"You too will get your chance, Nino."
Yes, yes that really happened.
No, not the 13th-place New York Islanders sweeping the 2nd-place Pittsburgh Penguins in a home-and-home with the Atlantic title on the line -- okay, that happened too -- but rather Josh Bailey collecting five points in one night and the Islanders scoring 10 goals without a single one going through John Tavares or Matt Moulson. That happened.
Or to say the same in fewer words: Marty Reasoner scored.
The macabre storyline is that the Islanders are "wasting" their shot at a worse finish and higher draft slot and all that, all the while helping the rival Rangers to the Atlantic title by defusing the surging Pens. But the fun storyline is the Islanders romped over the rival Penguins twice in a row with Bailey and Kyle Okposo feasting on the Frans Nielsen Experience.
Okposo hit 20 goals for the first time in his career. From a week of scratches in the fall and a perceived identity crisis to a career high by the end of the year. Go figure.
Your nightly caveats: Marc-Andre Fleury did not play all that well, the Penguins might have been a little Le Tired, and the Isles definitely got bounces that mostly eluded Al Montoya both early and with the Pens pressing for a tying goal late in the game (when Crosby muffed a one-timer that still either hit the post or Montoya or both).
But the Isles played well in a tight-game with a dominant team and came out on top, in regulation, against that opponent for the second game in a row. That opponent also may have lost its shot at getting a 1 v. 8 matchup instead of a 4 v. 5 matchup in the first round.
Good deal, and we'll take it.
Streit is Fully Back, Yes? What a spin move at the half boards and sojourn behind the net by Mark Streit to set up Reasoner's goal. Streit has been doing that a lot lately and tonight he forayed down low with the puck to disrupt the Pens coverage several times. Again, it's better to have a mobile partner with puck skills like Dylan Reese in that situation than it is to have Steve Staios. This I believe.
Speaking of Reese, the Pittsburgh native took out the Pittsburgh premature deity when his clearing pass hit Sidney Crosby in the face, bloodying him up as if he were an Islander. More on that later.
Speaking of IslandersFace, Matt Moulson took sticks and/or pucks to the face twice. Iron Man streak lives. Great note from the announcers on that, who pointed out Billy Harris has the all-time franchise ironman lead by playing every game from expansion to the game before he was traded: Butch: "What, you blaming me?" Howie: "It still all worked out." Butch: "Well, it worked out better for me than for Billy Harris, I think."
Seriously though, please keep Reese. He's not a star but he's better than some of the vets they've carried. And he's in his late 20s already and I'm sure he can pull a gray whisker here or there if you let him so it will be just like having a greybeard back there. Except one who can move around and distribute the puck.
The Shorty: What a fine play by Josh Bailey and Jay Pandolfo on the shorthanded goal that gave the Isles a two-goal lead. Bailey pressured Evgeni Malkin at the point as he bobbled an airborne pass. Pandolfo made the critical dive to sweep the puck up to Bailey, who'd gone off to the races in anticipation. Finally, Bailey patiently corralled a very tricky, rolling puck just in time to slip it through Marc-Andre Fleury's pokecheck.
Hats off to Bailey in the post-game for not answering "Is this your best night in an Islanders uniform?" with "Well YEAH!" Because he knows like most should, points are nice but they don't tell the whole story. (Tonight they did tell a lot though. Fine game from #12 and his linemates.)
Poor Power Play: Powerplay really lacked urgency tonight. That resulted in a shorthanded goal by Pascal Dupuis (who somehow has a 12-game point streak to tie that of John Tavares) when Travis Hamonic was hit and lost the puck. But even aside from that minus, it simply was too casual for too long.
Stupid Web Tricks: Yes, NHL.com actually posted this headline at the top tonight, above Pierre Gauthier's firing:
"NEW: Sid Hit in Face with Puck, Returns to Game"
And people wonder why fans get nauseated with news about one of the best players int he world.
P.S. Update: The AP's lede: "Sidney Crosby left briefly in the second period after being bloodied when he was struck in the face with the puck, but his return wasn't enough..."
Martin's First "Bad" Hit? I'm fine with the boarding call on Matt Martin, even though he did everything he should to keep it clean. More importantly, Martin continues to impress with how well he's adjusted his game this season to keep hitting -- approaching the record, apparently -- but hiting cleanly, under control, and avoiding dangerous situations. He should get a gold star from the Office of Shanaban for exemplary behavior while still playing physical as can be.
Getting Uncomfortable: Once Okposo hit 20 goals and made it 4-1, things might have gotten comfortable. Too comfortable. The Isles were in play-the-odds, prevent mode and, well, I guess that's why you can afford that with a three-goal third-period lead. You're probably going to survive. But the Isles made it ugly and uncomfortably close, Jordan Staal splitting the Isles' best D pair for a goal and Evgeni Malkin scoring with the goalie pulled to bring it to within one.
Fortunately, they survived and Bailey even potted an extra into the empty-net by out-muscling Steve Sullivan at the point for a five-point night. Yes, one more time: a five-point night for Josh Bailey.