The Islanders again had a sluggish first period, this time against an opponent that recently confounds them. But instead of falling three behind as they did in Pittsburgh, Thursday they withstood the Panthers' initial storm and dictated play in the final 30 minutes. Two huge third-period penalty kills got them to OT, where an even bigger 3-on-4 PK got them to the shootout -- the domain of one Syracuse-born player known in these parts as Rob Schremp Hockey.
With the win and other results on a busy night in the NHL, the Islanders climbed to a tie for 7th place in the East. Other teams have games in hand, and this is an uncommonly positive run -- yada, yada, yada -- but an excitement is building among fans. This 10-3-1 roll is infectious. People are scoreboard watching. Six consecutive home wins and counting.
I know the Isles have been standings-watching for weeks now, but they're professionals so they have to maintain that belief. But to play well enough to get fans dreaming of the unthinkable during Year 2 of the rebuild, well that means they're doing something right.
The pain endured last year was for moments in time like these. It's a sweet time to be an Islanders fan.
- The late third-period PK was clutch enough -- that helped guarantee a point. But the 4-on-3 PK in OT (after a soft call where Brian McCabe whined his way into drawing a call) was amazing. Dwayne Roloson made some crucial saves and Jack Hillen, Bruno Gervais and Frans NIelsen were magnificent even Hillen's stick was broken.
- Good that Blake Comeau got the tying goal, as he was the backchecker who let Nathan Horton go uncovered on Horton's goal. Comeau's tally came on the best shift of the night by any line: Jon Sim, Schremp and Comeau hemmed the Panthers in the zone for the entire shift, with Gervais and Dustin Kohn, in his first NHL game, providing support from the point. After the goal, Sim rested on the crossbar in celebration -- and exhaustion after a job well done.
- Kohn did not look out of place as he was eased in for 11:20. And it was a poised play at the blueline that earned him an assist, his first NHL point.
- The shootout: Schremp is now 5 for 8 on shootout attempts, and late bloomer Matt Moulson is suddenly 3 for 4. The Islanders are 5-3 in shootouts when Schremp participates.
- Quietly good game: Gervais, and Andrew MacDonald (27:19, filling in even on the PP after Mark Streit took the high stick). Quietly quiet game: John Tavares, one shot in 13:56. Star game: Some goalie who made 33 saves.
- Most of the year, the Islanders have been outshot and averaged under 30 shots per game. But their average has crept over 30 now, as in the last nine games they've averaged 34.3 shots per game. In those nine games, they outshot the opponent eight times, with the regulation loss being the only exception.
1st Star Dwayne 'Speak through your eyelids' Roloson on the PK, and the Shootout
Roloson, who we lovingly call grumpy as he rarely looks thrilled to do interviews and often speaks through his eyelids, made it clear he doesn't really pay attention to the Islanders' shooters in shootouts, but he can razz them just fine:
On the ice, after the win, asked about what he thinks about during shootouts -- and told that Schremp doesn't think during the game-deciding skills competition: "Obviously Robbie doesn’t think about too many things, so the shootout doesn’t change much."
In the post-game [video above], asked about Moulson's recent success: "I don't really pay attention, I just pay attention to the guys I need to focus on. But it's great, you know he works on it. And that's what happens when you teach at a goalie school for 16 years, you get to learn learn how to score on goalies."
Dustin Kohn on his 1st NHL Game, Pace, Comfort
Kohn sounded confident, thrilled -- his dad made it for the game -- and knew how to answer "do you feel you can play at this level?" Um, yes!
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Next up: New Jersey at the Coliseum Saturday. Rick DiPietro is expected to start again; the Devils will be playing the second of a back-to-backs, as they host Montreal the night before.
Not only but also: I didn't want to spoil a festive recap by video of Smurfs personnel, so check out this FanShot for video of the latest John Tortorella-Larry Brooks run-in.
Meanwhile: Happy Friday, eh?