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Islanders 5, Canucks 2: John Tavares career night, Reese's 1st NHL goal

This was one of those games where the 37-20 shot differential does not tell the story, because the Islanders hit enough iron (four posts, one crossbar) to blow it open at any moment, and failing that they played defensive but not on-your-heels hockey to protect a two-goal lead in the third period.

John Tavares was behind three others in rookie scoring when his night began. Five points and three hours later he'd leaped over Tyler Myers and Niclas Bergfors, becoming the Islanders' second 20-goal scorer in the process. With a hand in every goal -- and frankly, his three assists were more impressive than his two goals -- it was easily the most dominant night of 91's young career.

Game Sum. | Event Sum. | Corsi | Recaps: | Isles

Final - 3.16.2010 1 2 3 Total
New York Islanders 2 2 1 5
Vancouver Canucks 0 2 0 2

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For anyone's lightly muffled lottery desires, it was bad news (Carolina and Tampa Bay lost, though Atlanta won). But for long-term signs of player progress, it was fantastic:

There was Tavares, but there was also another night of smart hockey from Matt "Coulson", who scored on a great JT feed and also provided the block-out-the-Sun screen on Dylan Reese's first NHL goal. Blake Comeau led all forwards with 21:06 spread across PP, SH and EV. Blueline newbs Reese (+2) and Dustin Kohn handled themselves well, while Freddy Meyer, Mark Streit and Bruno Gervais had excellent efforts at both ends. The Isles blocked 21 shots to bend, not break.

Oh yeah: And they did it all without Kyle Okposo, day-to-day with the proverbial "upper body." But there's so much more to mention.

Game Highlights: JT, JT, JT, JT and JT

Juicy Bits of Win

  • Dwayne Roloson was square and solid all night -- exactly the performance you'd expect from him for the Islanders to pull out a win. He resisted the oft-apparent urge to bring out the baseball swing.
  • The powerplay tallied once in four tries, while the PK was 100% for the third consecutive game (albeit on a light night, 2 for 2).
  • Trent Hunter was back and looked healthy, ringing the post on a backhand after a set of nifty moves in the slot. He had a chance to ice the game on a third-period 2-on-1, but Andrew Raycroft got the glove up.
  • That's right: Raycroft was in because the Islanders chased Roberto Luongo with four goals on 12 shots through two periods (plus posts by Hunter, "Coulson," Tavares and Gervais).
  • Josh Bailey didn't feature on the score sheet, but his smooth passing was on display (at times he had linemates who are not what you'd call "finishers"), and in one fantastic Go-Go Gordon Forecheck sequence he teamed with Sean Bergenheim and Hunter to force a turnover in the Canucks zone and create not one but two prime scoring chances for himself. One of them hit the crossbar behind Raycroft.
  • Frans Nielsen was gritty and Fransy, but so much else went right I can take this night off from praising him. (Although like every night, he was the best Dane on the ice.)
  • Congratulations to Dylan Reese on his 1st NHL goal, a smart shot from the point that will become "a blistering cannon" when he tells his grandkids a few decades from now. A couple weeks ago he was in Syracuse without NHL hockey on the immediate horizon; a trade and a whirlwind later, he's doing this.
  • Tavares' goals: One tapping in from his "office," the other an empty-netter to cap his night. Assists included the Meyer redirect and a great no-look pass to "Coulson" at the goalmouth. How thrilled did he look to be churning points tonight?
  • Nine-Teen Eighty-Two {clap clap, clap-clap-clap}

Big Picture: Great Start, Smart Finish

All individual ravings aside: As the Islanders sometimes do, they appeared to take by surprise a team that doesn't see them often. I'm not going to reference the local columnists who are always trolling for clicks and outrage, but obviously the Isles -- with their regular assortment of injuries as well as no Okposo -- came to play.

It was not the Canucks' night, but the key was that the Isles took advantage, jumping to a 3-0 lead and then answering right back when the Canucks had pulled it to 3-2. (Seventeen seconds after Alex Burrows pulled the Canucks within one, Tavares charged down the right wing boards, made a power move and banked the puck off a net-crashing Freddy Meyer to regain the insurance goal with just eight seconds left in the 2nd period. Pivotal moment of the night, that.)

There was plenty more to praise, I'm sure, much of it brought up by everyone in the game thread. (And here I was expecting a quieter one with the late start.)

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Where do we go from here? Well, WebBard's positivity aside, the playoffs remain an impossibility (barring a miraculous undefeated run and/or apocalyptic collapse by at least four teams). But with a three-game win streak including two wins over good teams, any cohesive, gutsy performance like tonight in the remaining 12 games will be cause for thinking, yet again, that this franchise is headed in the right direction. I'll take it.