For the second time in two games, John Tavares did one of those in-a-phone-booth moves around the net for a big Islanders goal. This time it was the OT winner, after the Isles conceded the tying goal with just four seconds left. These are the kind of "from the dots to the goal line" moves he's been known for throughout his hockey career, so it's fun to see him start to flash them more when the opening is given in the NHL. (And it was fitting, too, since the Avs broadcast in these games spends a great deal of time -- at least a segment each period and in pre-game -- contrasting Tavares with the Avalanche first-round pick in 2009.)
The OT winner wasn't just a pretty move though -- he had to fight to gain a loose puck in the corner, throw off his checker with a shoulder move, then drive to the front of the net where the prize, and redemption over Craig Anderson's prone body, awaited those with quick hands in tight. [Note from helpful commenters: Upon further review, the final blow was aided by Matt Hunwick, whose stick-check helped lift it over Anderson.]
The Isles played very conservative in the third to try to hold the lead, and it almost worked. With a lot of chaos and the Avs driving the play -- occasionally yielding counterattacks but never ones that the Isles converted -- Jack Capuano called a timeout with 1:46 left after an Isles icing. That gave the Avs a chance to pull Craig Anderson early, and lots of pressure ensued. Milan Hejduk, who'd scored the opening goal, got the Avs a regulation point just in the nick of time, banging home a rebound as bodies flew this way and that.
That was only Act II in this game though: Kevin Poulin was victimized for two goals in the first 1:47, yet the Islanders powerplay uncharacteristically responded by rallying off three consecutive goals -- two by callup Jeremy Colliton, a guy who returned to the organization this year via PTO and got his callup only yesterday. The first two goals tied it by the 13:00 mark of the first period. The third tally gave them a lead just 3:17 into the second.
Notes from the Afternoon
- Wait, two goals on Kevin Poulin's first three shots ... and they didn't pull him? What's going on? Philosophy change? (I kid.)
- In all seriousness, Poulin rebounded admirably. The second goal, a hard screened shot that redirected off David Koci's knee, he had no chance on. Overall, I liked Poulin's movement and tracking of the puck -- better even than in Edmonton, where he stopped all 19 shots.
- Have to like the way the Isles battled back immediately after giving up that early 2-0 lead. Even though you have the proverbial "lots of time, guys" ahead of you, that's the kind of opening that can turn into a laugher really quickly. Thanks to some powerplay work and a great shot by Blake Comeau, we were spared that fate.
- JEREMY COLLITON! In the land of responsible guys with some wheels, I always had a hope he might stick in his first go-around in the organization. In this second go-around which started with a PTO at Bridgeport, it's nice to see him come up and immediately have a big game, even if it's purely a short-term stint.
- And then there was 19:56: It feels like it's been a while since the Isles had a kick-to-the-pants, last-second lead slip through their hands. (I know, in part that's because the Isles haven't been in a winning position much.) So those things will happen, and every once in a while you're able to reverse them with a sneaky OT winner.
- TOI leaders: Andrew MacDonald with 27:56, Jack Hillen with 26:39, Milan Jurcina with 24:06, Travis Hamonic with 23:57. Overall, the Islanders put in a good four-line effort and their top four defense held up -- a nice display in the wake of all these injuries.
- Seriously, that Tavares move was sick. He had zero room to cut back to the front of the net past Kevin Shattenkirk, yet he appeared there like some sort of shape-shifter.
Suddenly, this is a winning road trip, no matter what happens tomorrow evening in Chicago.