Thank Bossy the Islanders were intent to send that traveling band of disposable income-heavy Canadiens fans home unsatisfied. The Habs got the help they needed from a Rangers loss to Buffalo, but at least they were deprived of celebrating on Coliseum ice.
First star Sean Bergenheim, shootout automaton Frans Nielsen? They got to celebrate quite a bit.
Bergie had his game of the season, with a hand in all three goals and a near-miss chance to have a hand in at least two more. Four of his 10 goals, eight of his 23 points, have come in the last five games.
During MSG's intermission interview, he acknowledged being frustrated that this scoring spurt has come so late in the year -- again -- but he didn't sound defeated. (Humorously, in the post-game he took Deb's serve and said Trevor Gillies was teaching him a few things after his one-sided fight against Nick Foligno. I'm not sure if he was serious.)
That makes an 8-3-1 run for the Isles, a 7-0-2 run for Martin Biron.
The Bergie Move, the Reese Feed
Continuing with a theme, during MSG's second-intermission interview, they asked Dylan Reese about a stretch pass that sent Bergenheim in for one of his chances. Reese talked about what he's learned in the first month of his NHL career, how on that play Bergie was his second option after a passing lane to Richard Park didn't materialize thanks to the Shadow of Hal Gill.
Next period, Reese is feeding Bergenheim with speed to tie the score. Not to pump the guys tires after just 16 games, but I like what Reese brings next to Freddy Meyer, and Bergenheim's laser slapshot goal was an example of why. It started with a tipped pass back to Reese at the offensive blueline. That tip meant Reese couldn't get to the puck before it went over the blueline, so as he corralled it he positioned his stride to take it back deep into his own side of the neutral zone. He used the space he had there, and as a result the Canadien forwards who initially chased him went for a line change instead. He used the space available to him; his move effectively defused what could have been a bad situation.
But that's not all, of course. Not to leave well enough alone, he circled near the Islanders line and found Bergenheim calling for the puck as he moved laterally at the Habs blueline. The goal was all Bergie -- a great slip move around Roman Hamrlik at the blueline to get free, then an I.R. Pissed slapshot past Jaroslav Halak and off the post for the goal -- but Reese's heads-up play and on-target pass made it possible.
(Can you tell I love hockey's little, smart, subtle decisions?)
Blake "Comeau se en fuego" had another goal, his 17th. Naturally. But this time, after opening the scoring 12:29 in, he blocked a shot and left the game for good after only five shifts. When a puck off the foot hurts that bad, it's not a good sign. We'll know more by Thursday, but maybe he got lucky and it just hit him in a funny spot. If not, at least he ended his season on a high note.
Bergenheim's goal makes him the 10th Islander to hit double-digits in goals this year. If Richard Park nets one more, that's eleven.
Untimely Quote of the Night
Howie Rose on the broadcast: "The Islanders are finally playing a very good third period." Just a minute later, Lapierre splits the seam between Jack Hillen and Mark Flood to score a go-ahead goal. But they had played quite well, including the nifty Okposo setup of Tavares at the doorstep just before that.
'Where Have I Heard This Before?' Quote of the Night
Scott Gordon, in the official site's recap by Tom Liodice. Flashback a week or two and you can swap in "Blake" for "Bergie":
"With Bergie it's always consistency," Gordon said. "He can skate, he can check the puck, he can finish hits, and he's got a good shot, but if he's not doing those things, he's just an average player.
"Average isn't good enough for Bergie. He has to excel in the areas that are his strength and when he does, that's when he sees success," Gordon added.
Turning Point that Wasn't
Halak's great save on Tavares on the aforementioned setup, followed soon after by the Lapierre goal. Instead of wilting, the Islanders came out hitting on the next shift. It took a while to really threaten again, but they didn't let that turn of events deter them, a nice sign for this young team. Scott Gordon ran Moulson/Tavares/Okposo out there a lot to make sure the team was pressing the play again, and that line did everything short of scoring.
Turning Point that Was
Martin Biron robs Lapierre with the glove on a 2-on-1 with just three minutes left. Frans Nielsen equalizes a minute later.
It's Gonna Be a Short Playoffs
With destiny in their hands, except for the second period the Habs just relied on Halak to save the day with 40 saves. It almost worked.
The Habs are now 15-9 in extra time, the Isles 14-10. The Habs stand nine points ahead of the Isles. Perhaps the difference between the teams isn't all that great? Andrei Kostitsyn's offensive zone penalty in OT -- he seemed to get a second chance on that play, and immediately spent it -- is the kind of poor decision-making that can kill you in the postseason. In the postseason, you either channel your frustration toward good, or you pocket it until summer.
Meanwhile, I hate Maxim Lapierre, but that was a helluva goal. Even after Jack Hillen sweep-checked him, he kept the puck moving with his skate and had the presence of mind to still pull off a Nielsen-esque deke.
The Beggars Can't Be Choosers Preferred Ending
How great would it have been if, after Hillen gloves that puck down and off Biron's post in OT, Josh Bailey had been able to convert that home run pass immediately afterward? It looked like the Coliseum ice never gave him a chance though, the puck wobbling all the way to the net.
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Oh yeah, the Islanders won in a shootout thanks to Matt Moulson and Frans Nielsen's goals. You know how they did it without even seeing 'em.
Lottery/Playoff Shakedown, Breakdown
The Habs didn't clinch, but the OTL point sure helps. I know you were as devastated as I was to hear the Rangers lost to Buffalo, with Henrik Lundqvist getting yanked after three goals. On the other side of that battle, the Flyers won 2-0 over the Leafs, diminishing the Leafs' slim chances of catching one or both of the Florida teams and making Boston's draft pick worse. The Thrashers were shutout in Ilya Kovalchuk's return to Atlanta, so they're
essentially completely done. Carolina whaled -- there you go -- on the Lightning, so the Canes keep pace with the Isles (and Blue Jackets) in points after having played one more game than the Isles.
The Isles' three remaining games are against two teams that still have plenty of motivation: Pittsburgh and New Jersey are battling for not only the Patrick Division title, but perhaps the difference between the 2nd seed and the fourth seed if the winner stays ahead of Adams Division champs Buffalo.
So the Isles can still have a big role in playoff seeding. If all this winning is depressing you, fret not: They're in 24th place overall, but they probably won't catch Atlanta for 23rd.