It's bizarre when a rivalry breaks out between two teams who rarely play each other and hardly have anything at stake. But that seems to be what happened last night as the Islanders penalty kill rolled over to allow the 29th-ranked offense of the Minnesota Wild to nab a season-high six goals.
"They tried to run us out of the building, but our guys kept coming," Jacques Lemaire said afterward:
"So, it'll be interesting next year when we play them back. Looking at the penalty minutes, some of [the Islanders] were brave ... But when you're running after guys that don't fight, that doesn't tell me a lot."
Oh, come now. Pass the bong, Jacques. The Islanders definitely came out delivering hits -- last I checked, a legal component of the game -- but the acts of paper bravery appeared to come from both sides. It didn't help that when Nick Schultz took exception to a Blake Comeau hit at the end of the first period, it was not Schultz but Antti Miettinen -- he of 30 PIM on the season -- who came at Comeau, hitting him through the just-opened Zamboni doors. Comeau, you'll note, "doesn't fight" either.
Honestly, I think the Wild and their coach are just feeling the pressure of a playoff spot slipping through their fingers, particularly the day after a loss at the Garden. When you're feeling defeated, it's easy to rally around an "other" as the focus of your frustration. The Wild did that to perfection in claiming a must-have two points from the last-place Islanders.
"It's a team that really has got nothing to play for, so you have guys going out there kind of not really caring if they take stupid penalties at stupid times," Wild forward Cal Clutterbuck said. "That's what they did, and it cost them. It's a good thing nobody got hurt."
Clutterbuck was referring to the Islanders, not his own team. But forgive my confusion: Many of the penalties on both sides were of the very marginal variety -- in fact, most roughing penalties were coincidental (including Clutterbuck with Comeau). The penalties that hurt the Islanders most were the lazy obstruction fouls, not fouls of intimidation.
What really killed the Islanders was an awful penalty kill and second consecutive soft night from Yann Danis. A strong first period was erased by weak goaltending and a poor PK. That's it.
Which isn't good for Danis. Said Gordon: "He wants to make sure his play to this point hasn't been a fluke." 7th Woman has much more from Gordon, including specifics on Danis' mistakes last night and how the team's opposing styles matched up.
Okposo Gone Wild
Interesting to see Kyle Okposo and Comeau get riled up after the period-ending drama before the first intermission. Okposo plays a physical game, but it's the game of puck-winning physicality: He acts not to deliver memorable hits, but to use any (legal) means necessary to win the puck. Eventually that will get under some skin, and I'll be curious if he ever has to add a fighting element to his game.
At just 20 years old, and only now approaching a full season in the NHL, he has some time to define that element of his game. But I didn't mind seeing his emotions boil up after the run at Comeau, even if he admittedly didn't control them as he liked: "The lippy stuff gets to me more than it should have." Lesson learned. These games are all about preparing for the future.