Before tonight we talked of Cam Ward stealing games for Carolina, and he certainly stole this one. At his opposite end, Al Montoya made his share of good saves -- and the Isles defense suffered their share of wild scrambles -- but Ward was stopping prime Islanders scoring chances all night, usually with his glove but generally with whatever limb was available. A big of misfortune cost the Islanders a 2-1 lead with just 4:37 left, and a back-and-forth OT ended in favor of the Canes' playoff hopes and the Islanders' lottery odds.
Matt Moulson was robbed by Ward's glove on a PP chance that would have made it 3-1 in the third, but Michael Grabner was Ward's most frequent victim, with nine shots including two clear breakaways. A factor all over the ice, Grabner still factored in both Islanders goals, getting the assist on one and scoring the other. Grabner's fellow Calder candidate Jeff Skinner made an outstanding play to set up Joni Pitkanen's OT winner.
The Islanders didn't exactly sit on their 2-1 lead in the third, but they were certainly guilty of running around their own zone as the Canes pressed for an equalizer. So even though the tying goal by Eric Cole was made possible by the ref blocking Frans Nielsen's route and popping the puck free, the Isles could've given up a goal anywhere else in that scramble if not for Montoya or good bounces.
Notes from a fourth road OT loss in five
- Seriously, nine shots for Grabner. He was all over the place. It started with two early passes that sprung him for breakaways, one a great thread from Kyle Okposo. That announced his presence and speed to those in Carolina who forgot about the All-Star Skills competition. Then he moved to outside chances and trailing the play, such as the one-timer he received from Frans Nielsen, which Nielsen collected on the rebound with a Danish Backhand from Impossible Angle. Finally, he scored his goal with a backhand rebound of Travis Hamonic's shot.
- Okposo did his usual good things but had just an okay game. He was guilty of being caught from behind and stripped of the puck on two plays that could have otherwise been scoring chances for a teammate. He also very nearly won the game in OT shortly before it went the other way. I know there are no perfect hockey games.
- Milan Jurcina and to a lesser extent Bruno Gervais were victimized by great cross-ice passing on the Hurricanes' first goal, which made it 1-0. That pairing continues to be the one that tests my cardiac health the most. But I don't know that the current collection of six D offers a better way to distribute everyone.
- The Islanders outshot the Hurricanes 30-19 through two periods and played well enough to earn several calls that went their way. But they again went 0 for 4 on the powerplay, and they fell victim to the Hurricanes' desperate and much-needed late push, which saw the shot tally level off to 37-35 by the end of the game.
- Montoya was doing a pretty good job shutting the door and the D was clearing the rebounds, though not all the way out. The tying goal wasn't Montoya's fault -- bang-bang pass from behind the net to right in front. He may have been too deep in the crease on Pitkanen's OT winner, but it was a brilliant postage stamp shot, and Radek Martinek and Jack Hillen had a miscommunication in the corner to Montoya's right that led to the turnover and goal.
- Quiet night on the scoresheet, but John Tavares continues to flash bits of incisive passing and elusiveness that makes me really really happy we'll get to watch him for a really long time.
- Ice muncher: Andrew MacDonald, with 27:40, looked like a guy who'd played that much by the time OT rolled around.
Standings and Lottery Implications
Again, the Hurricanes had to have this one. It brings them into a tie with 8th-place Buffalo (76 points each), but the Sabres have two games in hand. The Rangers one to go up to 80 points. Behind the Canes, Toronto and Atlanta have just 72, while New Jersey lost again to stay at 70.
For the Isles, the failure to close out means they remain one point (66) behind tomorrow's opponent, Florida. Edmonton is safely behind them in 30th with 55 points, and I don't think Ottawa or Colorado will catch them without a stark change in form. So the Isles and Florida may be tossing 26th (and the fourth or fifth overall lottery position) back and forth, unless New Jersey's realization that the dream is over leads them to descend back to normal.
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FIG Winner: Cheers to neologizer, who selected Nielsen with the closest time. (No one got the assists right.)
P.S.: Bob Wage and the gang at Canes Country have nice access, so check out their recap with post-game clips from the Canes perspective, if you're interested.
Up Next: As mentioned, the Panthers await at home with rest. And will it be the return of Rick DiPietro?