It is a simple joy in life to watch John Tavares and his line celebrate when things are going right: Tavares with his controlled intensity, P.A. Parenteau with his party-time exuberance, Matt Moulson with laid-back Spicoli joviality.
Tonight things went right and this line's dynamic was in full display.
It started with a gift: Victor Hedman helpfully handled his 2009 draft classmate's shot past a helpless Dwayne Roloson 36 seconds in. It paused when Steven Stamkos fluttered a deflection past Al Montoya, but them Moulson, Tavares and Parenteau reeled off three consecutive goals to decide the game before the first period was over.
There is more to the JT-MM-PAP dynamic, of course, and it's something I think some Islanders fans still underrate: They have complementary on-ice styles. Parenteau is a puck carrier, and he drove the play for that line's goals tonight. Moulson is a boards and front-of-the-net guy, and his Esposito opportunism was in effect when he banged home the rebound on the Islanders' second and game-winning goal.
Tavares is of course the magic man who does a little of all of the above and regularly makes you sit on the edge of your seat; tonight he scored from his office at the doorstep, somehow eluding coverage and being right where the puck was going once again.
Sure, you'd love three top 10 picks on your scoring line, and they are not a world-beating one. But they are dangerous, effective and capable of winning a game with a 10-minute outburst like tonight.
All that said, nights like tonight can be somewhat deceptive: Any time you get a big lead early, the rest of the game is more about managing that lead than about winning straight up 5-on-5 play where the stakes are even. Still, the Islanders managed quite well.
Oh, was that intro all about the top line? There were others tonight. Michael Grabner scored his first, converting the rebound of a 2-on-1 that Kyle Okposo played smartly, sizing up Dwayne Roloson and shooting hard (not hitting the post), leaving food for Grabner to gobble up. That line with Frans Nielsen had an effective night, with Grabner and Nielsen in particular creating havoc on the PK and by getting behind the Lightning defense.
But wait, there's more! Blake Comeau and Josh Bailey had a very nice first period. They had the play in the Lightning zone, each was responsible for some scoring chances, and they generally looked like two talented forwards -- Josh Bailey's spinorama down the right wing was a nice Flash Of Bailey -- instead of two talented enigmas.
Generally, things clicked up and down the lineup tonight in the way you figure the Islanders drew it up this offsason, including Al Montoya standing strong in what eventually became 34 saves. How much was the Lightning's disoriented defense (allowing five goals in their second consecutive game) and how much was the Islanders' skill is never 100% certain. But the Islanders cashed in on what they were given, then didn't let up during the second period, and finally played smart defense in the third. Recipe for victory.
Physicality: Tavares was banged up a bit, by Victor Hedman in the first period on a big check and by Steve Downie (upset at some offense) and Vincent Lecavalier in a corner scrum later on. In response, Matt Martin was delivering hard, controlled hits all around the ice. Travis Hamonic accepted no lip. The troops generally represented; rematches will be interesting. Tavares left the game in the third, but that was said to be due to cramps with the game's outcome no longer in doubt.
After being no guarantee for the season-opening roster, Martin in three games is more the Martin Islanders fans dreamed of than the one some of us feared could not develop getting fourth-line minutes. Bears watching.
Ex-Isles: Roloson was pulled after the fifth goal and was hardly stellar but can hardly be scapegoated for the effort in front of him. Meanwhile, outside of the +1 impressive line of Steve Stamkos, Brett Connolly and Martin St. Louis, there were two other Lightning players who did not finish as minuses ... if you guessed "Bruno Gervais and Marc-Andre Bergeron," you are now in charge of what's left of my retirement fund.
Future Isles: Ryan Strome returns to juniors, plays his first competitive game in over two weeks and gets a hat trick. I care a lot about what happens this year, but holy cow next year and the year after that ... ::glances also at Brock Nelson, Anders Lee::
Also in Niagara:
@islesinfo Tom Mascioli
Mitchell Theoret recorded a Gordie Howe hat trick tonight for the Niagara IceDogs. (goal, assist, fight). He’s 2-5-7 in 8 GP on ssn.
Line Matching: The Tavares line explosion came against three separate Lightning lines, though Hedman and Eric Brewer were on for three of them. Jack Capuano used the Nielsen line against Stamkos for the first half of the night, which was the matchup when Stamkos got that lone Lightning goal. When Grabner scored, he and Okposo victimized the Dominic Moore-Adam Hall line. The Nielsen line was outshot with their tough assignment, but never looked too threatened. When the score was out of hand a ndthe line matching became less dedicated, the Nielsen & Co. got to have some offensive fun. But I suspect the scoring chance data will show their best opportunities were while a man down. To paraphrase Nielsen, you know Frans and Grabner: That what they do.
In Which It's Okay to Celebrate
Our Plus/Minus thread of instant post-game reaction is here, where you'll find gems like the one from Hey Hanrahan where John Tavares is now 50th on the all-time Islanders goal list, one behind Comeau. Look out, Blake. And here was our game thread of in-the-moment reaction, if you like to wade through such things.
NYI post-game win salute is pretty cool. Mark Streit’s idea. If u haven’t seen it, players form two lines, stars run gauntlet back on ice.
It was noticed, and appreciated. Here's video of the celebration and more appreciation at Puck Daddy:
No hard feelings, but:
As predicted, many smiles in #Isles room over chasing Roloson. "So happy," PA Parenteau said. "You can write that one down."
Heh. Winning is fun that way.