File this under "unexpected." The Kings, lossless (regulation-wise) in their last 11, were finishing a road trip so it's understandable that they might have a bit of a final-game letdown. Still, for Al Montoya -- he of the five total NHL games before this year at age 26 -- to shutout the Kings is, well, both remarkable and cool.
The home shutout in front of a reported 13,119 also featured another shorthanded goal from Frans Nielsen (his fifth), plus two goals from Matt "Quick Brother-in-Law" Moulson assisted by linemates John Tavares and P.A. Parenteau, adding fat to all three of their top-of-the-team scoring totals.
On one hand, defeating a Western team at the end of a long road trip is just what you'd expect in their "getaway" game. On the other hand, the Islanders are more competitive than they ever were before December 16, and games like this, anchored by forward lines like that, are what we can hope for as the final 20+ games play out.
The Islanders were outshot 35-23 -- too much to rationalize purely through their holding the lead most of the game -- and worse, outshot at even strength 29-16.
I find Montoya's situation to be intriguing, and no matter what happens to him, his post-game quotes sum it up well:
"I come out here to give this team a chance," he said. "I don't want nerves to get the best of me. I left it all on the ice, and that was my mindset coming into the game.
"I'm appreciating the chance I'm getting. Who knows when the next chance will be? You just go out there and leave it all on the ice again. This is day-to-day for me. I'm enjoying it and I'm thankful to this organization -- but at the same time, I know what I'm capable of doing. I just have to go out and do it."
- Frans Nielsen and Michael Grabner: I mean, what magic is this? They are nails at even strength, and they are dangerous on the PK, too. Seeing them set each other up -- not just for Nielsen's goal, but for multiple other shorthanded chances -- is simply a joy to watch, the kind of thing that reminds me why I love this game.
- Seriously, nice well-earned shutout for Montoya. This game could have turned had he bent, or broken, in any of the three periods when the Kings were trying to mount a comeback. Cheers to him and...thank you sir, may I have another?
- Ty Wishart, back in the lineup, and I liked his game tonight. It should be fun the rest of the season to see him go up and down, evolving into a candidate for next season.
- Frans Nielsen and Alexei Ponikarovsky with off-setting roughing minors. I can't think of a more unlikely penalty scenario, frankly.
- Moulson and the brother-in-law story: We joke about it because they mention it all the time, but if you watch the game highlights clip above, you'll see not only Moulson scoring twice on Quick but also (I think) their wives, who are sisters, reacting to the scenes.
- Not to belabor this point, but Kyle Okposo's return and Grabner's emergence helps the Isles have three threatening lines. When the goaltending and defense hold serves, that means they have a halfway decent shot at one or two lines converting on any given night. Tonight it was the #1 line, plus Frans-Grabner on the PK. Little by little, we're seeing the pieces needed to build a team come together.
- With 51 points in 56 games, John Tavares is now the league's 21st-leading scorer. Just saying.
- He has more points at the moment than Jeff Carter, Mike Richard, Danny Briere and Joe Thonrton. Just saying.
- FIG winner: It's too late for me to sort through and find the FIG winner now, but on the 'morrow...
Next game is a Presidents Day matinee Monday, 1 p.m., hosting the Panthers. Plan your time off work now.