Which is a stranger sight: Rick DiPietro, he of many masks, rocking the retro Osgood mask in 2011, in his first game back from facial fractures? Or perhaps Blake Comeau and Bruno Gervais fighting -- not each other, thankfully -- just two minutes apart against a fellow non-playoff team? Or maybe seeing the New York Islanders with two 30-goal scorers, as Michael Grabner joined Matt Moulson in that club with a shorty against his former employer?
The first period was blah and the 0-0 score afterward reflected it. The second showed some life, with Grabner initiating a sweet shorthanded 2-on-1 to get the first goal, and the Panthers' Evgeny Dadanov responding with two goals to give the Panthers a 2-1 lead after two. Then there was the third: Despite managing only four shots, the Islanders put two past Scott Clemmensen to regain the lead, but the Panthers -- who fired 13 in that frame -- finally got the equalizer on an outside shot that snuck by DiPietro, who otherwise played well.
DiPietro would complete his night by denying Stephen Weiss on an OT penalty shot (pretty sure he forced Weiss to shoot wide), then denying both Panthers in the shootout.
Notes from the 30/30 Club
The Goals: Grabner's was excellent. On the PK he stripped a Panther of the puck in the high slot, flipped it to the neutral zone where Nielsen picked it up on the right wing, then beat the rest of the Panthers to their zone to create the 2-on-1, which he buried with a nice low shot. Grabner made a similar play to enable Micheal Haley's goal, giving Grabner two points on the night, though he fell eight shots short of matching last night's nine shots. Lazy bum.
P.A. Parenteau's third-period goal was all Jack Hillen. Another goal created by Hillen leading the rush and taking the puck deep into the opposition zone. PAP did do well to corral it with his backhand, pull to forehand and beat Clemmensen low.
Soon after, Haley's 2nd NHL goal was just about identical to his 1st one, the one he scored in that Penguins game where they thought he was just some goon until (and after) he flew down the right wing around the defense and slipped it in as he skated to the left past the goalie. I could see that Jason Blake-like rush a few more times.
The Fights: Dmitry Kulikov did not like a hit in the corner from Blake Comeau, they exchanged shoves for a while as you could see the gears of each turning -- "should I fight this guy, or will I get killed?" -- and then they dropped 'em, one visor to another. Comeau survived. Kulikov looked like the kind of guy who knows how to channel his anger through his fists. When fighting a Russian with zero fight history, you never know if you're engaging a Fedorov or a Drago. Kulikov has some Drago in him.
The Comeau fight is in the highlights clip above, but the Bruno Gervais-Ryan Carter one is not. You can see that one at hockeyfights.com. The puck landed on the back of DiPietro's net, and Carter made a poke around DiPietro to try to get it off. Gervais took exception, they exchanged gloved blows and away they went, Gervais ending it with a bodyslam.
The Shootout: Nielsen went with Option B, the Five-Hole Forehand of Finality. His approach was the same, teasing for a Backhand of Judgment, which I think must open goalies up to a surprise early attack. Well done. Parenteau got the other, the game winner, through the forehand bullrush we've seen from him many times before.
The Goalie: Despite one goal he'd rather have back, DiPietro looked pretty good for a guy coming off six weeks between games. Throughout all his injury struggles he's remained strong on breakaways, and he was so tonight including the penalty shot and shootout. He's now stopped four penalty shots this season. Tonight he made 29 saves and did what has become the Montoya standard: He gave his team a chance to win.
Oh, and speaking of his retro action with the Osgood mask: DP also rocked a little Dubie with that first-period diving pokecheck.
No no, JJ: Jesse Joensuu picked up a minor penalty (hooking) three minutes into the first, and a minor penalty (boarding) four minutes into the second, creating the only two Panthers powerplays of the night. I get the wanting to be physical part, but there is no better way for a bubble player to get in trouble than to end up in the box.
30/30: Last year Moulson had 30 and Tavares had 24. The year prior, Okposo had 18 in 65 games, and Bill Guerin had 16 before he was traded. (Mark Streit also notched 16.) The year before that, Guerin led with 24, Mike Comrie following him with 21. We've come a long way.
'Mr. Tallon You
've Got Had a Lovely Grabner'
In the game thread comments, Anarcurt brought up this community's reactions when the Isles first claimed Grabner. I clicked on it with hesitation, hoping October me didn't look too stupid. (Whew!) Overall, I think we can say the experiment turned out just fine, thanks. Rob Schremp was also on the shelf at the time, so I don't know if we can say Grabner would not be an Islander if not for Kyle Okposo's injury. But if that were the case, well then there'd be one blessing from Okposo missing half the season.
Danish Shootout Automatic
Also from Eric Hornick:
Frans Nielsen is now 16-27 in his career in shootout attempts. His 59.3% is the best in NHL history among players who have scored at least 10 goals, just slightly ahead of Vyacheslav Kozlov (58.7%). Among active players, TJ Oshie of St. Louis has the next best percentage among players with at least 10 goals (57.9%).
This game puts the Isles and Panthers level on points at 68, with the Panthers having a game in hand. The Devils are two points ahead. Buffalo won big over Atlanta, so the Sabres jump two ahead of Carolina in 8th again, while Atlanta (72) is now closer to the Isles than they are to a playoff spot. In the overall standings, Colorado (62) lost in a shootout to Edmonton, so I still think they aren't catching anyone.
Next Isles game is Tuesday in Tampa Bay. Florida also plays that night at the Garden; the Devils play in Columbus Sunday.
Meanwhile, Bridgeport won again (yes, I said "again"), beating Manchester in OT as Nathan Lawson stopped another ton. A bit on that here. Good to see young and new Aaron Ness being paired with grizzled vet and C-wearer Mark Wotton.
FIG: A lot of people picked Grabner, several with Nielsen as one of the assists but no one with him as the only assist. The goal was at 25:14. I'm going to let Mike double-check in the morning before we officially declare the night's winner (and before they randomly change the official scoring on us again).