It wasn't pretty but it worked. The Islanders played poorly enough in the second period -- and had a crucial sequence of errors late in the third -- to nearly lose this one in regulation.
But then with 90 seconds left the cavalry came to the rescue, with the first line and Travis Hamonic and Mark Streit all key to a Kyle Okposo goal set up by yet another John Tavares "aww sick, that's what he do" moment.
I'm starting to lose count of those.
Okposo's goal tied it at 3-3, neither side converted their ample overtime opportunities (OT shots: 6-3 for the NYI), and the NHL's breakaway contest went to Evgeni Nabokov (two SO saves) and P.A. Parenteau (speed move) and Frans Nielsen (you know which one). The shootout point goes to the Isles.
Jussi Jokinen was the only one to convert for the Hurricanes, and hopefully his Forsberg move -- which Nabokov almost stopped -- didn't strain Nabby's groin. With Al Montoya still back on Long Island, Nabby and his 37 saves tonight are needed.
The result means avoiding disaster and instead logging a happy start to 2012, and a modest three-game win streak. It sure helps that their shootout luck has evened out in the past couple of weeks.
Despite playing a mess of a second period, the Islanders were in position to grab a win or at least force overtime with under five minutes left in regulation, when it all appeared to go down the toilet.
With Travis Hamonic and Brian Rolston each battling men in the corner to Evgeni Nabokov's right, Rolston lost his battle enabling Chad LaRose to waltz in front of the net, where Milan Jurcina, positioned but futile, took a sweep with his stick that got nothing but ice. Might expect a save from Nabokov there, but hard to fault him after the errors that preceded it.
Thankfully the first line responded with determination not to let this game go down that way, with Tavares leading the way.
And actually, rewinding to the beginning, the Islanders started alright, with Matt Martin drawing Bryan Allen into a semi-Eager penalty that the Islanders quickly converted. Matt Moulson scored -- per Hornick, the sixth time he's scored the game's first goal this season -- off a sweet 1-2 pass play from Nielsen to Tavares. That didn't last, however, as P.A. Parenteau lost a defensive zone faceoff to Tim Brent and Anthony Stewart tipped in the point shot just 31 seconds after Moulson's goal.
Horrible miscommunication between Evgeni Nabokov and Andrew MacDonald behind the net. Both are to blame, really, as neither took control of the situation and it was an easy dunk into an empty net for Brandon Sutter.
Not long after that gaffe, Frans Nielsen made a risky own-zone, cross-ice pass from the corner for P.A. Parenteau that was picked off, requiring a good glove save of Nabokov.
But just as Nabokov bailed out Nielsen there, Nielsen bailed out Nabby's gaffe in a way when he tied the game on a third period powerplay: After working the puck back to the point he went to the net for the easy rebound of Mark Streit's point shot. The Streit shot actually went wide on the opposite side of the net and caromed to Nielsen, whose net opening was as wide as Sutter's.
From that point at 2-2 with plenty of time left, it looked like a new game with a new chance to win ... but as it turned out, there was that final heart attack and resurrection yet to come.
Seems like Matt Martin is starting to command that little bit of space that comes with a player who you (or, the opposition) thinks might physically hurt you but probably won't damage you with the puck. Some of the goals he's created this year have come from him fishing the puck out of the corner or behind the net and been given a little too much respect, and it nearly happened again tonight when he retrieved the puck in the corner unaccompanied, then swung around for a 50/50 wraparound or pass for Josh Bailey at the top of the crease.
A little fourth-line threat: Marty Reasoner sprang Nino Niederreiter for a nice little partial breakaway late in the second, forcing a decent glove save out of Cam Ward. The "partial" was Nino had to split the defense, who were sprawling and ensured he only had the shooting option -- and not a deke -- which is of course not a bad option for him.
Soothing audio bliss: Win, lose or shootout, it's always fun to hear Jiggs McDonald call the game.
Almost: It's funny, the Isles were sloppy and hardly in control for most of the second period, but John Tavares nearly erased the deficit with one phone booth move. You could say Jamie McBain was brilliant to stand his ground, or you could say he was lucky his right skate was there for the puck to slip off the string attached to Tavares' stick. Either way, that was inches away from another highlight reel goal.
Relief: The thrilled exhalation from Okposo on the tying goal was gratifying. A little bit of collective relief and satisfaction after they fixed what their teammates screwed up.
Vision of Johnny T.: It was huge first the pressure and poise that Streit and then Hamonic used to keep the puck in and the pressure on, but that tying goal was yet another instance of Tavares drawing attention to the point that a guy like Okposo was left open in a quiet place. A sweet low pass across the grain from Tavares found an open Okposo, who dropped to one knee to make sure. Nice.
Captain Confidence: A little glimpse of the old Streit in OT too, confidently deking his man at the point to buy a clearer shot from closer range. Tavares nearly did something with the rebound, but no dice.
Mottau, DiPietro Don't Play, Still Hurt: If you missed it on da Twitter, surely Arthur Staple of Newsday will have more. But he tweeted that both Mike Mottau and Rick DiPietro were sent home injured (both did not play ... DiPietro is actually still on IR) and the Islanders will call up a seventh defeenseman for the Western swing. Because this is not an emergency situation (they still have six healthy bodies), it's probably not Dylan Reese unless they're ready to make a more lasting blueline move, since once recalled, Reese couldn't be returned without clearing waivers.
Never a dull day.