It's not that the Islanders as a collective necessarily deserved a better result than a 5-3 loss to the Sabres, it's that it was on balance a well-played game by both sides, with luck going the Sabres way. The Islanders goofed by conceding a goal just 15 seconds into the game -- but they were also victim to Dylan Reese outright swatting the Sabres' second goal in past Rick DiPietro, and Josh Bailey's skate pushing the Sabres' fourth goal home.
Those are self-inflicted, to be sure, but not a reflection of how well the Islanders played the rest of the game, generating several periods of offensive pressure from three -- count 'em, three -- lines as they tried to back. Kyle Okposo is by no means in mid-season form, but his fury in puck battles along the boards helped fuel the Frans Nielsen-Michael Grabner line, just one example of having nine forwards capable of creating offense.
As for the other storylines surrounding the club: The Isles announced Nathan Lawson is out 1-2 weeks with an MCL strain. Meanwhile, Evgeni Nabokov spoke with Pierre LeBrun (presumably he did not hang up) to give his curious side of the story. During the game, Katie Strang reported that Garth Snow had indeed reached Nabokov, and Charles Wang had tried to speak with him, too. Ultimately though, Nabokov told LeBrun he "thinks" he's staying put. Check out a good "what it all means" take by Chris Botta at Point Blank.
As discussed in our earlier thread on the topic, Nabokov can complain about just wanting to join Detroit, but that sure shows a naiive understanding of how this was likely to go down. Meanwhile, you can't fault the Islanders for using the rules to try to improve their club -- and win games now. (That's what people want, right?) That particular strategy is how they have both Grabner and Rob Schremp, incidentally.
- Twice the Islanders tied it up, at 1-1 and at 2-2. Then the Sabres' third goal came via powerplay thanks to some tough luck -- Josh Bailey was in the box for a high stick that occurred while he was hitting the ice. That wouldn't have been insurmountable, particularly with how the Islanders were attacking for much of the game. But then came the insurance goal, after DiPietro made a save, Bailey was skidding into the crease to help, and Bailey's skate knocked the puck just over the line. The call on the ice was no goal, but replay review conclusively overturned it.
- Matt Moulson was the author of both tying goals -- though John Tavares and Frans Nielsen (on the first) and P.A. Parenteau (on the second) played major parts, too. The MM/JT/PAP line was flying for much of the night.
- ...But perhaps not with the wild abandon of the Grabner-Nielsen-Okposo line. JPinVA called that line Berserker in the game thread, and that works for me. (Got other ideas?)
- Those two goals put Moulson back up to 17 on the season. This goal race with Tavares isn't over after all.
- Hard not to appreciate Nathan Gerbe do a whole lot out there with his small frame. He got the powerplay goal, which was pretty much a gimme shot, but he did a whole lot more than that.
- Unlike the previous game (Isles-Sabres, Chapter II) where Jack Capuano rolled four lines, today he leaned much more heavily on the top three. Part of that was the comeback attempt, I'm sure, but it was effective, with lots of pressure and the occasional energy/bang-bodies shift from the fourth line.
- With the Islanders pressuring to come back in the third, and the Sabres doing a bend-don't-break job of holding on, yet another goalmouth scramble looked like it would end without satisfaction. Cue Grabner corralling the puck and feeding Jack Hillen up high, who sent in the Islanders' third goal with 3:23 left. We still had a game (until the empty-net goal by Jason Pominville with 24 seconds left, after a bouncing puck eluded Andrew MacDonald at the point).
- Hillen looked good today, as he has quite a bit recently. Old Jack may be back. He actually has three even-strength goals in his last seven games (and five points in his last nine), so it's a nice little run for him, too.
- Dylan Reese, on the other hand, seems to have a couple of fatal mistakes per game lately. The own goal is the kind of thing that can happen to anyone, honestly, but it looks bad along with the Mr. Bean string of gaffes he's had recently. The Reese-Bruno Gervais pairing always makes me nervous, but it's probably an unfair combo for either of them.
- Goaltending: Thanks in part to the constant need to come back, and in part to the Isles' impressive pressure, the Isles took the shot count 34-23. Although he allowed four of those 22 shots (the 23rd was the ENG) I can't fault DiPietro for any of them, really. It was that kind of game. At the other end, Ryan Miller was strong in facing a barrage. All three of the Isles' goals came off sustained pressure.
- So the Sabres salvage one from this three-game (in nine days) miniseries. That's probably fair for how the three games went. I imagined the memory of the prior two losses had them thinking no way no how were they blowing it when they had a 4-2 lead with 10 minutes left in the third.
To the Jackass or Jackasses Who Threw Change on the Ice (Not that you're reading this. Not that you can read.): Whether you are an Islanders fan or a Sabres fan, you are absolute scum. Forget what effect it might have on the game -- you are endangering people's careers. If you don't understand the danger this poses, then you're an unfortunate idiot. If you do understand, well you're just scum, plain and simple.
FIG Winner: By my count TMC gets the FIG for choosing Moulson at 17:50, which is closes to the actual goal at 21:15 of the game.