The Islanders have lost three regulation games in a row, and that isn't good. Their 5-on-5 offense, an issue the last two-plus seasons, continues to struggle, requiring bailout from their third-overall-ranked powerplay, which came up empty for just the second time this season. But if you're looking for trends in this three-game losing streak, I'd venture that the Isles played far better tonight than they did Wednesday in Montreal, and better than one if not both games in Florida. Certainly the turnover parade came to an end.
In terms of possession, the Isles actually took more shot attempts than the Habs in every period, finishing at 74-50 on the night. However, that included lots of missed shots, blocked shots -- the kind of signs that luck and finishing isn't happening tonight. The turning points were a blown 5-on-3 where they overpassed and suffered the bounces of the Coliseum ice, plus the Canadiens game-winning goal with 12:41 left, on an alley-oop pass that took advantage of a poor forecheck by John Tavares-Matt Martin-P.A. Parenteau.
Speaking of Martin, despite that goal against (he was late getting back to cover the third man high, but it was Tavares' forecheck decision that created a loooong route for Martin to get all the way back), Martin had a much better game than his season debut Wednesday night.
Martin got his first NHL goal of course (a go-to-the-net tap-in off a pass from Frans Nielsen behind the net); but he also brought the physical element you expect, putting Hal Gill on his seat twice and predictably, eventually drawing enough ire from Gill for the two to have a fight at the end of the second period. If he has a chance right now to turn "emergency recall" into something more lasting, tonight was a good start. Tomorrow in Philadelphia provides another opportunity.
Scott Gordon Post-Game: 'We did a tremendous job of creating confusion'
- The Bruno Gervais as Forward lark experiment went fine for its whole 6:08. He provided some speed and responsibility on the fourth line, and certainly Trevor Gillies wasn't going to find a dance partner in the Habs lineup had he played. Not that that experiment will last anyway; Rob Schremp is on his way back after a night versus Manchester. (Bridgeport won in OT on a Travis Hamonic goal, by the way.)
- By the end of the game Gervais had a shift on defense though, as Milan Jurcina left the ice in the third and didn't return.
- Big scare with Matt Moulson leaving the ice after a shot off the wrist. He came back though. He's a hockey player.
- Despite JT's debatable decision on the winning goal, he was everywhere tonight. He created chances aplenty, really had the Habs running around at times. Hit the post once, distributed passes from those "OMG there?" JT angles. Such luck will happen; tonight's absence from the scoresheet was not a sign of poor play. He was minus-2 though...but the third goal was a great deflection far from his hands.
- Dwayne Roloson was fine. Not a game-saver obviously (the winner was another open shot from the high slot, deja vu), but not the scapegoat. Rick DiPietro starts tomorrow's game.
- Jon Sim and Zenon Konopka started off the game looking to cause a ruckus, being a little too free with the silly stuff around Alex Auld after the whistle, and Sim got nailed for it. The Habs promptly scored on the powerplay, putting the Islanders behind just 2:42 into the game.
- The powerplay: Last game they scored three times but Gordon thought they were lucky given their zone entrances. Tonight they were 0-for-6 but he thought they were good at creating chances, but poor at finishing (or in some cases even taking) their chances. I agree.
Again, considering they started off behind, I thought they did well -- possession, shot and scoring chance-wise. They recovered from that slow start and created chances where they just missed converting. But they'll need to be even better tomorrow, and unfortunately with this team, that probably depends solely on the powerplay, which had an 0-for night for just the second time this season.