Evgeni Nabokov notched his 58th NHL career regular season shutout (he has seven playoff shutouts) as the New York Islanders frustrated the playoff-chasing Columbus Blue Jackets in front of an announced Sunday afternoon crowd of 15,008 at Nassau Coliseum.
The 2-0 final score was almost ironic in itself, that being the margin of so many blown third-period leads this season, to the point that Islanders broadcasters Howie Rose and Butch Goring were speaking of the "dreaded" kind of lead at the very moment Travis Hamonic rushed the puck 170 feet to establish it in the final minute of the second period.
Hamonic's goal doubled the lead started by Cal Clutterbuck, on a nifty top-corner shot from the slot after Johan Sundstrom had tried to stuff the puck after the dump-in. That was good for Sundstrom's first NHL point, a second assist before Frans Nielsen fought off a defender to leave the opening for Clutterbuck.
Nabokov made 41 saves, 17 of them in the third period as the Islanders played prevent and actually, you know, prevented. For the Blue Jackets, who weren't sharp, it represents one of those disheartening failures in a "gotta have that" game against a weaker opponent. The Islanders, without some of their top forwards and top defenseman, iced a fleet of rookies that Columbus should have reasonably expected to beat.
But as always in the NHL, the margin is narrow enough that you go in expecting to win, you're already at risk of taking just enough off to lose.
Notes of This and That
- Every once in a while, but particularly on special teams, players get caught cheating because they expect an opponent to do the usual thing: Power play players cheat when they expect penalty killers to peel off when deep in their zone, penalty killers cheat when they expect the last man to pass the puck rather than carry it all the way.
- The Blue Jackets were guilty of latter when Hamonic carried the puck from behind his own net, taking it all the way up the middle to rifle his goal over Sergei Bobrvosky's shoulder. Each Blue Jacket peeled off on the play, expecting either a pass or help from the next teammate.
- Mike Halmo fought Blake Comeau after Comeau hit Ryan Strome behind the net, and that altercation went about exactly as you'd expect: Halmo landed punches to Comeau's helmet, while Comeau found the most expedient way to end things, by steadily crashing to the ice.
- Comeau's hit wasn't actually much of a run at Strome, but Strome hit the boards awkwardly and lost his stick in his reaction. Halmo served an extra for instigating.
- In his second NHL game, until-recently-Lake Superior State defenseman Kevn Czuczman logged 18:26 and, to my eyes, looked more comfortable this time around.
- Czuczman's minor late in the game was one of four minor penalties the Islanders took in the third period. The Islanders did well to keep Columbus from cashing in, though the Jackets' struggling power play also had to be partly to blame there.
- Matt Donovan took one of the minors too, his second infraction of the game (one of which came off his turnover too). It's something to monitor, since a high number of minors marked his AHL career, and the turnovers seem to be what draw the coaching staff's scratch-happy attention.
- Nabokov, in the post-game, asked if he ever thought he'd have 58 shutout sin his career: "I'm not done yet."
- Good bye, black alternates. (They were available for 50% off in the team store today, their last official on-ice use.)
The Islanders play every other day this week, with stops in Carolina and Tampa Bay before returning home to meet the Devils on Saturday.