

    The Predators’ next home game is now scheduled for Tuesday against the Anaheim Ducks.

    The water issue also resulted in a switch to a different venue for a college hockey game between Northeastern and Western Michigan. They also had been scheduled to play at Bridgestone Arena, a game that was moved to Ford Ice Center Bellevue.

    Rangers trade Ryan Reaves to Wild for 5th-round pick in 2025

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    ST. PAUL, Minn. — The New York Rangers traded enforcer Ryan Reaves to the Minnesota Wild for a 2025 fifth-round pick.

    Reaves had been a healthy scratch for eight of the past 12 games for the Rangers. He gives struggling Minnesota some extra muscle and a veteran presence.

    The 35-year-old is signed through only the rest of this season at a $1.75 million salary cap hit. He has no points and 12 penalty minutes in 12 games of his second season with New York.

    Reaves has played in 869 NHL regular-season and playoff games for the St. Louis Blues, Pittsburgh Penguins, Vegas Golden Knights and Rangers. He was with the Golden Knights during their inaugural season in 2017-18 when the reached the Stanley Cup Final.

    Toronto’s Morgan Rielly placed on long-term injured reserve

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    TORONTO — The Toronto Maple Leafs placed defenseman Morgan Rielly on long-term injured reserve with a knee injury.

    Rielly was hurt in a collision with with New York forward Kyle Palmieri early in the third period of Toronto’s 3-2 overtime loss to the Islanders at home.

    Rielly has no goals and 16 assists in 20 games this season and is averaging 23 minutes of ice time.

    Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said following practice that the 28-year-old Rielly doesn’t need surgery, adding there’s no firm timeline for his return beyond the minimum 24 days and 10 games required for going on long-term injured reserve.

    Toronto’s defense is also missing Jake Muzzin with a neck injury and T.J. Brodie with an injured oblique.