In one of their smarter, grittier shifts of the night, the Islanders executed a 6-on-4 in the final minute of the game to salvage at least a point and a shot at more. Frans Nielsen and John Tavares converted shootout attempts to seal a feel-good night.
In ending a seven-game regulation losing streak, the Islanders had their lulls, plus at least two bad mistakes that led to goals. But Rob Schremp Hockey and AHL call-ups Jesse Joensuu and Matt Martin provided enough of a spark -- and the defense improbably provided all the offense -- to get the Isles to the domain of Frans the Automatic Dane and his trusty backhand deke.
Sure it took a two-man (goalie pulled) advantage for Streit to tie the game at 3-3 with 11 seconds left. But that shift was textbook smart hockey: Matt Martin crashing the net, chopping away. Martin, Andrew MacDonald and others overloading the boards to make sure the Preds didn't clear it out to kill the game. Martin retrieving the puck from that overload, then calmly feeding a wide-open Streit at the opposite point. Nielsen providing a perfect screen for Streit's shot. And just for good measure? If Streit's shot had not gone in, there was Martin beating his man to the net for the rebound.
Not a bad NHL debut for the kid. Not bad at all.
The Two Big Mistakes
First Predators goal: Martin Biron, who fought a couple of long shots, made the mistake of reaching across his body with his trapper to try to catch a stick-side shot. Predictably, he couldn't hold on to it, the puck popped in the air, Nielsen arrived to sweep the puck away from the crease -- only to have Cal O'Reilly bang it home from a right-place right-time position.
Second Predators goal: At the end of a long shift, during the second period when the route to the bench is longer, Andy Sutton and Bruno Gervais advanced the puck enough to get that change. Jon Sim failed to get the puck in deep at the Predators blueline, and the Preds responded with an uncontested breakaway goal by Joel Ward. Sutton the angry Hulk destroyed his stick on the crossbar afterward, thankfully showing better accuracy than Keith Ballard.
Sim did not see the ice again after this shift. Injury, or doghouse?
The Lovely Parts
There was Martin's debut mentioned above, but also: Rob Schremp making a great feed to Freddy Meyer in the high slot, who threw all his body into the shot to blast it past Pekka Rinne.
Later, on the powerplay, Schremp used a Martin screen to get a shot on, which Martin redirected to Gervais, who banged it into the corner of the net. Martin looked right at home standing in front of the net on the powerplay. What's that? You say the Islanders could use a little more of that?
Mark Streit, in "just" 21:45, looked like the Streit of last season. There was the tying goal with a sniper-perfect corner, but there was also a lot of rushes in regulation and OT that disrupted the Predators' coverage.
Andrew MacDonald: An Aucoin-like 28:35. That's right, twenty-eight thirty-five. That includes over nine minutes of special teams duty, including 5:20 on the powerplay.
Speaking of special teams: So they were both two-man advantages (one with the goalie pulled), but hey, two powerplay goals is two powerplay goals. We'll take it.
Three Stars: Really? John Tavares as first star just because of the shootout goal? He had some nice chances, hit his traditional post -- but he also had some ugly turnovers. Meanwhile, Martin and Schremp each picked up significant assists.
Back-to-back, Wednesday night in snowy Pittsburgh. Doug Weight will play, so someone will come out of the lineup. Sim, the goat on the second goal, played 5:59 in eight shifts tonight.
Meanwhile, Biron played two games for Bridgeport last weekend, plus his first NHL start since Dec. 27 tonight. He's not starting in Pittsburgh, but will he get a couple more looks? Is this the home stretch for the Biron Trade Showcase Sweepstakes? Kari Lehtonen was already traded from Atlanta to Dallas tonight, so one goalie domino has already fallen.