Even throughout 2010-11's promising second half which revived fan hopes, the best runs the Islanders experienced were two three-game win streaks and one four-game win streak -- each featured at least one OT/shootout "win" in the bunch. At no point did they win four of five games in regulation.
After fending off the threat of a spiral as bad as last November and being outscored 11-0 in two games against great teams, the Islanders have entered December, their traditionally cruelest month, having won four of five in regulation and collecting points in six of their last seven, the 1-0 shutout loss to the Devils the only pointless game.
Mind you: Even the Red Wings, dominant all year, already lost six in a row at one point. Streaks obscure truths, and good (or bad) feelings fill the void. But if there's anything to be said for consistent effort, cheers to the Islanders for showing it despite their first rash of injuries of the season.
Other Nice Things about Tonight in Particular
Josh Bailey and Matt Martin on the PK: A big moment may have been just 1:12 into the game, when Frans Nielsen
took was called for a holding penalty. With Michael Grabner already out of the lineup and Nielsen in the box, this put the Isles in danger without their two best penalty killers. No worries. And no shots.
After a good start and penalty kill -- shots were 5-0 for the Isles -- just one breakdown led to the only Lightning goal, on their first shot. Both Frans Nielsen and Kyle Okposo came over to the left wing boards and got caught on the turnover, opening up a clear shot by Brett Clark from the point, finished by a precise tip by Martin St. Louis.
Matt Moulson Returns the Favor: Great board work by Moulson to win the puck and immediately locate John Tavares, streaking through the slot and placing the shot top left corner past Mathieu Garon. With the passes JT has supplied Moulson during his hot run, it was nice to reverse the roles.
Not that Moulson is Stopping: It was late with the game decided, but Moulson kept his scoring streak alive with a fantastic top corner shot himself, on a late powerplay. He's scored in five consecutive games now, though he's been annoying inconsistent by popping four in one game. Sheesh.
Tim Wallace Isles Debut: Great, simple, fundamental game by callup Tim Wallace, who was signed to a fatter AHL salary over the summer to build some real call-up depth and Bridgeport help. Nice retrieval and pass behind the net to Matt Martin, who outhustled and outmuscled Matt "LaFontaine Was My Favorite Ranger" Gilroy for the conversion.
David Ullstrom's 1st NHL Goal: What a fantastic, swift connection between him and Josh Bailey. Ullstrom headman's a carom pass up the left side of the neutral zone to Bailey, who lets the D focus on the 2-on-2 and then ... cleverly drop passes to Ullstrom for the one-timer past Garon. This goal doesn't happen if Wallace isn't streaking up ice to draw the D, either. Bailey immediately grabbed the souvenir puck and, frankly, he could do no wrong on this night.
Milan Jurcina, Down-Low Goal Scorer: Just because that was funny, and its occurring six seconds before the first-period buzzer sure made the night smoother. Another goal made possible by Bailey passing, incidentally.
Al Montoya: Not a busy night with the Isles outshooting 34-24 and controlling huge stretches of play, but he was there when needed.
Capuano on Montoya:
We held a good team to 24 shots tonight, and when we needed the save, Al was big for us."
Montoya on Montoya:
"Great effort all around. I didn't have to face much. They played last night so, I don't think I faced an odd-man rush all night. It makes a goalie's job easy."
The Least Worrisome Slump I Can Remember
Tavares' goal drought ended, but I confess I barely marked the occasion. He's simply been so good lately that his not getting new numbers in his "G" column didn't phase me (and I am not someone who avoids worrying about The Franchise). Different for him though:
"It's great getting chances, but it's about time I started capitalizing on them more frequently," said Tavares, who had five assists in his last two games but hadn't scored a goal since Nov. 5.
Martin on Not Getting Down after the First Goal:
"Someone mentioned before that when we used to get scored on early in a game we would kind of hang our heads, get down on the bench and feel like the game was over," Martin said. "Tonight, (when) they scored, we felt like we were in control of the game. We just stuck with it, kept playing hard and got a couple of bounces and put the puck in the net."
The Other Guys, and The Other Teams
It takes two to make a lopsided game, and the Lightning played their part:
"We've done great things lately," he said. "Tonight was a horrible game – the first horrible game in a long time. We haven't played one good back-to-back game in almost two years now. Our team has major trouble in back-to-backs, and it was just another proof tonight."
That brings up another point. The Islanders were dominant against a back-to-back road opponent, and they needed to be. From the Moulson assist to the Bailey-Ullström connection, the Isles outworked and outsmarted the Bolts on multiple occasions in each period. The Lightning have now lost five in a row, all in regulation.
With the win, the Isles are now one standings point behind Tampa Bay with two games in hand. Six points behind eighth-place Ottawa too, but we'll get to that if it ever becomes a factor, since there are five other teams in between and this mini-streak is the first bright stretch of the season.
To sum up: No Michael Grabner, no Andrew MacDonald, no Nino Niederreiter (though to be fair, he's arguably less ready than his replacements), and Mike Mottau and Dylan Reese instead of Mark Eaton ... but still another win -- their best win. Well done. Enjoy.
Note: For the commentariat and the lurkers, much further discussion of this game already in our traditional post-game plus/minus thread. Meanwhile, in our First Islanders Goal race, mike in mi takes the lead.