No satisfaction today. - Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
A carefully played game marked by sloppy Islanders powerplays turned on a late Devils powerplay goal on Super Bowl Sunday.
The New York Islanders powerplay today was not the weapon fans have come to expect, and it cost them in tight game that ended up a 3-0 loss with a swift turn of events in the final six minutes.
The powerplay's failures had little to do with a change of luck and everything to do with poor execution and better pressure from the New Jersey Devils penalty kill. The Islanders misfired on their seven opportunities, generating just five shots and only looking dangerous on the final opportunity, when they had two of those shots, and threatened more.
After officiating calls favored the Islanders for the first two periods, the Devils enjoyed one threatening powerplay early in the third period that required good plays by Evgeni Nabokov and Mark Streit to keep it from becoming a frustrating afternoon. Alas, there was still time.
Play continued at back-and-forth even strength before a critical call with under six minutes left in regulation: Somehow the officials interpreted a clean and innocuous check by Brian Strait on Stephen Gionta as a "charge."
Naturally, the Devils converted after the Isles had pretty nicely killed 90 seconds of the opportunity. That's the kind of turn you invite when you waste seven powerplays during the bulk of the afternoon.
Steve Bernier added an insurance goal soon after his powerplay goal broke the scoreless tie. To be fair, whenever the Islanders did threaten, Johan Hedberg was the wall that he often is against them, stoning John Tavares multiple times and stretching far to stop Michael Grabner on a shorthanded breakaway deke. He earned his shutout, even if it wasn't an exhausting one.
The streaking David Clarkson finished things off with an empty netter to book the 3-0 final score.
- Fight! Krystopher Barch and Matt Carkner threw punches early in the second period for whatever reason. It was particularly odd because Barch initiated the fight -- even drawing the instigator call -- while Carkner was carrying the puck. Carkner won the early segment with lots of uppercuts, Barch recovering by landing punches later. They finished by having a lengthy conversation while the officials held them.
- Powerplay: Befitting the powerplay's ills to that point in the game, it was a wasted opportunity for the Isles, who were sloppy and actually conceded more scoring chances to the shorthanded Devils, Evgeni Nabokov coming up big twice.
- Avoiding that Hemmed-in Feeling: Did the Islanders get hemmed in as long and often as they did when they were coughing up leads last Thursday? Not quite. But the same symptoms were there: Though the Devils aren't deep at forward, they are very structured and feisty when they get going in the offensive zone. Lots of great 1-2 and triangle plays that keep the defense one step behind. Saw more evidence of that this afternoon.
- Attendance: An announced 11,558 showed up for a Sunday afternoon when most of the country was thinking about Harbaugh chili. We'll call that not bad, given circumstances. Unfortunately they had little excitement to entertain them in this carefully played and poorly executed powerplay-filled game.
That final penalty call was miserable, but as we've seen way too often this week in the NHL, those things happen. Wouldn't have mattered if the Isles had taken advantage of any of their many powerplays and solo chances before that. No point whining about officials who gave them seven chances to do what the Devils were able to do on just their third.
Enjoy football, or whatever your Sunday pleasure is. Wash this one away.