That wasn't bad. It wasn't great, but it was much closer to the type of game I expected going into this season: Islanders were mildly outplayed, but good goaltending kept them in it, and they used some timely scoring to steal a share of the spoils in Montreal.
Coming off the previous bludgeoning in Montreal, plus the bounce-back OT loss versus the Capitals, this was a good sign. They played a hot speedy team in the Canadiens, and they drew some penalties and avoided running around chasing.
Again, there's no fun in losing. But once I get past the day-to-day disappointment and look at it in the context of what this roster is and what Rebuild, Year 2 is about, I can find the little bits of progress I'm looking for.
Starting with, believe it or not, the prodigal Jeff Tambellini.
That Tambellini power move to the net on the powerplay -- well, that might never happen again in his NHL career, we'll see. But if his career is ever to swing to the NHL to stay, we'll be seeing more of that. Follow it up with his second goal -- a pouncing, go-to-the-net-and-good-things-happen jaunt on another powerplay, and Tambellini may have just had his biggest night ever in the NHL.
The negative: On that OT goal in question, Tomas Plekanec rushed past Tambellini, John Tavares, made a move around Mark Streit at the blueline, and brilliantly saucered a pass over a sprawling Bruno Gervais to enable Roman Hamrlik to convert the 2-on-1. He shouldn't have gotten that far, but that can happen 4-on-4 in the NHL. A magnificent play from start to finish.
And of course, they lost. But this one was consistent with the Baby Steps rebuild standard.
Back to the positive: Tambellini very nearly made it an epic night, as Josh Bailey set him up to rush over the blueline with a shot in OT. Not to be. But that they even got there by coming back late was another reason I'm not crestfallen by this one.
Or, as is easy to say for the guy who got two goals and boosted his argument for sticking around:
"We're taking only the positives out of this game," Tambellini said. "We found a way to come back twice in a really hostile environment."
The Little Performances: Andy Sutton continued his recent strong play. He was blocking shots, making hits that rattle, and making smart plays with the puck. Richard Park was vintage Richard Park: using his speed on the penalty kill and forecheck to be a general pain, and create the kind of marginal chances that nets him 10-plus goals a year.
Kyle Okposo: You can drive him into the boards after the whistle (no extra call to add to an existing Habs penalty), and smear his visor with his own blood, but that kid simply doesn't quit.
The Record: 1-4-5. The Islanders have now gone to overtime six times, more than anyone else this season. A sign of some blown leads and a growing team. But a sign of a team that has been in a lot of games. This team has so much to learn and so much more talent to accumulate, but for the most part they're not giving opponents easy games.
The shots were even, 31-31 -- which is in part due to the powerplay disparity (7 for the Isles, 2 for the Habs). But that penalty disparity was in part due to the Isles' work 5-on-5. (And part due to luck, it must be said, such as Mike Cammalleri's crucial delay of game mishap.)
The Number 1 Line: Ever since I started referring to them as point-per-gamers, they haven't been point-per-game. And the PP, of which they are the fulcrum, has struggled. I'm gonna lay off the hymn book for a little while.
Mark Striet, 29:55 TOI. Is he being leaned on too much? He was at the end of a long shift on the goal that made it 2-1. He got caught flat-footed at the blueline on the OT goal. With him as the clear #1, though, it's hard not to keep going back to that well. Speaking of which, Bruno Gervais had a nice game at Streit's side, almost tying the game with a shot off the post on the second-to-last PP.
Martin Biron: A game-changing performance. Did he do enough to earn a second consecutive start? If it were me, I'd say yes. In fact, you might argue it's more important to get him into fine form since he's the more attractive deadline acquisition for a team in need.
Jeff Tambellini: So ... how long of a look did he earn with this performance before his next healthy scratch. The Islanders powerplay has been slumping, and he just got two PP goals. It's worth tracking.
Radek Martinek and the others: Quite a bit better than the last Habs game! 22:22 TOI. He and Sutton were credited with 4 blocked shots each, Streit and Gervais with 3 each.
Whither Brendan Witt? Witt didn't see the ice for the last third of the 3rd period and not in OT. Injury? Strategic move?