Goalless, but JT was alive and working tonight.
The Islanders rebounded from giving up the first goal, took the lead twice (and gave it up twice), survived a lengthy 4-on-3 OT powerplay, and missed out on the bonus point offered by the NHL's "The People Demand a Winner" shootout regime in 27-year-old Nathan Lawson's NHL debut. Lawson didn't look good in the shootout -- and had a great stick-breaking to underline his frustration going 0 for 3 -- but he made 32 saves to help get them there.
It was actually a very solid three-period effort from the Islanders. They outshot the Coyotes 30-25 at even strength and 26-24 at 5-on-5. The refs were involved all night, handing out powerplays to both sides like their Christmas bonus depended on it.
On the special teams front, both teams were impressive and picked up one powerplay goal each -- though the Coyotes' PK was simply admirable, their aggressive forwards giving the Islanders fits in their own zone on multiple occasions. Still, each time the Isles remembered you have to move your feet on the PP breakout too and got the puck into the Phoenix zone, they were fairly good at moving the puck around and had Jason LaBarbera and his 12 shorthanded saves to thank for not letting them have more.
Notes to Distract from the Stupid Shootout...
...or as MTBVibe put it: "The traditional fan-pleasing exercise to randomize the Bettman Point."
- Jesse Joensuu! Just when we were wondering where he'd been in this game, he takes a beautifully insightful John Tavares cross-ice pass, waits a beat to freeze LaBarbera, then fires it top shelf with authority. That tied the game at 1-1 in the 2nd. Minutes later, he made a nice foray to the top of the slot and sent a pass against the grain, which Michael Grabner redirected into the net (legally) with his skate.
- Frans Shootout Automatic '76. In the house tonight. Rob Schremp, on the Isles second attempt, eluded the poke check bu shot just wide.
- And to complete the JJ-Frans line, nice to see Grabner get some good fortune -- although redirecting that puck in with his skate took some skill and awareness.
- No goals, but that great assist and a lot of creative play from John Tavares tonight.
- Killing 4-on-3's is just brutal, especially when the opposition PP knows what it's doing. The Isles benefited from some posts on the OT kill (obligatory goalie rebuttal: Posts are shots gone wide!) and were victimized a couple of times by the same tic-tac-toe cross the slot play, but they worked their arse off surviving it -- and with Andrew MacDonald in the box. Milan Jurcina made some big plays and blocks. Frans was Frans.
- Hit Parade: Five hits from Matt Martin, who took a penalty and drew a penalty, and five from Jurcina.
- Third Line: Trevor Gillies had his fight with BizNasty. Martin got the most work of the three (8:57). Capuano is definitely using Zenon Konopka less than Gordon: 7:58 total, though 2:19 on the PK. He is still using him as a faceoff guy (7-4), just nowhere near as often as Gordon did.
- Lawson: He was really strong in some goalmouth flurries and he used his size well. His rebounds created a few opportunities you don't want to see, including on the tying goal which bounced right to Martin Hanzal with 1:28 left. However, without a good replay, I'm not sure if he should have known Hanzal was there, as typically a rebound shooting out at that angle isn't in harm's way. Maybe the goalies can speak up on that one. Not sure if the original shot deflected on the way and thus took Lawson a little out of position, but in any case he wasn't able to get over in time to block the gaping net facing Hanzal. All in all, solid NHL debut for him, undermined by a disappointing ending.
- Shootout: About that disappointing ending, he was beaten on a deke once and on two straight-up shots from the slot. The deke was Frans-ish, the game-winner was well-placed up high. The other one wasn't so brilliant, a five-hole off the ice by Shane Doan.
I actually don't have a lot to say; unusual, I know. Fun game, heartbreaking end. Important that the Isles salvaged a point against a hungry Western team that was trying to avoid going 0-for-3 in the metro area.