All that you can't leave behind. - Bruce Bennett
That did not end well.
For the second consecutive game, the New York Islanders blew a multi-goal third period lead in the blink of an eye. But unlike over the weekend in Florida, they were unable to rescue the game for a win, nor even a regulation point.
Two Ottawa Senators goals early in the third leveled the game, and a backbreaker by Sergei Gonchar with 1:00 remaining gave the Sens the win. They would add an empty netter with nine seconds left on the clock to secure the 5-3 final score.
The Islanders carried a strong effort and 3-1 lead into the second intermission. Then the Twilight Zone began. Though if you're a regular Islanders fan, the Twilight Zone feeling is hardly new, and the erasure of the two-goal lead in just 1:08 was hardly unfamiliar.
Keith Aucoin and Radek Martinek essentially lost the puck to their own confusion while breaking out from behind the Isles net, letting it slide to Patrick Wiercioch who was arriving at the blueline after a change to fire it through several bodies. One of those bodies, Jakob Silfverberg, deflected it high past Evgeni Nabokov.
As mentioned, just 1:08 later -- and 2:15 into the third period, mind you -- Sergei Gonchar took a slapshot from the point ... and broke his stick, creating one excellent changeup effect that delivered the puck right to Zack Smith's backhand in the high slot. Smith wheeled to his forehand, while Nabokov kept sliding left to what would have been Smith's backhand, so Smith had a gaping net in which to bury his good fortune.
Midway through the third, it looked like maybe the Isles had repeated the Florida Save and taken this game back when Keith Aucoin was ruled on the ice to have scored the go-ahead goal. Problem was, the goal was reviewed by the eyes in the sky in Toronto, and they had Aucoin "kicking" the puck in after Frans Nielsen fed him from behind the net.
And if you believe in Isles misfortune predestination, it was only a matter of time -- too much time to afford a comeback -- before the Senators got the go-ahead goal with 60 seconds left on the clock. Gonchar's winner looked like it may have deflected off an Islander or two, but Nabokov's positioning was again suspect and the scramble leading up to it was all on the Islanders, getting caught losing possession in their own zone at the worst possible time.
Lubomir Visnovsky and Mark Streit couldn't win the puck to clear, and Josh Bailey and Frans Nielsen both collapsed low in support, leaving both point men open. The Islanders may feel hard done by with Aucoin's disallowed goal -- and the puck entering the zone via an uncalled Senators high stick before the winning goal -- but ultimately this loss and missed opportunity is all on the team's shoulders.
Post-Game: Wait, What Now?
On a night when it seemed like the second line was finally getting it going, Jack Capuano questioned the first line in his post-game -- even suggesting they might be broken up before the next game. From Christian Arnold:
"Don't know if that will be Johnny's line next game [...] They're high character guys, but it just doesn't seem lately they're getting it going."
Update: The rest, via post-game:
...but it just doesn’t seem lately like they’re getting it going and we’ve talked as a coaching staff about it a little bit, um, can we bide some time and let it go for another game or twobut, um, you know, we’re not getting the production out of that line that we need. So, um, but we’ll see I mean, you know what, those three have been there for us all year and we’ve got a lot of faith in them, but, sometimes a little tweak can make the difference too.
Don't think that line was the problem tonight. In fact, I'd sooner peg Nabby and the refs in the hierarchy of blame (and I'm not even blaming the refs for this loss).
- Strong game from Kyle Okposo, and from his line with Frans Nielsen and Josh Bailey overall. Okposo drove rushes a lot and made intuitive plays on the Bailey and Keith Aucoin goals (though on Aucoin's goal, that seeing-eye pass maybe should have been intercepted by one of the three Senators he threaded it through). Generally nice play outside of the two assists.
- And oooh, what a sweet powerplay sequence on Lubomir Visnovsky's goal, with Matt Moulson flashing subtle passing hands on the doorstep like he's some kind of John Tavares.
- So Sportsnet Sens play-by-play guy Dean "bingo bango bongo" (really?) Brown is basically a weasel, taking emphatic shots at the Islanders throughout the game. His high point was when he called out Matt Martin for never fighting. Martin has 19 fights over the past season and a half.
- At first glance, one wondered how the Senators' first goal from Sergei Gonchar's point shot got past Evgeni Nabokov. Upon further review, a fantastic tip by Matt Kassian -- his first
NHLgoal with the Senators, naturally. [Turns out he had two goals in his Wild career.]
- The officials were pretty inexplicable in this game ... in the Islanders' favor, mostly. Kassian's hit on Radek Martinek had an ugly-looking result, but it was simply a bodycheck, plain and simple...
- ...but the Isles frankly got the raw deal when Keith Aucoin's goal was disallowed by Toronto because he "kicked" it in. The rules at nhl.com still spell out only "distinct kicking motion," so it's hard to conjure how Aucoin's hockey stop qualified considering he was sliding to a routine stop in the crease but there you go.
- I said it when it was 1-1 and when it was 3-1 and the fans were chanting "Nab-by! Nab-by!" -- Evgeni Nabokov never looked sharp to me on this night. He was swimming and snow-angeling and sliding too far out of position on too many occasions, to the point I found him lucky to have a 3-1 lead through 40 minutes. Arguably some bad luck or bounces on the two goals that tied it, but overall his game was not strong: He gave up four goals on 22 shots.
Game lost, nightmare ensued, confirm all your worst fears, etc. The Islanders were 20 minutes away from keeping pace with the pack (the Rangers beat the Devils 3-2, so both now have 32 points, three ahead of the Isles). Alas, it wasn't to be.
26 Matt Moulson - 91 John Tavares - 24 Brad Boyes
12 Josh Bailey - 51 Frans Nielsen - 21 Kyle Okposo
10 Keith Aucoin - 53 Casey Cizikas - 13 Colin McDonald
36 Eric Boulton - 16 Marty Reasoner - 17 Matt Martin
47 Andrew MacDonald – 3 Travis Hamonic
14 Thomas Hickey – 11 Lubomir Visnovsky
2 Mark Streit - 4 Radek Martinek