The OT winning goal was one smooth combination that painted a picture of what can happen when you have three top talents on the ice together:
An exhausted Mark Streit -- in his 33rd minute and 36th shift of the night -- won the puck in his own zone and lugged it up ice at 4-on-4 in OT. He briefly lost it on choppy ice by the Blue Jackets bench at their blueline, but corralled it and popped a pass to John Tavares. ...
... With Tavares drawing three checkers, he one-touched a backhand pass into the slot, where Josh Bailey was cruising in. Mathieu Garon came out to challenge Bailey, who waited an extra beat to open up the legs and calmly slid the puck through. That's good stuff.
The rest of the game was all over the place. In the 1st, the Islanders picked up two early goals before six minutes expired and had the BJ's on their heels. Columbus used a TV timeout to regroup and came out hitting every Islander in sight. They controlled play for much of the next 30 minutes, outshooting the Isles 15-8 in the 2nd and chipping away to tie and grab the lead with two quick goals in the first 90 seconds of the third.
But it wasn't over there. Jack Hillen (on a pinch and pass) and Jon Sim (on a conversion from his office) combined on the tying goal to ensure a very entertaining third period. The Islanders booster club was there in force, making their chants of "Rol-ly" and "Let's go Islander" heard all the way to the winning.
Least surprising news of the night: Rick DiPietro is officially done for the season. Not a good sign for him at all. That the swelling in his knee has yet to subside makes you think more about some of the medical theories going around.
This and That
- Mark Streit had a great game, but it was also clearly an overworked game (He played 10:35 of the 3rd, 2:02 of OT's total 2:38 elapsed time). His turnover led to Rick Nash's goal -- which was also Dwayne Roloson's only real mistake, as Rollie was drawn way out of position. Streit also had a couple of other near-deadly turnovers that could have swung the game.
- Playing over half the night can do that to you. But the Islanders were trying to get by with a thin blueline that included Anton Klementyev making an emergency NHL debut (8 shifts, 6:20) and, according to Elias via Katie Strang, a total of 726 career NHL games played, the lowest in the league. With multiple reports saying Andrew MacDonald is intent on returning soon -- as soon as Tuesday -- and Bruno Gervais listed at day-to-day, I'm alright with the short-term strategy of bringing up My Darling Klementyev. Bridgeport's playoff push matters.
- The Save: There were many quality Roloson saves (34, in fact), but this one deserves its own bullet:
- Kyle Okposo with his 17th of the season on a great top-shelf sniper shot. It's unlikely yet, but I'm on board for a late-season Tear for Twenty.
- Sean Bergenheim and Jon Sim: Getting goals by going to the areas not every player dares to tread. Nice.
- Jack Hillen was excellent and everywhere. His pinch down to the corner kept the pressure alive, and the subsequent pass was sweetly redirected in by Sim.
- Jeff Tambellini did not look out of place with Tavares and Blake Comeau tonight; they had some chemistry. But the best shift of the night may have been when Tavares/Comeau/Okposo hemmed the Blue Jackets in during the final minute of regulation. Nash probably prevented a goal twice during that shift.
- For those worried that Scott Gordon never loses it on the refs, he gave them quite an earful between the end of regulation and OT. He was animated, clearly angry, but hardly in hissy-fit mode like some kind of Tortorella. Worth noting. Also worth noting: The Islanders didn't draw a single penalty tonight, though they were whistled for four.
- John Tavares hit the post again, naturally. An every-night event. But the move he made before that shot was so, so sweet -- and the shot so good the Jackets announcers thought he scored. (Bergenheim also hit a post.)
- The sixth OT win of the season in their 23rd OT game (including shootouts) reset several OT-related franchise records. Yay for the shootout era.
Around the League
Karma Says Hello: Sean Avery injures his knee while breaking up an icing with Luke Schenn. Earlier, Avery did one of his blatant ref-baiting moves by headlocking Dion Phaneuf in a scrum, then falling and pretending he'd been assaulted. My, why ever would the hockey gods send Avery to the showers early?
- Andy Sutton Says Hello: Sutton inadvertently injured big-but-not-AS-big Anton Volchenkov on a collision in front of the Senators' net. Panther Steven Weiss scored on the play, but the Senators pulled out the win 3-2.
- Lottery Shuffle: The Rangers blew the 2-0 lead and lost in OT, by the way, so Toronto keeps pace with the Islanders. Not keeping pace was the Lightning (blitzed 7-1 by Buffalo), the Hurricanes (blanked 4-0 by Atlanta) and Florida. So tonight's Islanders win was a three-team leap, though five points separate 24th through 29th place.
- We Hear You, Coach. We Just Don't Buy It: The Flames responded to their verbal thumping after the loss at Nassau Coliseum by losing 5-0 in Boston. Five. Nothing. The Sutters have a hockey problem.
- Speaking of Choking: Philadelphia, which lost 4-1 to Pittsburgh, continues to plummet. They just might cough up the #8 seed.
Around the Island Organ-I-zation
Bridgeport lost in regulation, though other important competitors also lost.
College Isles go down left and right: RIT kept rolling, ending Blake Kessel's season with a 6-2 rout (Kessel scored). RIT will face Wisconsin in the Frozen Four. North Dakota fell to Yale, so Jason Gregoire and David Toews' season is officially over. Add this to the end for Denver's Matt Donovan and Rhett Rhakshani Friday, and the Islanders have a lot of depressed college prospects this morning.
A Word about Broadcasts, and How to Sell the Game
I skimmed both broadcast feeds tonight. Many may rip the Blue Jackets announcers because they're in a "non-traditional" market and are homer-ish or dumb things down for new fans. But I'll say this: The Blue Jackets broadcast presentation is consistently innovative. They provide insider access and looks that many established teams would never dare do for their fans. Under Ken Hitchcock's reign, cameras showing locker room speeches were the norm. Tonight they did a variety of "insider" pieces to show fans how things really happen behind the scenes. That is what is known as good -- and glaringly obvious -- P.R. But so many NHL teams don't get that.