The fast, glorious pace with which the Islanders compiled an early 3-0 lead on the tail-spinning Hurricanes was matched by the glacial, agonizing squandering of that lead over the next two periods. Thankfully, on the 7th day god made Kyle Okposo, and it was good. Did I not tell you just Friday a.m. to just accept Okposo's übermensch abilities?
Although it's maddening, I'm not going to panic too much about the blown lead. It's bad, but as fans with all our anxieties we tend to blow it up. Lots of teams go through this growing-pain phase. Given where the Islanders have come from -- arriving now, briefly, in 7th place -- blowing three-goal leads is a nice problem to have.
Meanwhile, lots of lineup implications for Saturday night in Florida. Josh Bailey and Jeff Tambellini got the scratch treatment for this one. But Rob Schremp, playing his "natural" role of center, did nothing to tell me he should dress for a third consecutive game. And Jon Sim, who was my preference for removal if everyone was healthy? My preference remains.
Video highlights and plenty more after the jump.
There Is Only One Okposo: After telling the swine flu who's boss, Okposo returned to the lineup to log the most minutes among Islanders forwards, playing key minutes on both the PP and the PK, netting the game winner and getting the assist on John Tavares's lacrosse hand-eye coordination goal. Just put a Standard Player Contract in front of him now, and let he and his parents fill in the figures and term.
There Are Many Sims: Not to harp on Sim or Schremp, but they were both out there for the tying goal, and they didn't look good. Two caveats, though: Martin Biron absolutely coughed a hairball on that shot. This tendency is beginning to make me worry about how badly other teams will want him. Second caveat is that absolutely every line had its moments of being hemmed in during the Canes' comeback. With Biron doing that, it could have happened to any of them.
Did I Mention There Is Only One Okposo? At the end of regulation, a Canes backchecker laid what my friend calls "the ax handle" on Okposo, leaning all his weight on Okposo's stick and body to keep him from getting the shot off. Okposo laughed it off, got a dangerous shot off anyway, which -- minus Joni Pitkanen mauling Matt Moulson in the crease -- would have led to a truly backbreaking game-winner right there. On the OT winner, Pitkanen couldn't stop his stick, and this came after Okposo brilliantly read the play to intercept a pass and win the game all by himself.
Whither Faceoffs? Nate Thompson (1-6) and Tavares (2-9) each had a rough night at the dot, for a team that won only 42%. Why do I feel like ever since I said "this faceoff trend is legit, not a fluke," they've been putting up nights like that?
Tavares's First Multi-Goal Game: It wasn't that Tavares's goal batting the puck in after it caromed off the grass was amazing -- I mean it was pretty good, for sure. But it was great that he seemed to be the only one on the ice who followed where it was going, just patiently followed it with his eyes, waited for it drop to a legal height, and calmly bunted it in.
Some Rather Critical Defensive Plays: While the walls were falling in, there were still some nice, heroic break-ups by the defense. Jack Hillen went knee-down to block (with his stick) a pass that would have set up Pitkanen all alone in the slot. Bruno Gervais spun to block another sure setup from the opposite side. And Mark Streit, in OT, prevented the winner at the top of the crease by doing what Biron might not have.
Mark Streit, Coming Around: After a slow start by last season's standards, Streit has started to heat up. Tonight, the sweetest sequence was Streit absolutely zinging a wrist shot from the point off the post, then minutes later, simply recalibrating with a slapshot that went in just inside said post. Even if I'd stumbled into the talent to be an NHL player, no way would I have the necessary courage to step in front of that thing.
Special Teams: The powerplay looked outstanding in the first -- they converted twice and had the Canes running around aimlessly. The PK was solid, leaving only stoppable shots for Biron as they killed 3 of 4 chances.
Timing, Timing: The Canes' equalizer finally came with just 2:31 left in the game. Okposo's winner came just a faceoff after Streit's game-saving block, and with just 0:15 left in the OT period, sparing us another godforsaken shootout.
Dirty Night Avoided: The Canes came out hitting with determination (if not direction), and after the Islanders built the 3-0 lead, I was worried about a spiral that would lead to injuries. Sure enough, someone tried to take off Frans Nielsen's head, and immediately afterward Sean Bergenheim threw a dangerous hit from behind on Joe Corvo. Thankfully, the silliness ended there.
* * *
Not Only, But Also: Not only did the Islanders win in OT, the Sound Tigers did too, breaking their Hurricanes-like slump. Mike Fornabaio tweets: Bentivoglio scores his second of the night from the right side 1:32 into OT, and the Sound Tigers win for the first time since Halloween.
Thoughts on any of those topics, or others I missed? With time to digest, how disturbed are you by the blown 3-0 lead?