Everything was just lovely: Josh Bailey - Frans Nielsen - Michael Grabner continued to show why they're the Islanders' best line. Rick DiPietro stopped a penalty shot with seven minutes left in regulation to preserve the tie, then made a game-saver shorthanded in OT. Andrew MacDonald and Travis Hamonic continued to give you two reasons to be excited about two fixtures in the Isles D of the future. The Islanders survived a 1:12 4-on-3 Penguins powerplay in OT after Josh Bailey drew a too many men call with P.A. Parenteau stuck deep in the Penguins' zone.
Oh, and Sidney Crosby's 25-game point streak was stopped, to the delight of those who hate him and those who just hate the relentless NHL hype machine that puts his meager mustache front and center day after day.
Except for the Bailey-Frans-Grabner line, the Isles hardly controlled play, but there was enough back-and-forth and bend-don't-break play to keep it close. A smartly played game with a bonus-round "victory" over the league's first-place team, so the overall effort was a refreshing change from the debacle Monday at the Garden. A sign that maybe the 4-0-1 streak before Monday's carnage said something? That this team has found an approach that can keep them in a lot of games against better opponents? At this point, with just 26 points as New Year's Eve looms, that's all fans are looking for.
- The Isles were outshot 26-21 at 5-on-5 and 34-23 at even strength (including 4-on-4), so they relied on a lot of Rick DiPietro saves and a lot of shot blocks, with Andrew MacDonald (5), Mark Eaton (4) and Jack Hillen (4) leading the way there.
- On that note, the blueline corps as a whole held serve well enough to get it this far. Surviving the Pens' dangerous offense without Radek Martinek in the lineup? Not bad. Crosby is going to get his opportunities, but Hamonic and MacDonald faced him a ton and withstood the storm.
- Josh Bailey: You have vision.
Shootout cheers to Rob Schremp (another absurdly slow conversion), Frans Nielsen (a slightly sped up Backhand of Judgment), and P.A. Parenteau (a rushed forehand deke up high). Plus DiPietro, of course -- who stopped Crosby to make it a special 0-for night for Sid. John Tavares missed his attempt -- Fleury started to go poke-check, held back, and Tavares' looked for a five-hole but found only pad.
- The too many men call on Bailey was absolutely the right call. But it hurt, considering the refs missed a too many men occasion by the Pens late in the third.
- The penalty shot may have been the right call -- apparently it was on Bruno Gervais for handling the puck in the crease -- but you couldn't see the infraction on video. But that was frustrating, considering earlier in the game you could see on video that the puck free beside Marc-Andre Fleury, yet the whistle blew before Matt Moulson could pot it into the empty net. (Still, this is not a league conspiracy complaint. The Isles benefited from a pair of soft calls later on, which their powerplay was powerless to convert.)
The PP without James Wisniewski: As unconvincing as the PP with the Wiz. Obviously, this bears longer observation. But it's so clear that the Isles PP ills go way beyond any one, or two, or three players. They went 0-for-3 tonight with three shots.
- DP giveth, and DP try to taketh away: Just minutes before his sweet glove save against a dangerous penalty shot taker in Letang, DiPietro nearly gave the Penguins the go-ahead goal by insisting on playing the puck despite his defenseman coming back for the puck. He muffed it. It went right to the Penguins forechecker. It just missed his vacated net.
- The Pens ran DiPietro several times (but it's not a penalty unless the goalie does a Roloson/Hasek-style collapse), and with frustration at its highest during their unsuccessful OT powerplay, Chris Kunitz tried to castrate DP to find a rebound between his legs. MacDonald and Nielsen replied with some excellent facewash work, putting Nielsen and Kunitz in the box for the final 12 seconds.
Meanwhile, I think Matt Martin tried to take DiPietro out with that victory celebration. Think Rob Schremp into Mark Streit's arms, only add a collapse of goalie gear at the end.
By my count, pgat28 wins the FIG for being closest on the time Bailey would score.
Party time, excellent. Enjoy, rant and rave, gang. Final game of 2010 is New Year's Eve in Detroit.