The Islanders were in charge in the third period on Tuesday, with wave after wave of skaters pressing to grab the lead as the Oilers held on for dear life and overtime.
And Edmonton does have Connor McDavid, who capped a rather pedestrian 60 minutes by snapping a ridiculous one-timer over Thomas Greiss for the winner 38 seconds into OT for a 2-1 win at Barclays Center.
Just like that, the Isles found themselves losers in a game that could have easily had a different outcome. Cam Talbot made 36 saves, 13 of them in a lopsided third period, and the Isles were held to one goal for the first time since being shut out on opening night.
“I thought we dominated the third,” said Mathew Barzal, who set up Jordan Eberle for the Isles’ lone goal at 4:43 of the second and seemingly set up a dozen other terrific scoring chances on another wondrous evening for the 20-year-old. “It’s frustrating. To not win that one, it’s definitely frustrating. Any other night, two or three of those go in in the third.”
Even as recently as Sunday, everything was going in for the Islanders. They scored six times on the Avalanche, four of them going off Colorado sticks or knees; the power play was clicking at a 9-for-16 clip the last four games and everyone, from John Tavares to Barzal to Nick Leddy, had been piling up points.
The Isles’ overall play improved dramatically from Sunday, when luck was on their side. McDavid was barely noticeable and Leon Draisaitl, McDavid’s linemate and the second-best talent on the team, scored 1:59 into the second on a breakaway shot that Greiss could have stopped.
Greiss faced only two shots in the third and 25 for the game. His bad fortune was having the last come from McDavid, who took a behind-the-back Draisaitl feed and wired one just after Barzal could not corral a Tavares pass to get off a shot in tight.
“Greisser was good, Talbot was good, the game was good,” Doug Weight said. “We really closed up defensively against a good, strong team.”
The Islanders have already had three such close losses in their first 15 games when they felt they earned a better result. A 3-2 defeat in Anaheim and a 4-3 loss in Washington were both punctuated by superb goaltending efforts from the opposition, over 35 shots on goal and big stretches of forceful play in the opposing end.
Tuesday was very similar from an Islander standpoint, though they received better goaltending than they had in those two earlier regulation losses.
Barzal was everywhere in the offensive zone, starting with a great series of tight-space moves to dance past Oilers defenseman Oscar Klefbom only to be denied by Talbot in the first.
“We had a lot of chances, I had a few, you just have to bury them,” Barzal said.
Shortly after Draisaitl’s goal, the Islanders did bury one. Barzal steamed into the Edmonton zone and slid a pass to Eberle, who snapped one over Talbot’s shoulder for a goal against Eberle’s former team in his first game against them.
But as much as the Isles pressed, even down a man with Nikolay Kulemin (upper body) lost in the second and likely out for a stretch, there was no satisfaction.
“Sunday we got very lucky and tonight we didn’t,” Greiss said. “If we play that way, we’ll win a lot of games.”
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