When goalies play the puck.
Puck management. It's a big deal, win or lose, but being careless when you have the lead is exactly how a struggling team can shoot itself in the foot. It's how they lost the Rangers game in regulation, with Josh Bailey turning it over in the Isles zone on a weak backhand pass to try to spring Matt Martin.
The Islanders nearly did it tonight as well, with Mike Mottau's gut-wrenching turnover pushing what was once a 3-0 lead to 3-2. Fortunately Matt Moulson got one back right away to alleviate the pain, giving the Islanders breathing room in the third, where they refreshingly outshot the Habs 13-8 despite holding the lead and taking two penalties.
You know your fanbase is wounded when the first thought after compiling a 3-0 lead is, "Please don't blow it like you did in Colorado" followed by two goals and "I can't believe you're going to blow it like you did in Colorado."
An opportunistic pass by Rick DiPietro, some magic by John Tavares, and a good shot by Matt Moulson with a fortuitous deflection staved off the doom. For the first time in five games, and just the second in 12, the Islanders are winners again. Enjoy.
Nabokov Gets Injured
Welcome to Islanders Country, Evgeni Nabokov. The picture of an Islander goalie being helped off to the corner gate is eerily familiar. Whether he's being "showcased" or just carrying his share of the load, another injury casts a shadow over the 36-year-old's season. He's started eight games and left two due to injury.
This Was Game 16
Scott at Copper & Blue has tracked post-lockout teams' records after 15 games and how their seasons have turned out. Last year's Sabres were the first team to have 12 or fewer points after 15 games and still make the playoffs. The Islanders headed into this game, their 16th, with 11 points. Now they have 13.
The chances of the Islanders reaching their stated goal are not high, but getting back in the conversation is not impossible. (And of course, once you're in the conversation...)
In their favor: A second consecutive solid effort, albeit at home against a team that played and traveled last night.
Not in their favor: The turnovers, the fact a couple of their goals scored were fed in part by fortunate misplays by the Canadiens
Post-Game: DiPietro and Streit
DP dings Fischler on following the Devils. More MSG coverage here.
Pleasantries and Curiosities
Pleasant: Nino Niederreiter got pucks to the net, finished checks, and made a huge shot block with the game late and close. I will take the simple little things from the 19-year-old right now.
Curious: Mike Mottau turning it over in his own zone to the one spot he shouldn't for the goal, then possibly taking DiPietro out on the next goal against. Mottau played 9:50 total. He had zero third-period shifts.
Pleasant: Marty Reasoner backchecking his tail off to save a goal like a good Reasoner should.
Curious: Brian Rolston getting so much critical ice time. He's probably smart and savvy after all these years, but he physically does not appear fit for it.
Pleasant: Travis Hamonic's block at the end of the game, followed by plausibly denying knowledge of the puck's whereabouts as the clock wound dow-oh it was here the whole time!
Pleasant: DiPietro coming in cold, getting the job done, even getting a big assist.
Curious: Two turnovers from overhandling the puck in his first few minutes, as well as what looked to me like continued difficulty or slowness getting up from scrambles.
Curious: Him pulling up earlier in the game on the doorstep one-timer to get a second look. Ironically, it almost worked and you could tell what he was doing -- but is this a guy who should be holding up on his shooting opportunities?
Agonizing: Steve Staios taking a late boarding penalty, leading to a Habs powerplay goal. According to NHL.com he's tied with six others (hey, Andy Sutton!) for the sixth-most minors among NHL defensemen.
But tomorrow's Friday, and the Islanders won. In regulation. Sending the Habs home. Happiness, overdue.