Trotz’s 800th win could prove costly for Isles
Shootout victory marred by potential injury to netminder Lehner
The New York Islanders squandered a pair of two-goal leads, might have lost their league-leading goaltender to a potential head injury and had to fight tooth-and-nail to come away with two points against the worst team in the NHL Tuesday night.
So, it was hard to blame New York head coach Barry Trotz for not basking in the glory of his 800th career victory behind the bench.
“We got to clean up some stuff in our game, there’s no question,” Trotz insisted following the Islanders’ 5-4 shootout win over the woeful Ottawa Senators in front of a season-low crowd of 11,445 at the renovated Nassau Coliseum.
“We’ll go over it [Wednesday] and we’ll see if we’re healthier and see what we’ll do in terms of lineups.”
Not only did the Isles have a couple of notable forwards, Matt Martin and Cal Clutterbuck, out with upper-body injuries, but they have also been plagued by a recent flu virus working its way through the locker room.
In addition, starting netminder Robin Lehner, who entered Tuesday’s game with a league-best 2.19 goals-against average, was forced to leave the contest after surrendering a controversial game-tying goal to Ottawa’s Jean-Gabriel Pageau with 4:40 remaining in regulation.
Lehner went back to the locker room for a series of tests as per the league’s concussion protocol following his violent collision with Senators winger Brady Tkachuk, who was ultimately ruled to have been pushed into the Isles’ goalmouth by forward Brock Nelson following an Ottawa video challenge of the play.
Fortunately for the Isles, back-up Thomas Greiss stopped two shots in regulation before denying a pair of shootout attempts to help New York end a two-game slide and pull back into a tie with the defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals (83 points) for the top spot in the Metropolitan Division standings.
Nelson, rookie Devon Toews, team captain Anders Lee and recent call-up Ross Johnston scored in regulation for the Isles before Jordan Eberle and Mathew Barzal settled matters by beating Ottawa goalie Craig Anderson in the shootout round.
There was no update available on Lehner immediately following the contest, but Trotz was concerned that his milestone win, which made him only the fourth coach in the league’s history to amass at least 800 victories, could have come at a cost.
“We’ll see where he is in the morning,” Trotz said of Lehner during his post-game presser, most of which was spent deflecting credit for his coaching achievement. “That [the 800 wins] was the last thing on my mind.”
But the Isles players were not so quick to wave off the accomplishment.
“It’s really nice,” Lee said of Trotz’s 800th. “He’s had a heck of a career. Happy to close this one out and move on.”
Ideally, the Isles, who completed a less-than-satisfactory 2-3 homestand, would have closed this one out much earlier than they eventually did.
They led 3-1 in the second period and 4-2 entering the third before a late collapse in regulation nearly cost them two points and perhaps even their most valuable player to this point in the season if Lehner is unable to return soon.
“A little bit of an ugly third period for us, but we found a way at the end,” Lee told the Associated Press after notching his team-high 23rd goal of the year.
“Right now, the two points is the biggest thing.”
The Isles will travel to Ottawa Thursday night to close out this home-and-home series with the Senators before opening a three-game homestand against the Philadelphia Flyers at NYCB Live on Saturday.
“It was a big win because you lose a couple in a row and you have to get that confidence back,” said veteran Isles defenseman Johnny Boychuk. “We got two points tonight and have to continue to get as many as we can.”
Isle Have Another: Johnston picked up his first goal in 16 games this season by using his body to deflect his own rebound past Anderson midway through the second period to give the Isles a 4-2 lead. … Michael Dal Colle and Josh Ho-Sang were both recalled from AHL Bridgeport for Tuesday’s game, but only Dal Colle saw action as Casey Cizikas, who was suffering from flu-like symptoms, was able to play. Dal Colle notched an assist Toews’ go-ahead goal early in the second period and also drew the eye of Trotz, who was more than pleased with how the 22-year-old winger played during his 13-plus minutes on the ice. “I loved his game. I thought he was as detailed and committed as any player out there,” Trotz gushed. “There’s trust in his game. There’s confidence. I’m a fan of Michael.” Cizikas played nearly 13 minutes, picking up an assist to go with two shots on net and a blocked shot.
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