Someone's Clutch Performance Index just went up to 11.
As of Friday morning Mark Eaton had played 599 NHL games, scoring 23 total goals -- none in his 68 games as an Islander.
Tonight, in his milestone 600th NHL game his first tally as an Islander was a big one: A nifty "sure, I'll shoot" backhand sliver to win the game in OT after a -- get this -- great feed from Milan Jurcina.
Hockey is a funny game.
Islanders win 2-1 ... and John Tavares didn't even get a point. Instead P.A. Parenteau assisted on both goals to collect assists 35 and 36 on the season. They pulled out two points with a solid all-around defensive effort and the kind of steady, nearly sleepy road game that makes coaches sleep well at night.
The Islanders played a nice first half of the game at 5-on-5, but by the mid point of the second period the Senators had started to swing the pendulum the other way and you began to fear if the Islanders would suffer from not converting their early chances. That feeling of doom reached its peak when the Islanders did little on a powerplay to end the second period -- and worse, gave up a shorthanded goal with just 13 seconds left.
The goal was mostly Evgeni Nabokov's fault -- it stumbled over his glove -- but it started when Rhett Rakshani tried to force a pass to an overcovered Nino Niederreiter, Niederreiter dove (and missed) to try to prevent the rush, Mark Streit gave Zack Smith too much space to get off a shot from outside, all of which led to Nabby playing it poorly. Again: Nabby's fault, but that's why every shot is a threat, and every step leading up to it is important.
Fortunately Matt Martin tied it just 5:27 into the third on a great play by both him and Parenteau. Martin had advanced the puck out of the Isles zone and looked for a line change, but when he saw multiple Senators collapse on Parenteau inside the Sens blueline, he jumped up into the opening and finished Parenteau's good pass beautifully.
Other Game Notes
Just a Flesh Wound: Milan Jurcina collided with Zenon Konopka, lost his footing and landed tailbone first. He returned to the game quickly -- thank Bossy for that, given the OT winner -- but you wonder if that will swell up too much for tomorrow night.
The Isles outshot the Senators 32-24 overall (29-22 at even strength).
The Islanders created a few of their almost patented Grabner/Nielsen/Tavares-style turnovers in the low neutral zone, but each time the outlet pass to convert an odd-man rush out of it was just a little bit off. Most notably was a Michael Grabner interception combo with Frans Nielsen on the PK, but they were clearly at the end of their shift and simply didn't have the gas left for a quick strike.
On that note: These teams rolled their lines a lot, and both seemed like they were just a little bit in conservative energy conservation mode in their second game since the All-Star Break, on the first night of back-to-backs for each of them.
One extreme example of that was the Senators' careful use of Jason Spezza (15:44 TOI), who is nursing an injury that made him a gametime decision. A less extreme example was 10:37 for ol pal Zenon Konopka, who played pretty well but also took the Senators' first penalty, in accordance with the prophecies. Speaking of Zeke...
Strangest Sight of the Night: As a Senators powerplay expired Konopka rushed the puck and beat his man with speed(!) down the right wing -- and made a sweet feed(!!) to a wide open Erik Condra in the low slot, who absolutely fumbled the chance and had to backpass it. Not sure I've seen Konopka make such a nice offensive play before, and it was wasted by a guy with 7 goals and a +12 on the season. Unfair.
These are our readers: In OT Tavares and Kyle Okposo almost had a dangerous 2-on-1 created, ho hum, by a Tavares takeaway at center ice. It was whistled offside on an honestly close play. Visual evidence from bob l indicates that was the wrong call.
Every Islander had a shot on goal except for Steve Staios (shock!) and Rhett Rakhshani, who had a quieter game in 10:36 of ice time. Among the non-top liners, Matt Martin and Josh Bailey were in sync, with Rakhshani having a few moments. Want to see that combo to continue, just to get a longer look at them.
Jack Capuano Post-Game Reaction
Via MSG coverage page. Stuck to the plan, stuck to the script. Two points in the bag:
Former Islander Great Impressed By His Old Team
Denis Potvin on the Sens broadcast:
"I'm looking at an Islanders team that has been very good defensively, has worked hard all over the ice with [good sticks everywhere] and kept the Senators from having any really good chances tonight."
Indeed, it was a strong if not spectacular effort all around. The Isles played with refreshing calm -- sometimes too much so, in the case of a few dangerous Streit and Parenteau turnovers -- in a way that makes me wonder if their recent collection of wins has them playing with a little more confidence, a little less panic.
They got two road points tonight without Tavares directly causing either goal (his backcheck did win possession for the Isles in their zone on the OT winner). That in itself deserves a blue ribbon for tonight.
Buffalo awaits them at the Coliseum Saturday night.