There were complaints about the defense, but upon further review the goals that did the Islanders in tonight came from:
- 1) Rick DiPietro insisting on playing the puck despite a better option, turning it over to the Panthers' point;
- 2) the Grabner-Weight-Niederreiter line getting hemmed in;
- 3) a screened point shot off the rush that squeaked through DiPietro's pads for David Booth to knock in, and
- 4) another poor DiPietro clear which Trent Hunter failed to handle, leading to a wide-open rebound for Radek Dvorak's game-winner.
In the end, a team loss, with missed opportunities and a waste of John Tavares' first NHL hat trick, which tied the game at 1-1, 2-2, and 3-3 -- but sadly, no 4-4.
The team's resilience in coming back three times was nice. The uninspiring first period (outshot 14-8) was not. You always had the feeling the game might be theirs to take, particularly with Tavares repeatedly tying it up. But sometimes a poor start comes back to haunt you; certainly it leaves no room for error.
One more game for Nino before The Decision. I must say with each game he looks more adept at handling NHL assignments. The whole ELC-slide thing is one concern; in terms of this year's Islanders, right now he helps. His size is enticing, and you see him using it. You see him learning better where to go at this level without the puck. You also wonder if you'd rather he get first-line minutes in the WHL. And you wonder what "good" roster problems the Isles have when Rob Schremp and, later, Kyle Okposo return.
Rick DiPietro: His lateral movement has been the concern since he cameback even last year. His positioning and reflexes are there though -- he made several saves (26 total) when needed. On two goals tonight he looked out of range on the highlights, but both were actually plays no goalie likely could have moved over to stop. I'm more annoyed by his insistence on playing the puck even when his defenseman is right there. On the Panthers' first goal, James Wisniewski could have taken it and cleared it to kill the final seconds of the powerplay.
DiPietro cleared it weakly around the boards instead, then suffered the result. When his handling backfires, it reminds me of that outfielder with the cannon arm who constantly skips his cutoff man, sometimes ending in a highlight-reel putout and sometimes ending in a two-base error.
John Tavares' 1st NHL Hat Trick: Apparently Patrick Flatley criticized JT's defensive zone play in the post-game, but Tavares was on for one goal against and three goals for that he busted his tail to get: The first from sniffing out the puck in a low-slot scramble, the second off a nice deflection of James Wisniewski's point shot, pulling Vokoun out of set position, and the third from his "office" of sorts, emerging from Vokoun's left to gather a rebound and slip it around a sprawling Vokoun. Nice work for the kid, who came to play and deserved a better result on this milestone night. JT will never be a Selke winner -- that's Frans Nielsen's job -- but the defensive failings tonight were a team effort.
The Refs: The Islanders lost this game on its own merits, but that was one comical display of officiating when Zenon Konopka was called for goaltender interference when he didn't even make contact with Tomas Vokoun (rather, he hit the side of the net). And on the ensuing third-period powerplay -- which the Isles ultimately killed -- DiPietro was bowled into in his crease with nary a blink from the refs. Dear refs: If you're trying to prove a point, per chance you prove it at both ends of the rink?
Jack Hillen: Returned and played 13:36 TOI -- roughly what you'd expect given his place in the pecking order right now, on neither special team unit. EV partner Milan Jurcina played 15:18, including his usual four minutes on the PK.
MSG+3K Coming to You from North Korea (h/t Anarcurt): Not sure what caused them to air Bill Torrey's 2001 tribute from the Isles instead of the live 2010 tribute by the Panthers. Personally, I'd have preferred to see today's version. At least they had a fun interview with Bowtie during the intermission, with Howie probing him once again for who Sam Pollack offered for Denis Potvin before that fateful draft, and "Final Piece" Butch Goring not hiding his appreciation that The Architect didn't build his dynasty solely through the draft.
First Goal Pool
The winner of our first official First Goal Pool -- coming within a minute of johnny on the spot accuracy -- is MTBVibe with his pick of Tavares at 10:25. So he stakes the first lead in the race for total consciousness on one's death bed.
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I don't have a plus/minus per se, so I'll leave that to you all. The Penguins lost in OT in St. Louis -- stoned by Jaroslav Halak once again -- so they take sole possession of first place in the Atlantic. It was a missed opportunity for another early season win (or at least a regulation tie point), so this one hurts. Several days to stew it over before Wednesday in Montreal, when Josh Bailey should be back.