The New York Islanders finally found the game they've been looking for, taking advantage of a team that has watched its game go astray, resulting in a feel-good 3-1 win over the Nashville Predators at Nassau Coliseum. It was a key win not just to reverse their own fortunes but also because this homestand has more dangerous Western teams ahead this week.
The Islanders worked their game early, drew three first period power plays that kept the puck in the Nashville zone, and cashed in on the third try when John Tavares scored at 15:31 with a nice slicing point-blank shot inside the far post. Two minutes later, Pierre-Marc Bouchard scored a bad-angle goal that seemed to recoup the luck the Isles' shooting barrage missed earlier in the period.
Kyle Okposo added the third on a one-timer after Brock Nelson nicely touched to John Tavares and Tavares, all alone at the top of the slot, froze everyone before serving it up on a tee for Okposo in the faceoff circle.
Getting his first consecutive NHL starts in two years, Kevin Poulin was solid if mostly untested early on. But he had to remain sharp while waiting through the Isles' three early power plays, and he held the fort well when Nashville occasionally pushed to chip away at the Isles lead. Nashville spoiled his shutout bid -- and broke their two-game shutout slump -- on a wish-I-had-it five-hole shot with just 5:30 remaining in regulation, but he finished with 32 saves on 33 shots.
Though final shots were 33-33, this game was not in doubt for long. With a 2-0 lead at the first intermission and 3-0 lead by the game's midway point, the only thing that could prevent an end to the Isles' four-game losing streak would be a 2009-style collapse. Not tonight.
The power play really did look good, with lots of overlapping inside and outside of the Predators box and plenty of shot attempts. It would have been frustrating if they weren't rewarded on their three first-period opportunities, but daylight finally broke when Kyle Okposo worked the corner and Frans NIelsen poked it free to John Tavares all alone in the slot.
The struggling penalty kill was not called on much, as the Islanders rightfully dictated play and earned the early power plays of the game. The PK did allow just one shot on goal on two Predator power plays though.
Kyle Okposo played a true "power forward" game, with lots of using his body to win pucks and keep checkers from reaching it when he had it. Kind of expected in a game where everyone was working the Predators over, but nice to see.
Pesting: Cal Clutterbuck was his pesty self, inserting himself in exchanges that didn't need to involve him -- but that's exactly where the irritation takes effect.
Grinding: On that note, the fourth line was effective in keeping the smothering pace early, filling shifts between Islanders goals with some exhausting board work that helps frustrate an already reeling team.
Finessing: Ooh, ooh, Tavares. He did his magic hands thing, and Brock Nelson frankly looked good once again on that top line and on the power play.
Dominating: The Islanders were outshot 31-26 at 5-on-5, but that's mostly due to Nashville chasing the game after the Isles established their game and established a 3-0 lead.
Productive Flailing: Kevin Poulin ended up not needing it thanks to his own sturdy right pad, but Aaron Ness went into jump-on-grenade mode behind Poulin during a second-period scramble that could have made the game close and changed the dynamic. Doing it on a Tuesday night in Nassau probably beats a Monday afternoon in Hershey.
Hit the (Empty) Net Already: Killing a late penalty (Michael Grabner) and then just killing regular 6-on-5 action (Casey Cizikas), the Isles could've scored a long distance empty-net goal a few times in the dying minutes. Would have been nice to grab an empty-netter back for their goal differential column, but that's more the concern of neurotics like yours truly. A two-goal cushion without benefit of an ENG is nice.
Please No-Please No-Please No: One day after fans of amazing stuff watched in horror as NHL leading scorer
Brad Boyes Steven Stamkos broke his leg, John Tavares lost an edge and crashed hard into the boards after the game was out of reach. He tells media he banged his hip but expects to be okay. Le pant, le pant, le whew. Tavares now has 22 points, one off the league lead. (Frans NIelsen and Kyle Okposo are right there with him in the top 10. #firstquarterleadersboards)
Am I Hallucinating Or Did I...: Notice that Marek Mazanec's leg pads were like...really loud? They had that "new pad," not-broken-in-yet thwump sound whenever he made low pad saves. That, or the Coliseum was so quiet that the sound of pucks hitting pillows was thunderous.
The Islanders next face the Kings and Red Wings at home to finish out this week and a three-game home stand. (More Poulin, anyone?) For the love and mercy of the abused Eastern Conference, they owe us all some more wins.
More from Lighthouse Hockey:
- New York Islanders 3, Nashville Predators 1: Slump busted.
- New York Islanders vs. Nashville Predators Preview: Kevin Poulin starts ... new chapter dawns?
- Zeitgeist: Violent Dispute over Hockey Stats Leaves 16 Bloggers Injured
- Islanders News: Thomas Vanek return in sight; Travis Hamonic OK
- New York Islanders Need Goals from Michael Grabner