In humorous contrast to the shootout win in Philadelphia where the Isles had no business winning, tonight they trailed 2-0 after 30 minutes and had every right to be tied if not ahead. That's hockey. Shots were 24-21 for the Isles after 40 minutes and the score would get worse before it briefly got better.
The Isles stormed out of the gate in the second period to try to tie it at 1-1, unleashing the first seven shots within the period's first five minutes. Instead, Carey Price made like Nabokov in Philly and shut the door, most notably on the Islanders' period-opening powerplay.
Max Pacioretty soon scored his second goal of the game and Montreal took the comfort of a 2-0 lead into the third. Down 3-0, a late Isles push made the final score look ... a fairer reflection of how this game was played, actually.
* That first Pacioretty goal came on Montreal's first shot of the game, by the way. Tenth time this season. A league high. Record?
* He only got an assist, on the first goal, but Erik Cole's presence was felt all night long. Lots of good drives to the net, dangerous shots and using his size at speed. You would hope Nino Niederreiter one day provides that element.
* Saw more of Aaron Ness tonight. Definitely see how his skating buys him space. Fun to watch skater: Lots of sharp cuts, decisive pivots, sweeping turns.
* Among the victims of Price were Nino Niederreiter at point blank. The trio of Josh Bailey, Matt Martin and Rhett Rakhshani were active in the first half, not always productively but frequently dangerous. Outside of the chances Price flat out stole, few of the Isles finishing attempts were quite in sync, but they were being generated with a regularity that was lacking the previous two games.
* Milan Jurcina returned ... and saw his mobility promptly victimized on the first goal. Cole softly chipped the puck around Jurcina at center ice and Max Pacioretty was off to the races on a 2-on-1 he finished with a nice shot inside the far post.
* Down 2-0 entering the second, Jack Capuano got the band back together, swapping P.A. Parenteau and Kyle Okposo and returning those two guys to the lines they rode the second half of last season and much of the first half of this one.
* The unthinkable happened when Scott Gomez scored for the first time in a year to make it 3-0 on a one-timer on the powerplay. That was the sign it was not the Isles night: The powerplay came from a ridiculous call on John Tavares, where he came out the worst of a leg tangle -- the paranoid would even call it a slewfoot -- yet drew two for interference.
* With under three minutes left, Tavares set up Matt Moulson to break Price's shutout, and while no replay showed conclusive contact by Moulson's blade above the crossbar, it was one of those A + B = C plays that I'm frankly surprised they let stand. The ruling on the ice was a goal, but I'll eat my Vukota card if that wasn't a high stick.
* Less than a minute later, Mark Streit brought it to a one-goal margin with a nice move at the blueline opening up a slapshot that Price had no chance of seeing thanks to Matt Martin's towering skyscraper screen.
That left a veeery long shift for the top line -- seriously, like 1:53 -- to try to tie it as time wound down, but they were out of gas and only mustered a couple half-chances at best.
* With 20 seconds left, Cole obviously iced it yet somehow the refs didn't call it when MacDonald retrieved the puck. It was another puzzling game overall by your banner NHL officiating crew -- an epidemic all over the league this year -- but I'll take that minor one as a karma match for Moulson's goal surviving review. (Then again, there was the Tavares call, so ... awww, it's really not worth trying to figure out NHL officiating this year.)
* Pacioretty finished his hat trick with an empty net goal at the buzzer. Great game for him.
* MSG struck again tonight. Between the TWC dispute and the failed signal, how many Isles fans actually got to watch this game?
On that note, comment of the night from brother_rat:
Does Hofstra have a TV channel? We may have to make that jump, damn the mega-cable deal.
Matt Martin Post-Game
Important stretch. Gotta be ready for L.A. and Florida.
Jack Capuano Post-Game
Too little, too late. On the first goal: "Shot from the angle ... goal scorer's goal. I don't think it was a slow start. ... I did think we played a little bit slow in the first period [in terms of forecheck], if that's a better way to put it."
For the standings watchers, that means Montreal and the Islanders switch places, the Isles dropping back to 14th and the Hockey Club from Montreal jumping into 11th. This pattern may continue a while. Of the teams everyone is chasing, Winnipeg won a shootout in Washington and Florida looks to be victors over the Kings tonight, too. Tampa Bay logged a regulation point in a shootout loss to the Rangers; alas, that is NHL hockey now, too.