Oops. - Justin K. Aller
The New York Islanders built a convincing victory through great special teams, strong even strength play, and key saves from Evgeni Nabokov.
There was booing tonight in Pittsburgh, but it wasn't because any New York Islanders players had the nerve to avenge past transgressions. It was because the Penguins steadily wilted in front of the home fans as the Isles built an insurmountable 4-0 lead and scored on the only two powerplay opportunities they were given.
Evgeni Nabokov was big early as the Islanders built their lead, but he lost the shutout with just 1:09 left through no fault of his own.
It was frankly great work all around from the road team. It was hardly a score-a-few-and-hang-on kind of win. Despite a few hiccups, the Isles kept it an evenly played game through the first period and a half. Casey Cizikas' forecheck (aided by Matt Martin and Marty Reasoner) forced a turnover that he cashed in for a deceptive wraparound late in the first period. 1-0 for the Isles at the first intermission. I didn't realize it after all his Bridgeport scoring, but it was Cizikas' first NHL goal.
More of the same in the second, where Michael Grabner took advantage of the Penguins' blueline case of Failure To Recognize Grabner and converted for a breakaway goal on a heavy wrist shot past Marc-Andre Fleury.
With the 2-0 lead, the Islanders then took advantage of two Penguins penalties to display fantastic powerplay work. The first was downright mesmerizing, with Mark Streit, Frans NIelsen, John Tavares and John Tavares working the puck around and through the zone to create one Tavares shot that went wide, followed by a second that he buried high after a pretty touch feed from Moulson.
Just under two minutes later, the powerplay converted again with Matt Moulson burying a tap-in after Brad Boyes read the play off the back boards (and Fleury spun around the wrong direction like it was a playoff game vs. the Flyers).
If 3-0 is still tricky, 4-0 at the second intermission is pretty much game, set, match ... unless your struggling former Penguin takes a stupid checking from behind penalty to give the home team a chance. Colin McDonald checked Ben Lovejoy from behind on a pointless display of over-exuberance with 1:06 left in the second period, and that was really the last moment where the Penguins could make a claim in this game.
Fortunately, the Islanders killed off the first minute of the major penalty and misconduct that resulted, and they made the remainder moot to open the third period. From there, it was prevent mode as the Islanders rode out a well-earned win.
- Fantastic game overall from Michael Grabner. Dangerous all night at even strength and on the penalty kill. Even when the Penguins recognized his danger, they couldn't avoid handing him the puck.
- Solid game from Marty Reasoner too (9-6 on faceoffs, nice assist), and of course his fellow fourth-liner Casey Cizikas. Can we maybe leave Cizikas in the lineup as he gets much more done than Eric Boulton?
- That said, McDonald has been ineffective (to be kind) out there.
- On that note, Thomas Hickey > Joe Finley. This is what a little depth can get you.
- Brian Strait, continuing to be paired with Mark Streit, looked smart and steady against his old team.
- Matt Carkner did some of the things that the Islanders clearly brought him in for: When agitator Penguins get stupid, Carkner has a swift answer. Enjoyable to see him keep Matt Cooke from going Full Matt Cooke at the end of a blowout loss. (Naturally, he also took a bad high-sticking penalty, when his raised stick forced the victim's stick into his face.)
- Yeah, the penalty kill is riding an unsustainable run right now, but that doesn't happen without good, cohesive work from the PK unit and Nabby behind them.
- Speaking of which, tough luck for Nabokov in losing the shutout so late. There were several opportunities like that where it could have been lost at any point over the prior three periods, but this one was so close before Mark Streit missed clearing the rebound and Pascal Dupuis enjoyed the result.
- The Islanders have scored four goals or more in four of their six games this season.
- Fun to see the building half-empty and depressed by the end, no? The Isles have won two straight in Pittsburgh.
The five-game road trip concludes close to home Thursday, with a Devils rematch in Newark.
From the game threads (which we'll probably have to break into parts if we keep getting activity like the last couple nights):