Difficult to describe, so we'll just start with the facts:
Ray Emery, swallowing his rebounds all night, was no Corey Crawford. John Tavares, facing Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook all night, was held scoreless but hardly ineffective. Brian Rolston, he of the "still has that shot," put seven shots on goal but the two hardest ones missed the net on a lengthy 5-on-3. Steve Staios heroically tie-eth (with 9:08 left...though it's now credited to Michael Grabner), and Steve Staios giveth away (in OT).
The aforementioned 5-on-3, a 1:56-long bonus that straddled both sides of the second intermission, felt like it would e the turning point in the game. In a close game where the Hawks frustratingly held the edge, a shutout felt possible as late as 18 minutes into the second period -- when Travis Hamonic's blast brought the Isles to within one and changed the game.
The November Isles might have folded after wasting the 5-on-3 that came right after Hamonic's goal. The December Isles held on and made a game of it.
P.A. Parenteau on that topic:
"We’ve come a long way since three weeks ago," PA Parenteau said. "We’re playing as a team. We’re desperate out there. We battled back from a two-goal deficit against probably one of the best teams in the league."
Pre-game Injury Updates: Arthur Staple at Newsday with updates on Grabner (who returned tonight), Nino Niederreiter, Andrew MacDonald and Evgeni Nabokov.
(Not to be confused with the post-game plus/minus, where everyone shared their pros and cons in the game's immediate aftermath.)
* Well, this makes another third-period comeback (albeit by just one goal, although by two goals total) against the Blackhawks, who despite their aesthetic funk are still, you know, at the top of the Western standings. (Technically they are second to Minnesota, but Wild fans have a persecution complex about that perch, so might as well feed it.)
As noted, the Hawks not named Dan Carcillo played with discipline that required patience and persistence from the Isles. Shift after shift played to a draw while the Hawks held on to the lead and pressed for more. It was a good forecheck, turnover and heads-up pass from P.A. Parenteau that sprung Travis Hamonic free to step into a shot from the low-point/high-slot to bring it to 2-1.
* Getting by with injuries: With Mark Streit (27:08 overall) each logging nearly 20 minutes of EV time, the other pairs consisted of Milan Jurcina and Steve Staios, and Mike Mottau and Dylan Reese. I wouldn't expect that group to hold the Hawks to two regulation goals (with Al Montoya's help) as the Isles outshot Chicago 33-28 over 61 minutes.
* John Tavares was worked like a dog as Capuano strove for a tying goal and then strove for the winner. (If you like shift charts made available by Vic Ferrari, Tavares' green bar at the end of the game looks almost like an uninterrupted goaltender's shift.) The idiotic late Carcillo penalty (first he was upset that Frans Nielsen backchecked around his own net, then he was upset that Kyle Okposo stepped in to keep him from tooling it up with Nielsen) should have been a good opportunity, but Tavares looked winded and the point combo of Streit and Rolston was uncreative.
* Penalty Kill: Grabs is back. If the 5-on-3 and the late powerplay were wasted, the penalty kill did well to kill Chicago's dangerous third-period powerplay after Staios backhanded the puck over the glass. (Note: He was also boarded on the play with no call. But that wouldn't exactly even the ledger anyway.) Grabner and Frans Nielsen did good work and also nearly hooked up to spring Grabner. But completing that kill and helping to preserve the regulation point was enough.
Jonathan Toews, faceoff monster, was 9-9. John Tavares was 12-9. I recall Toews winning at least one big one over JT though in his own zone, with the Hawks D pair tired but kept on the ice after an icing.
Straight Outta Compton: Sharp on the Isles, as quoted in nhl.com writer Brian Compton's recap:
"They're a good team with young, exciting players over there," Sharp said of the Islanders. "We were in that situation a few years ago and they're a dangerous team. We've played them twice now and they're hungry to win. They're on their way. I remember coming in here with Philadelphia years ago, and it's a much different team. They've got things going in the right direction, for sure."
* As great as it was to see Staios
get create that goal (it's now Grabner's on the deflection), his OT misplay, his "breakouts" whipping the puck around the boards in crunch time, and the delay of game penalty were all nearly killers. Mottau was part of the penalty, as he and Staios maddeningly held on to the puck in their own zone without pressure.
* Milan Jurcina too had moments of head-scratch. Generally Jurcina played well -- using the body, getting hard shots off from the point, blocking a painful one at the other end -- and that's why it's so frustrating when he makes plays on the puck in his own zone that do not increase the chances of getting it out. Again, Jurcina had a game of several swell plays; it just makes you want more.
He, Staios and Mottau make you nervous when they play the puck behind their own net and around the boards. They invite pressure and don't always have the hands or anticipation to evade it.
*"Bro Hymn" returned? For one goal? An accident?
* All of the special teams play and comeback push kept David Ullstrom under 10 minutes of TOI, which was a shame because he's been fun to watch during this callup. He had one fast-break chance created tonight.
* Rolston's wide shots from the point. With a two-man advantage. Particularly damaging for how they caromed away. I'd frankly take the puck-savvy Reese in that role instead.
* Al Montoya: Oh, actually Montoya did little wrong, other than some bold and sometimes risky puck play that reminded me too much of alpha Rick DiPietro. On the three goals, one was a fluke bounce on the Hawks powerplay, another was a lethal one-timer by Sharp, the OT winner was a rebound, but one created by Marian Hossa getting Montoya moving laterally on the 2-on-1.
* Overtime Hex: The Islanders are now 0-2 in shootouts, and 0-4 in overtime. Over the long haul that's generally a crapshoot, so it should level out a bit. Chicago looked more dangerous in the 90 seconds of OT, but that's hard to separate from the game-ending 2-on-1 which was Sharp's second goal on the Staios-Jurcina pair.
Parenteau again, who's been vocal (or at least a frequent quote) through thick and thin and has played every game this season like a leader:
"Overall, we have to bear down when it’s time for overtime or (the) shootout, these points are important down the road," Parenteau said. "But I’m real happy with the effort tonight. Overall the boys showed up and we showed a lot of character."
Going 3-3 instead of 0-6 in extra time would have them three points out of eighth right now, with three games in hand on Ottawa.
The Isles dug a big first-quarter hole, but the East is a weird mix of blah right now. Continued results like this 4-0-2 run could inch them back into interesting territory at least as they play three games per week through the end of 2011. The next challenge is Saturday night's visit by the Penguins, who will be without some guy whose name escapes me.