Islanders' Semyon Varlamov shuts out Rangers again
The conversation was a short one between coach Barry Trotz and Semyon Varlamov. The goalie related that he felt good enough to start on back-to-back nights for the first time for the Islanders.
Besides, why wouldn’t Varlamov want to start against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden? All he does, dating to the start of last season, is shut them out.
So Varlamov, starting for a third straight game with Ilya Sorokin (upper-body injury) remaining unavailable, stopped 27 shots in a 3-0 win on Friday night.
“We limited their chances,” Trotz said. “And when they did have some chances, I thought Varly was really sharp as he’s been sharp in this building a lot the last few years.”
The Islanders (31-27-9) won their third straight and are on a 10-3-1 streak as they moved four games above NHL .500 for the first time this season. They are 13 points behind the Capitals, who are in fourth place in the Metropolitan Division and hold the Eastern Conference’s final wild-card spot. Any combination of 17 points lost by the Islanders or gained by the Capitals will eliminate the Islanders from playoff contention.
Varlamov, starting consecutive games for the first time this season, had made 30 saves in Thursday night’s 5-2 win over the Blue Jackets at UBS Arena.
“I said, ‘Let me know tomorrow,’” Trotz said of their postgame chat on Thursday. “He said, ‘I don’t have to let you know tomorrow. I’m feeling really good. I wasn’t too taxed and I’d like to have the game tomorrow.’ ”
Cory Schneider, on emergency recall from the Islanders’ AHL affiliate in Bridgeport, was the other option, but he has not played in an NHL game since March 6, 2020.
Last season, Varlamov became the first goalie in NHL history to shut out the Rangers three times at the Garden in one season. Now it's four in a row.
Sorokin skated on his own Friday, the second straight day he’s been on ice, and Trotz said the team hopes he will skate on Saturday as well even though the Islanders will be off.
Trotz still was unsure whether Sorokin will be available against the Devils on Sunday afternoon at Prudential Center.
“At this moment, I’m just leaving it up to him,” Trotz said. “We’ll see where we are after [Saturday].”