Well, that was what the doctor ordered. Just as I was fretting about what happens if the Islanders get swept by cross-divisional nemesis Ottawa, they go and turn in a full game. It was a reverse-jinx, I swear. They not only protected a third-period lead (all too rare these days) -- they actually extended it.
"That was clearly 60 minutes of hockey," said Islanders Head Coach Scott Gordon. ... I think the guys are starting to get confidence in our system. It's becoming more instinctive."
The Future hooked up for a goal, as Josh Bailey got his first NHL point by setting up new linemate Kyle Okposo on the power play.
"I think Josh has done a great job in a very short amount of time," said Gordon. "His puck poise, just the patience he has with the puck, is the biggest thing he has going for him."
Trent Hunter continued to add to his goal total (7, leading the team) with one of those beautiful ugliness goals: crashing the net, staying there and then desperately sweeping the puck in with his back facing goal. Finally, to make the lead 3-1, Doug Weight used his patented cat-like swiftness from an impossible angle to set up Bill Guerin for a tap-in.
The final ingredient was solid goaltending -- a must for wins without Rick DiPietro. Joey MacDonald provided, making 29 saves.
"For us, it's pretty simple. If you skate, you're going to put teams on their heels," said Gordon. "Early in the year, we were coming out of the gates slow and were very slow to establish momentum. The element of work ethic is starting to come naturally. Give credit to the players, they're doing a great job."
I don't know if the Islanders finally "get it," but they turned in a more-or-less 60-minute performance and legitimized Gordon's recent "pull your head up, kid" complements with a victory -- and not just a moral one. That bodes well for the return match Saturday at the Coliseum.