Games dominated from start to finish sure are fun, are they not? Not that this one was a monstrous demolition, but the Islanders controlled the first period, got the needed saves from Al Montoya to make Kyle Okposo's solo power-finese move and Blake Comeau's first of two goals last, and then continued pecking away throughout the next 40 minutes. The only life showed by the Wild outside of the occasional Clutterbuck -- and Staubitz-Konopka fight in Clutterbuck's stead -- was a brief spurt after they got their lone goal with under nine minutes left in regulation.
Comeau's goals (his 16th and 17th) came on a pretty passing play with Frans Nielsen and a fortunate bounce after Comeau crashed the net, but he could have two more through similar "good habits lead to good things" opportunities. Okposo's, which made it 2-0, was a simple power move to shield Marek Zidlicky from the puck, followed by a highlight reel move -- if highlight-makers were aware of the Isles -- with which Okposo slipped the puck through a series of wickets named Zidlicky and Backstrom.
And yet, despite all that, it may have been the pointless John Tavares who had the most exciting night, as he danced, deked and dangled his way into several scoring opportunities that luck frowned upon.
*indicates winning. Duh!
Notes from the Penthouse
Of potential significance: Trevor Gillies, in his first game back from suspension, was tossed from the game for a checking from behind that was not actually a check from behind. Cal Clutterbuck -- he of the start it, let someone else finish it persuasion -- checked Justin DiBenedetto from behind. Gillies' over-the-top retaliation was to smash Clutterbuck into the boards with an attempted shoulder check (
which is fine actually, upon further review, that was never going to be a shoulder check), but he got his arms up into Clutterbuck's head (which is not fine), apparently making Clusterbuck momentarily woozy. (Clutterbuck would return to incite more later, and get a 10-minute himself after a late but from-the-front hit, again on DiBenedetto, which led to Zenon Konopka's retaliation and a fight with Brad Staubitz.) In the incident that got Gillies tossed, Clusterbuck received a two-minute boarding call for his checking from behind, but the Islanders killed off the resulting three-minute penalty without incident.
To be honest, I don't know why Clusterbuck got 10 there, just like I don't know why Zeke got 10 earlier. Probably they were both yapping at the ref.
Gillies is an easy disciplinary target -- you could hear the ref shout "you're gone" almost with satisfaction like he believed the ignorant press about the Isles after the Penguins' game -- so in Heckuva Job Colie's world I can see anything happening, especially with the NHL suddenly finding Jesus about contact with the head. But Clutterbuck's hit broke an even older golden hockey rule: Do not check from behind. No, seriously: DO NOT CHECK FROM BEHIND. For someone who hits a lot, you'd think that part of the drill would be rote for Cluster by now. Alas, as all he got was a minor, and as he rarely drops the gloves to answer for playing constantly on the edge (that's a euphemism for "I don't bodycheck to separate man from puck, I hit to hurt people, regardless of where the puck is"), I've got nothing more to say other than: That's the NHL for you, circa 2011.
UPDATE: On that note, the national pile-on has already begun, with none other than Mike Milbury and Keith Jones -- those bastions of clean play -- leading the charge on Versus. I've no patience for any of it, frankly. (time to dredge up the Pens game and strip it of all context, once again, from those who haven't watched any Isles games this season). I've made my case on how the NHL enables this stuff and lets it fester, then enforces "discipline" in random bursts. It's not worth more of my time or energy for a league that won't help itself.
Other Bits with Pretty Bullets:
- The other Islanders goal not mentioned thus far was an Andrew MacDonald powerplay slapshot that made it 4-0, and made the Islanders' PP 2-for-3 on the night. (Comeau's first, which also involved a sweet give-and-go from Josh Bailey with Nielsen, was the other PP marker.)
- The Islanders' PK was good, though not very tested by the Wild tonight. Even AHL call-ups Ty Wishart and Mark Katic saw a bit of time on the PK, and both continue to have guardedly promising introductions. They are both clearly adjusting to the NHL, but it's still fun to see them have little "a-ha" moments where they do well, or show lessons learned.
- While leading the whole game, the Isles also continued to outshoot the Wild, finishing 41-34. The NHL.com recap points out this is the 56th time the Wild have been outshot this season.
- I've seen the Wild a few times this season (in much better performances), and our own David Hanssen has seen them much more, and neither of us can remember them looking this bad. Still, the Islanders sure did their part to step on the throttle and not let up.
- Montoya had a very nice game with a few particularly memorable saves among his 33 -- a full-stretch glove save is always pleasing to the eye. But it wouldn't be a 2010-11 Islanders game if we didn't get a late scare when he took a shot up high near the collarbone area. He finished the game, but I swear I thought we were inches from goalie injury #382 on the season.
- Seriously, the Nielsen - Okposo - Michael Grabner line continued to do their dominating thing, but I was most entertained by Tavares, who looked like he was back in the OHL with the sneaky creativity and elusive moves he was pulling off. It's the stuff you don't get away with when a team sees you six times a year, but it was the stuff that few players can even do multiple times in one game in the NHL. Tavares is still 20, by the way.
- FIG Winner: Icelanders, the only one to pick Comeau. (How quickly we lose faith.) Thanks to everyone for putting their picks in that FanShot. I thought it worked out well. Thoughts?
- LATE UPDATE: Update of the night from Katie Strang: "Line of the night? Frans Nielsen on his 3-assist performance. "'I though I played like s*** tonight.'"
The one bonus about playing spoiler in a late-season game like this is when you know the other team in a playoff chase looks at this as a "must-have." The whole psychology of "If we can't beat the 28th-ranked team when it counts, how do we deserve to be a playoff team?" sets in. The Wild have a chance to redeem themselves tomorrow at the Garden, but it's fun knowing the Isles were in no mood to hand out points for someone else's tenuous playoff hopes, despite being at the end of their own back-to-back in front of a quiet mid-week interconference crowd.
After dropping four hard-fought one-goal games in a row, running away with a win from start to finish was just the release they needed.