The New York Islanders came out like the proverbial bat out of hell, registering the first 12 shots of the game against the streaking Pittsburgh Penguins, outshooting the Pens 14-3 through 20 minutes. They forced several good saves and close calls from Tomas Vokoun -- which was just as well, since it spared fans the pain of watching a blown third-period lead.
It was an inspiring start that would give you hope ... if only previous collapses during this homestand hadn't made you so jaded.
Instead, Evgeni Nabokov conceded a long shot through the five hole that tied it at 2-2 with just 14 seconds remaining in the second period. The Isles followed that up by collectively falling asleep and allowing the go-ahead goal just 1:46 into the third period. Familiar.
The Isles had a couple of late powerplays, one a gift from the officials, that gave them a chance to equalize with their dangerous powerplay. But the Penguins' own "battle level" was on high, and a determined PK earned several clears and prevented the Isles' passing from threatening too much.
While play with the sixth attacker wasn't as disorganized as usual -- and Andrew MacDonald was heroic in preventing one sure Pens empty net chance -- Pascal Dupuis ultimately picked up a cheapy as the buzzer sounded to record a 4-2 final score. It was the Isles' eighth empty net goal allowed this year.
- As part of the Islanders' energetic and emotional start, Matt Martin -- who never fights according to clown Dean Brown, remember -- fought Craig Adams 3:31 into the game and was lucky not to get an instigator. Won the very quick fight though.
- The gap control by Travis Hamonic on Chris Kunitz's equalizer wasn't exactly ideal -- possibly because Hamonic had to spend much of the night sticking to Sidney Crosby, which he did well -- but Nabby still has to stop that. Deflating back-breaker, so soon after Josh Bailey made it 2-1 after consecutive good shifts.
- That said, this team yet again failed early in the third, and yet again it was a combo of their top line and one of their go-to defensemen. This time Brad Boyes was wasteful on the forecheck, not harassing Brooks Orpik enough to disrupt his breakout pass (and as a result, putting himself deep to no effect). That made Matt Moulson's F2 support at the half boards moot, and it was compounded by Mark Streit making the wrong decision based on the above and getting eluded at center ice...
- ...which left a 2-on-1 against Matt Carkner, who went down into the slide of despair. Matt C**ke waited him out and fed Brandon Sutter, who was out of reach of Streit's attempt to recover. I'm not sure the Isles need both Carkner and Joe Finley in the lineup.
- The Islanders first powerplay was completely sabotaged by a failure to even enter the zone cleanly. Before the next one, they called a timeout and Doug Weight led them through some tutelage. Their entries were better, but as mentioned the Pens PK really made them work inside the zone.
- So, three straight losses at home to three tough teams, but they knew they needed points from at least two of these. Weak Florida completes this homestand, but ... selling time? Not yet, but soon.
Honestly, a mostly good effort against a very hot and dominant team. But it's all familiar -- they can't afford soft goals or critical mistakes, so while virtually no team plays the ideal "60 minute" game, the Isles so often suffer when they err or check out for even brief stretches. But hey, at least the battle level was there...I think.
Game Thread Comment of the Night
This is a win-win
If they lose I drink in sadness, if they win I drink in gladness.
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
40 Michael Grabner - 16 Marty Reasoner - 17 Matt Martin