A smart (and fortunate) carom from Michael Grabner, a savvy (and fortunate) tip from Matt Moulson, and an excellent finish by P.A. Parenteau after John Tavares's smooth pass off a turnover -- that was how the Islanders built a 3-0 lead and in the process kept this game from ever reacquiring doubt. The first two goals came in the first 11 minutes, the third didn't come until midway through the second. But the way the Islanders played was an example of the luxury an early lead affords you.
Of course, this being the Islanders, the game featured all four goalies -- and Nathan Lawson drew the short straw for Injury of the Night. On a scramble with the Isles up 2-0, Lawson reached and lunged far post with his left leg and aggravated his knee. He finished the first period but was replaced by Kevin Poulin for the start of the second. Poulin waited until late in the third to give up two goals in five seconds -- neither his fault, truly -- to steal the official win from his creasemate. (That's truly in jest: Poulin made some great saves and earned his part of the night's labor, and credit.)
In that goalie conversation though, Lindy Ruff pulling Ryan Miller after two goals was a surprise. I suspect it was more of a Jack Capuano-style attempt to wake up the team. It didn't work.
Notes from an Easy Victory Peppered by 'Doug Weight Is Old' Jokes
- Rob Schremp returned to the lineup, collected two assists -- he really created the havoc on Grabner's first goal -- and afforded the Islanders the opportunity to roll four lines all night. With Trevor Gillies sitting and Jeremy Colliton on the fourth line, Capuano rolled all four on the second of this back-to-back. That fourth line was more mobile, the third line more dangerous.
- Grabner's second goal was an empty-netter, but well-earned -- especially after the comedy that was Travis Hamonic and Kyle Okposo shanking (and falling, in Okposo's case) golden ENG opportunities right before that. The final five minutes were general chaos, with Gerbe's two goals (the second off a bad Dylan Reese misplay at the center ice faceoff), followed by Sabres penalties, so the empty net comedy just punctuated it all.
- Grabner (grabs40) on the finale: "Well I tried to get hammer and KO their first goal but they didn't want it haha...good game,lil scare towards the end...will take it."
- Put all that together and you have Moulson's 15th, Grabner's 14th, and Parenteau's 12th. Nice race they have going on there behind Tavares's 18.
- No one stood out way above the others, but there were lots of smart plays and insightful passes from Blake Comeau (setting up Jack Hillen's insurance goal), Kyle Okposo, and some from Josh Bailey. They were somewhat anonymous, but I thought it was in part a product of a smart team game, with four lines rolling. Ice time was very balanced among the 12 forwards.
- With Derek Roy out -- and the impressive contributions of hobbit Nathan Gerbe notwithstanding -- Tomas Vanek is the Sabres biggest threat. He had two shots on goal, four shots blocked, three that missed the net, and zero points. He faced a whole lot of Radek Martinek and Jack Hillen, plus almost as much of Travis Hamonic and Andrew MacDonald, and all played him well. The latter pair probably got in his kitchen a bit.
- The shutout erased by two late Gerbe goals, Poulin gets the official "W." But let it be remembered that Lawson was quite good on his 10 saves, some of them fantastic. He let up a couple of scary rebounds, but we don't need to dwell on that given his performance and tough luck.
- Those Gerbe goals, five seconds apart, were a Sabres franchise record, according to Puck Daddy. Not an NHL record though (4 seconds).
- I saw nothing in Poulin's performance to make me think I won't be really confident with him in net in the near future. He's doing what he needs to do, and handled the Sabres running his crease with poise.
We'll run some sort of "best of" recap, but an impromptu subthread started by Keith Quinn led to a litany of "Doug Weight is so old..." jokes, in honor of the handsome captain's 40th birthday. The liners ran the gamut of human, cosmic, and geologic history, with a special emphasis on references that made you turn to the Google. The entire thread begins at this comment. If such humor isn't your thing, best skip down about a third of the page of that game thread. I would list a favorite, but there were really so many great ones -- and some of the better ones were rec'd till they turned green -- that I can't pick any right now.
Well okay one, from mikb:
Doug Weight is so old….he saw Franz Ferdinand live. Not the band. The archduke.
Oh, and cheers to Hockey1919, who is our FIG winner. And is older than Doug Weight.
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That was lots of fun. Winning easy sure does that, but so does a fun night watching Isles hockey and cracking jokes. Cheers to those in the game thread live, and those who add their thoughts afterward. Catch many of you Sunday, but if not, if I may double-carpetbag for a moment: J-E-T-S! Jets! Jets! Jets!
(P.S. If you don't know, SBN also has a Jets site, Gang Green Nation. Good luck to all you Jets fans. I'll have my American football eye turned in your direction.