Yesterday I was mad. Tonight I feel empty inside.
It's easy to watch an effort (or lack thereof) from the Islanders like they displayed last night and feel rage and move on, expecting little from them the next game.
But when the team plays the kind of game they need play to win, take a late lead, and then manage to not only blow that lead before the end of the 3rd, but manage to also lose the game in overtime...that's the kind of effort that just messes with your head.
Anything good I felt about this team and their effort tonight, at least for the moment, is overshadowed by the fact that the Islanders lost their 6th game in a row, and their 11th in the last 13. They got a point for getting the game to overtime. That point alone doesn't get them out of the division basement.
Keeping it Vanilla
There was nothing exciting about the first period and a half. Besides a decent chance or two for each team, most of the shots for both teams came from the perimeter. That kept both goalies from needing to make the big save, something the Islanders defense hasn't been able to do much of over the last month.
The Islanders worked hard, and the pace was good, but scoring chances were limited as the Isles defense was able to keep the Capitals away from the front of the net.
About half way through the second period the Capitals were finally able to get into the good ol' greasy area. Tom Wilson and Aaron Volpatti did a lot of whacking around at a loose puck in front of the Islanders crease, the result being Volpatti squeaking the puck past Anders Nilsson for the game's first goal.
No Mustache, No Problem
A little more than two minutes into the third period, Pierre-Marc Bouchard took what I at the time labeled a stupid penalty when he tripped Joel Ward. Little did I know, the Islanders were going to use the ensuing Capitals power play to even up the score.
Andrew MacDonald cleared the puck up the boards (Oh no he didn't!) and Casey Cizkas managed to chip the puck out into the open ice. A streaking, mustache-less Cal Clutterbuck collected the puck just over the Caps blueline and was able to wrist the puck past Braden Holtby, tying the score up at 1.
It's a Bird, It's a Plane...It's a Lead!
The game looked like it would head to overtime tied at 1, but with two minutes left in regulation, the Islanders top line took over. The line, which may have been guilty of trying to be a little too slick with the puck in prior shifts, threw the puck at the net and banged away at it until Thomas Vanek was able to power the puck into the Caps net. The goal gave the Islanders their first lead in 12 periods (Nov 22 vs Pittsburgh).
That obviously didn't sit well with the Islanders though. With the Capitals net empty, Micahel Grabner raced towards a loose puck in the Capitals end and was interfered with by Mike Green. The penalty seemed to all but lock up an Islanders victory.
But these are the Islanders and what would an Isles game be without a questionable decision. A few games ago I questioned why Jack Capuano had his regular penalty killers on the ice in the final minute of a game the Islanders trailed by one. Well t puzzled me just as much tonight when the Islanders sent out their first line for the power play with a minute left and leading the game by one.
The situation seemed to call for the team's best defensive forward line, but instead the first line got the call and Niklas Backstrom subsequently scored the game tying shorthanded goal with only 49 seconds left. The Islanders power play wasn't able to regain the lead and the two teams headed to overtime tied at 2.
If Only Martinek Wasn't Scratched
The remainder of the Islanders power play couldn't get the job done, and after the teams were back at even strength, it was Alex Ovechkin time.
The Capitals star took a feed from Mikhail Grabovski and went to work on Travis Hamonic. Ovi made a little flip move to the center of the ice, and that was all the space he needed to wrist the puck on net, beating Nilsson and handing the Islanders yet another loss.
One can only wonder what Ovechkin Shutter Downer Radek Martinek may have done to prevent the winning goal, but stupid Capuano scratched the Czech defenseman for lord knows what reason.
In the End...
The Islanders played a better game than their previous few contests. This team isn't going to blow anyone out so they need to work hard and out hustle the other team. They managed to do that for a good part of the game, especially the fourth line and Colin McDonald, who had a surprisingly good game.
The defense, which as we know isn't a stellar one, needs to keep the middle of their end free of pucks and opposing players. They managed to do this for most of the game as well. Calvin De Haan, in his second NHL game, played a decent game. He made a couple mistakes, which seemed to be the result of either nerves or inexperience. The rookie was called on to play 20 minutes tonight, and was steady defensively and jumped into the play occasionally on offense.
The goaltending wasn't amazing, but it didn't need to be. Nilsson was steady, but again when the Islanders defense broke down, pucks found their way to the back of the net. One thing that was noticeable was that there seems to be more poise and less nerve wracking moments in Nilsson's game compared to Kevin Poulin's.
But in the end the Islanders lose again. The loss left a bitter taste in the fans' mouths and had to be crushing for the players and coaching staff, who thought they had finally found their way back into the win column.