The Islanders were outplayed by the Kings in this one, particularly in a scary second period. But ultimately it came down to a goaltending battle between two of the lowest scoring teams in the league -- a tough slog made possible by NHL officials who sleepwalked through the afternoon as two teams engaged in an increasingly dirty war.
While Evgeni Nabokov made at least one standings point possible with his 34 saves, Mark Streit grabbed the second point with a delightful 1-on-3 rush into the Kings zone, slipping a backhand through Jonathan Quick's legs for the OT winner.
We'll have to check the medical tent before tomorrow's matinee against the Panthers, as several players took knocks in this one: Mark Eaton collided noggins with Anze Kopitar (but took his next shift), Matt Martin smashed his chin on the dasher boards after checking Trevor Lewis (but returned), and Matt Moulson left briefly as well but would log 21:29 and assist on the winner.
With the officials calling nothing except for a random trip and obstruction per side, it could have been worse.
Michael Grabner opened scoring, picking up a redirected Mark Eaton shot and slipping it far side past Jonathan Quick. Quick was good all afternoon. He wasn't tested nearly as often as Nabokov, but he was required to make saves on several good chances, most memorably by Josh Bailey (shorthanded and at even strength) and on a pretty P.A. Parenteau-initiated passing play in the third.
Despite that early lead, the Kings were the ones with the better of play in the first (shots: 12-8) and especially in the second (12-4). The Isles had a lot of breakout passes picked off in their own zone early on. Dangerous passes to get out of the zone are okay if you complete them, but they erred on the side of danger rather than on the side of getting the puck out.
The third was much more even (11-12), every bit as physical, with moments where either team looked like they might steal a winner before getting to Bettman Bonus Point time.
Then in OT, Mark Streit (who was also physical today) ... a beauty [bunch of replay angles here]:
Heh, from the Kings perspective though: Pretty sure that shouldn't be allowed to happen.
* If our updates are right, the Islanders are 8-2-1 when entering the third period tied.
* According to the official stats, the Islanders threw 48 hits and the Kings 41 -- with every Islander except Michael Grabner (who scored the first goal) logging at least one. Gentlemen, inter-conference games are not supposed to be this brutal. Not only do the Isles play tomorrow afternoon at home, but the traveling Kings actually play in Dallas tomorrow afternoon. Credit to both teams for not resorting to energy conservation mode, but yikes, you'll feel it tomorrow.
* On the afternoon they honored Kenny Jonsson (the guy who doesn't like public-speaking but gave heartfelt remarks in the pre-game ceremony), captain and defenseman Mark Streit wins it in OT with a slick rush that would make Jonsson proud. Nice.
* Seriously, Nabokov is in a zone. More calm play under pressure, decreasing the odds that the Kings shot barrage would yield a result. The lone goal was off a nice deflection after Dustin Brown picked up the rebound of a shot and had Andrew Loktionov with him and only Milan Jurcina covering (or trying to cover ... Brown's rebound went off Loktionov's stick and in).
* Brown may have inadvertently set the tone early when he laid out Matt Martin in front of the Islanders bunch. That woke Martin up and also amped up the physical play from both sides. The curve of liberties continued upward and unabated; it was a "let them play" afternoon.
* Jordan Nolan had a nice NHL debut, was robbed late in the first after Evgeni Nabokov held strong on a rebound off the post -- and also did a drive-by elbow to John Tavares' head down low. It was that kind of game.
* Brian Rolston returned to the lineup to log 10:38 next to Matt Martin and Josh Bailey, with a cursory second-unit powerplay appearance and some hits. Bailey logged 14:57 including good PK work, a final regulation shift and brief OT appearance. The search to complete the Bailey-Martin combo continues. Maybe old man Rolston and young prospect Rhett Rakhshani will vie for that spot for a while.
* Trent Hunter returned, logging 7:09 via 11 shifts with two shots and a minus-1 on the Grabner goal.
Finally, They Call Something: After a first period filled with nicely executed yet uncalled picks and interference, the officials dinged the Kings halfway through the second for ... tripping. The Coliseum organist responded by playing the first notes
of White Stripes "Seven Nation Army" [er, I'm a fool: Rather, they played the first notes of "Hallelujah" before moving on to White Stripes.] Doughty's trip on John Tavares was real but minor; it's just alarming when officials focus on "easy" accidental stick fouls like that, which come via battling for the puck, rather than the constant dangerous head-threatening plays going on all around them that are largely unrelated to the location of the puck.
Naturally players on both sides got downright ticked off in this one, which evolved as a result of no dirty deed going punished. Some people love that kind of game though; it's also a good way to create injuries in an inter-conference game.
[Note: Apparently Doug Weight reminded his troops during the second intermission that games down the stretch and in the playoffs -- "February, March, April, May, June" -- are gonna go that way.]
This is not a tinfoil argument about Islanders as victims; rather, it's just another day in a league where the officiating is inexplicably lax lately. It's something I've noticed in games coast to coast, as if officials are actively trying to avoid using the whistle (which, to be fair, can sometimes make for better hockey). Multiple times today -- I'll include Andrew MacDonald's hit on Justin Williams in the corner -- you could clearly see the official watching the play and deciding ... meh, rather avoid making any calls here if I can avoid it. And really, with what had been let go before that, there was no way they'd suddenly call MacDonald for boarding there; the standard had already been thrown out the window in the first period, and a tight game was in progress.
That, of course, has always been the danger with the "let them play" approach. Guys get angry, they respond in increasingly brutal ways, and the officials are left deciding whether to staunch the bleeding by changing the standard mid-game, or hope they get out of it without any concussions.
Jack Capuano Post-Game
Good stuff in this clip. Capuano too said, "this is playoff hockey right now" and that's the way it goes. (Which by deduction means, of course, that I'm a wimp.)
* * *
A lot of afternoon games in the NHL today, and after the dust settles the Islanders hop back to a tie with Buffalo for 11th in the East, eight points behind 8th-place Toronto. But Buffalo and Tampa Bay face each other tonight, and Montreal is also in action at Toronto. So that picture will change by the end of the evening.