If you stayed up late to watch this one but gave up after a boring 40 minutes -- or if you missed it thanks to cable companies behaving badly -- you missed a few things in the final third. But mostly you missed the wrong kind of interesting.
It was 1-1 on some broken goals at the second intermission, but in the third the Ducks and Islanders traded hair-raising moments with the game on the line, each goal following what one might call a spiritual if not literal momentum shift.
Just over six minutes into the third, the Islanders narrowly withstood a strong, dangerous shift from the Ducks' first line (foreshadowing!) and followed it up by putting the John Tavares line out. JT delivered: Matt Moulson started it with a hard shot on goal, the puck went to the right wing side on Tavares' backhand. Two Ducks collapsed on Tavares, leaving Kyle Okposo open in the slot to bang Tavares' pass home into a largely empty net.
After another tough shift in their zone, the Islanders draw a powerplay. Chance to put the game in the bag, right? Ride this lead against a depressed opponent and build the first four-game win streak of the year? Well close, but then not quite.
P.A. Parenteau had two golden chances denied on that powerplay -- once outright robbed by Jonas Hiller -- and then Bobby Ryan followed it up by turning Andrew MacDonald inside out to tie the game at 2-2 on a shortie (not quite as amazing as Ryan's playoff goal against Nashville, but then he didn't see the need to beat A-Mac three times on the same play).
That's okay though: Tavares followed that deflating moment by splitting the Ducks defense and drawing another penalty. Islanders powerplay again. Chance for Parenteau to convert and redeem?
Again, no: This time, Parenteau committed an avoidable tripping penalty on Corey Perry (who wisely baited him by shielding the puck with his body right as Parenteau reached in). That paved the way for a classic "same ice, different page" scenario from Milan Jurcina and Mark Eaton during the 4-on-4: Eaton followed Perry behind the net into harmless territory long after Perry dropped the puck to Ryan Getzlaf. Jurcina was late to realize that Eaton had just vacated a huge chunk of prime real estate, and Getzlaf merely waltzed in unaccompanied and lifted a fantastic backhand over Evgeni Nabokov.
Teemu Selanne finished it off with a rebound Nabokov probably should have stopped, but the Ducks made like it's 2010 and had their first line beat the Isles, with the Isles blueline providing an inviting assist.
The Islanders' quality players did some things that would've helped them win this game, and you could argue they played well enough to win on the whole. But their familiar weak points -- and an off-night for normally reliable P.A. Parenteau -- had them fall prey to the 14th place team from the other conference.
But you knew that was entirely possible. And I've exhausted my exhaustion over the blueline. Who knows, Dylan Reese is up in non-emergency fashion now, so maybe he gets a look tomorrow.
The Isles pick it up again tomorrow in Phoenix, the back end of a back-to-back against a better team than they faced tonight.
The Other Goal: Matt Martin got the first Islanders goal, a nice don't-give-up effort with a funny ending (Hiller didn't realize it was lying on the goal line until too late). Josh Bailey doesn't get an assist on the play but his presence was also important in keeping the Ducks from fishing the loose puck out before Martin (or Hiller's glove) got just enough.
Marty Reasoner left the game after blocking a shot on his first shift of the second period (after 4:36 TOI), so there is a chance injury will add to fatigue in the challenges that Glendale will pose. Jack Capuano said afterward it is a broken
thumb. [UPDATE: Now it's hand. Perhaps that's even worse. Perhaps I didn't stay at a popular hotel chain express.]
After Reasoner left, Nino Niederreiter saw just four more shifts (mostly with Josh Bailey) and Tim Wallace just three. That was a minor factor -- and the consequence may be more of a factor Saturday night -- but the mistakes that cost the game were described above and can't be blamed on a bench short of its full fourth line.