"Hi...how ya' doin'?"
Without Michael Grabner and with a skeleton-thin crew on defense, the Islanders mounted a brief feel-good third-period comeback to tie the Devils at 2-2 thanks to the usual suspect known as Frans Nielsen (one shorthanded Backhand of Judgment, one fortunate carom as part of a pack of Islanders crashing the net). Alas just 1:20 later, the Devils took an odd-man rush up ice that set up Andy Greene with an uncontested shot from the top of the circle, which beat Rick DiPietro stick side. That was the difference.
The final goal looked like a great shot to me (and to both the Isles and Devils color men, for whatever that's worth), but it elicited the expected RDP anger in our game thread. Personally, I thought DiPietro looked shaky side-to-side again tonight, especially in the first half, and I'd fault him for the first two goals more than I would for that one.
Whatever issue the Islanders had from the previous meeting with David Clarkson, they appeared to get that out of the way as Zenon Konopka fought him early (and lost). I trust it was in accordance with the hockey code. More significantly, Konopka -- who is battling tendinitis in the knee -- went down hard into the boards and appeared to wrench his knee or ankle in the third period. But he did return to win the final minute faceoff, and the TOI sheet says he stayed for that whole final shift. Still, his situation bears watching.
The fighting didn't end there, as Matt Martin fought some Leach a few minutes later. Then after that, Martin and Clarkson went back in the box with mutual roughing calls after Clarkson interfered with Martin and they won't went down hard, with Clarkson adding extra arm-to-the-face English.
- The powerplay looked inert in minimal opportunities (0-2), which wasn't too surprising. It's almost as if the Isles are more dangerous on the PK -- even with Grabner out for the birth of his child -- so when Mark Katic got a phantom double-minor for high-sticking, Nielsen naturally stepped up with his seventh shorty of the season, which ties Bob Bourne's club record.
- On the first Devils goal, Ilya Kovalchuk was perhaps allowed too much space to get open high in the slot by Radek Martinek (although that's what snipers do), but to me DiPietro was just as guilty for cheating by sliding far side, allowing Kovalchuk to convert low on the near side. The other goal came off a rebound where DiPietro looked behind him, still standing, for a puck that had bounced out in front where Jacob Josefson eaily slamming it home.
- Trevor Gillies skated 5:15 and -- I know this will shock national pundits -- did not kill anyone.
- In the absence of, well, just about everyone on D, Jack Hillen (23:40) and Radek Martinek (22:16) were the TOI leaders. The AHL pairing of Mark Katic and Dylan Reese were kept to a relatively sheltered 15 minutes each, with Reese on the ice for Nielsen's tying goal. Ty Wishart looked alright next to Travis Hamonic, though Wishart did have a comical wipeout when he was pinching in and an Isles winger's pass went behind him. Play went the other way, but no damage done.
- Once again, Nielsen's line with Kyle Okposo was by far the best, and though he was no Grabner Matt Martin held his own there. Okposo's toe drag nearly worked to tie the game again at 3-3, and he had an effective game overall.
- Not so for the other lines. The John Tavares and Josh Bailey lines each had a couple of scoring chances but nothing too remarkable. For the Tavares line, Brian Rolston, Danius Zubrus and Patrik Elias did a solid job keeping them in check in a night-long matchup.
Fun Combo of the Night: The final minute with the goalie pulled didn't produce anything too hopeful, though it was interesting seeing Jack Capuano use the all-forward unit of Tavares, Konopka, P.A. Parenteau, Matt Moulson, Frans Nielsen and Blake Comeau to try and salvage the tying goal.
I Like Shorties: Nielsen now has nine career shorthanded goals. Butch Goring had 18 in his Islanders career. (Bourne had 16 as an Islander.)
FIG Winner: Cheers to kfallon2, who picked Nielsen and won via time tiebreaker for his first FIG of the year.
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Next Up: So, I didn't think they looked fatigued tonight -- the stats hint at a fairly evenly played game -- but some thought it was an ugly effort save for Nielsen's third-period push. I don't know; looked like a typical Devils game. Regardless, they best not be tired tomorrow, because that's when they "welcome" the Rangers in a game the Rangers need to feel comfortable, since they were shutout by Buffalo's backup last night while Carolina won to pull back within three points.